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Jim O’Connell


After 22 years as executive director of Wausau, Wisconsin’s Performing Arts Foundation, Inc., managing the historic Grand Theater and Wisconsin’s most comprehensive local arts agency, Jim O’Connell began a new career in the Fall of 2014 teaching Arts Management at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Beginning in 1968, arts administration has brought Jim to some interesting places, including the negotiating table to move the NFL Cardinals from St. Louis to Arizona.  An alumnus of Dartmouth College and UW-Madison’s Bolz Center for Arts Administration, Jim has served on staff at Dartmouth’s Hopkins Center, the Wisconsin Union Theater and New York’s Lincoln Center, opened the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines, and directed Arizona State University Public Events. O’Connell was honored to resume his long-dormant acting career as George in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf in the 2013 production by UWMC Theatre, and to be invited back to portray Ian in the same organization’s 2014 production, The Other Place.

Research Interests

  • The Intersection of Management and Leadership
  • Creating Identity-Affirming Classrooms
  • The Forty-Year Cycle of North American Performance Buildings


  • O’Connell was a founding board member and treasurer of the Wisconsin Assembly of Local Arts Agencies (now Arts Wisconsin), served for three years (2009-2011) on the nominating committee of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, completed a dozen years as a member of the board of Central Wausau Progress in June 2014, and is currently serving a term on the Advisory Board of UW-Madison’s Bolz Center for Arts Administration for the third time since 1977.  O’Connell was co-chair of the 1998 Midwest Arts Conference in Cleveland, OH. 
  • In 2001, he was honored by the Wisconsin Presenters Network as first recipient of its Michael Goldberg Leadership Award and was named that organization’s first emeritus member in 2014.  In 2010, he was named one of the community’s fifty “People of the Decade” by the Wausau Daily Herald.  Since O’Connell’s departure from the P.A.F. in 2014, he has been named Badger of the Year by the Wausau Chapter of the UW Alumni Association and received the John L. Cook Memorial Award for contributions to the community from the Wausau Area Chamber of Commerce.


  • “The University’s Role in Quality of Life: A Cultural Perspective,” presentation as part of Pathways to an Entrepreneurial University, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, August 2014 
  • “Budgeting in a Resource-Constrained Environment,” workshop leader, Minnesota Presenters Network/Wisconsin Presenters Network joint annual conference, La Crosse, WI, June 2014
  • Keynote Address, Wisconsin Presenters Network annual conference, Oconomowoc, WI, June 2013
  • O’Connell has led and co-led workshops on contracting, budgeting, programming, fundraising and facility management for peer audiences of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, the Midwest Arts Conference, Arts Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Presenters Network; and for students at Northcentral Technical College and on the University of Wisconsin campuses at Madison, Whitewater and Stevens Point.  He authored a glossary of industry terms for newcomers to the Midwest Arts Conference that has been used for nearly two decades.
  • He wrote a monthly column on arts events and cultural issues for the Wausau Daily Herald from 1993-1998 and has contributed articles on the economic impact of the arts to Wisconsin Counties magazine.

Campus Involvement

  • Member, Advocacy/Allyship/Access Committee, Department of Theatre and Dance (2020-Present)
  • Member, Faculty Mediation Committee (2019-Present)
  • Member, Historic Preservation Subcommittee (2018-Present)
  • Convener/Facilitator, Hybrid Campus Model Brainstorming Group, COVID-19 Response Planning Effort (2020)
  • Member, Campus Budget Model Review Ad Hoc Committee, University Council (2019)
  • Member, University Strategic Planning Committee (2017-2019)
  • Faculty Advisor, Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) (2018-Present)
  • Faculty Advisor, TEDx UW-Stevens Point (2017-2020)
  • Faculty Advisor, A Cappella UWSP (2018-2019)
  • Faculty Advisor, Carlsten Gallery Student Advisory Committee (2017-2019)
  • Interim Director, Edna Carlsten Art Gallery, Department of Art and Design (2017-2019)
  • Name Reader, Graduating Students, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Commencement Ceremonies (2015-2019)

Community Activities

  • Wisconsin Arts Board, Creation and Presentation Grant Program, Peer Review Panelist (2008-Present, as needed)
  • Community Foundation of North Central Wisconsin, Community Arts Grant Program, Grant Review Committee Member (2014-Present)
  • Arts Wisconsin, Founding Board Member (1992-2000)

In the Arts Management Program, we encourage our students to imagine themselves in the role of responsible, responsive leaders, asking constantly, “How do you want to change the world (through the arts)?”

Jim o’connell
Jim O'Connell
Associate Professor - Arts Management
Arts Management Coordinator

158 Noel Fine Arts Center


MA - Arts Management
UW-Madison School of Business

AB - Drama/Government
Dartmouth College


Introduction to Arts Management
Arts Management Seminar
Arts Management Capstone: Externship