Kennedy Center prez exits

His new venture to offer perfs via Web

WASHINGTON — Lawrence J. Wilker, president of the Kennedy Center, will relinquish the post at the end of the year to launch an Internet arts and entertainment venture.

Wilker, 56, will help establish the Web business with longtime friend Lou Reda, an Easton, Pa.-based television producer.

Venture will produce its own shows as well as present entertainment from others.

At the Kennedy Center, Wilker oversees an arts complex that has expanded significantly during his tenure; 3,300 performances are staged there each year.

Perfs on the Web

Wilker has also presided over numerous new activities that include a nationally broadcast jazz program, educational efforts and an expansion of its role as the national center for the performing arts.

Those efforts include its 3-year-old Millennium Stage, which presents a free performance everyday and broadcasts it live on the Center’s Web site. The stage and its unique Internet delivery system are the result of Johnson’s “Arts for Everyone” initiative.

Wilker was president of the Playhouse Square Foundation in Cleveland when tapped by former chairman James Wolfensohn to fill the post. He had previously toiled for the Shubert Organization and was vice president of the Eugene O’Neill Theater Foundation.

Along with Wolfensohn and current chairman James A. Johnson, Wilker has helped erase a $7 million deficit and improve fund-raising efforts, which reached almost $33 million last year. That includes $2 million from the facility’s chief fund-raising vehicles, the annual Kennedy Center Honors and an annual spring gala. He is also heading a $170 million renovation project on the 30-year-old building on the banks of the Potomac.

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