Director at Westport Arts Center:
1986 Hamden High School grad to
help grow outreach
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.
Woodbridge, CT -- Westport Arts Center, a leading regional hub for cutting-edge art, music, community and children’s programming, has a new Development Director… and Woodbridge/Hamden locals couldn’t be prouder.
Marni Smith Katz, of Woodbridge, officially took the reins August 1 and has been busy adjusting to her new position since. The spot had been vacant for the past three years and was “sorely needing someone” as Katz put it.
Her new position involves expanding community support for the Center and growing outreach through communications and programming. “I’ll be speaking to people, helping raise awareness of our offerings and solidifying patrons’ connection with the Center. There’s really something for everyone here,” she said.
Katz was born in Manhattan, lived a short while in New Jersey then moved to Hamden as a toddler. She went to Ezra Academy in Woodbridge from 1st to 8th grades, then Hamden High School, from which she graduated in 1986. She then attended Brandeis University, graduating in 1990 with a Bachelor of Arts Cum Laude, majoring in Politics and minoring in Art History.
Katz’ first professional experience was as the assistant to the Eastern States Civil Rights Director at the Anti-Defamation League in Boston. “I had aimed to go to law school but thought of a career in art history at the same time,” she said. “My hand was tipped by the fact that my work colleagues were attorneys and doing good work. I decided to pursue law.”
As such, she started at Boston University and finished at the University of Connecticut School of Law in Hartford, from which she graduated in 1994.
Along the way, in 1991, Katz married, to Stuart, an attorney at Cohen & Wolf in Bridgeport. “We met when I was 17. We were counselors at a sleepaway camp,” she laughed.
From 1994 to 2000, Katz practiced law as a litigator at Green & Gross, in Bridgeport, then became director of development at Ezra Academy, the year her first child, Zachary, now 11, was born. “I loved practicing law but I became a mom at that time and wanted to spend more time with my first-born,” she said.
Her work at Ezra was eye-opening. “I really began to enjoy the challenges of development work and finding funding sources for important projects,” said Katz.
In 2006, she adopted a second son, Benjamin, now 6, and slid into the role of Ezra’s director of admissions when the former position-holder retired. “That was ideal as it was more part-time,” she noted.
Katz held that role until mid-July 2011, at which point she decided to take the “fantastic new position” at WAC. “I’m excited to be working with a great staff, which includes another new recruit, Dr. Peter Van Heerden, the executive director. He’s got tremendous energy and vision. This is an exciting time and I look forward to the challenge and opportunities of my role.”