New Performing Arts Center Leader Hails from Pasadena

BELLEVUE, Wash., April 10, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — After an extensive national search, the Board of Directors of Performing Arts Center Eastside (PACE) is pleased to announce the appointment of Lora Unger as the Center’s new Executive Director, beginning May 1, 2023.  

“We are thrilled to welcome Lora to PACE as our new Executive Director,” said Board Chair Eric Stelter. “We were all impressed by Lora’s unique combination of high-level executive, artistic and fundraising experience with her entrepreneurial approach as a performing arts programmer and community builder. Her innovative spirit, strategic focus and commitment to Bellevue will prove invaluable as we join with the community in building a new cultural center that will profoundly contribute to the future of Bellevue and the entire Eastside.”  

“Lora is perfectly matched for the needs of PACE at this exciting moment in its history,” noted Cathi Hatch, Board Vice Chair and Chair of the Search Committee. “She cares about the arts and community, and is a results-oriented leader with a successful record of transformational change, fiscal growth and team building.” 

Unger arrives at PACE from the Pasadena Symphony Association (PSA) where she served as CEO since 2014.  During her tenure, she built the PSA into one of the most artistically successful and institutionally relevant cultural organizations in Southern California reaching audiences of over 50,000 annually.  Under her leadership, PSA experienced exponential growth and increased relevance through its acclaimed artistic and educational programming, strategic initiatives and fundraising campaigns. Unger established popular performance residencies in four prominent Southern California venues and led the design and construction of a dynamic 5,000 seat outdoor performance venue at the Los Angeles Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.   She also re-established Pasadena’s historic Ambassador Auditorium as a thriving and acoustically notable home where expanded audiences enthusiastically responded to PSA performances.

The PACE board praised Unger for her remarkable accomplishments as CEO of the Pasadena Symphony.  Hatch added, “Now she brings her deep experience in fundraising, institution and community building, financial management and programming, along with her exceptional people skills to her role as PACE’s Executive Director. We couldn’t be more pleased.”

Prior to her leadership of the Pasadena Symphony Association, she served as the General Manager of the Jacksonville Symphony (FL), where she was responsible for its classical, popular, opera, musical theater and family programming. She also oversaw the successful facility renovation of Modesto’s historic State Theater where she presented independent film, concerts and community events as well as facility rentals.  As an arts leader, Unger has been recognized for her passion for providing young people with access to music education and innovative arts experiences, building community partnerships and ensuring that the performing arts are accessible to all.

“I am thrilled to be joining PACE as its new Executive Director,” Lora Unger said of her appointment.  “I felt an immediate connection to the mission of PACE, to the members of the Board and to the spirit of Bellevue.  I see enormous opportunities for PACE as a world class performing arts center in the heart of Bellevue. The Center will shape the future of the Eastside through its cultural, educational and community engagement programs.”

Unger continued, “I’m confident in the role it will play as a catalyst for economic growth and connecting communities. The Board has done truly significant work over the past two years to prepare the organization to play these important new roles for the Eastside’s many communities.  The time has arrived to bring this dream of a performing arts center to Bellevue. I’m honored and delighted to be joining PACE at this watershed moment in its history and to make Bellevue my new home.”

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A group of engaged community leaders, responding to the Eastside’s remarkable population growth, emergence of industry-leading technology companies and its burgeoning international community, had a bold vision: a world class 2,000+ seat multi-purpose performing arts center that would serve as a dynamic cultural heart for the Eastside’s many communities. This new cultural and community center will present the world’s finest in the performing arts alongside the flagship performing arts groups of the Pacific Northwest, while also playing an active role as an educational and civic resource addressing the evolving needs of this rapidly growing region. Through artistically ambitious and innovative educational programming, groundbreaking digital initiatives, and transformative community partnerships, the center will be “without boundaries,” reaching audiences throughout the region. PACE will imbue a welcoming energy and collaborative spirit that will establish it as an indispensable part of the community and a model for the performing arts center of the future.


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