Arts management consultant Michalann Hobson, universally known as Micki, died late last month at the age of 75.
Micki Hobson was a force in the lives of so many of us. Her humor invited us to listen. Her energy guided our decisions. Her commitment to our work reaffirmed our own focus to keep going even when the production process weighed us down. Her ability to think strategically guided us so we made successful decisions. Micki and I shared a friendship and professional relationship for five decades:
- In the 1970s she began at McCarter Theatre with Michael Kahn, while I was at TCG with Rosemarie Tischler and Bill Gardner. We were learning, figuring it out, lifting our voices. Micki did it with so much style.
- In the ’80s we embraced FEDAPT (Foundation for the Extension and Development of the American Professional Theatre), exchanging ideas with Jessica Andrews, Joseph Melillo, John McCann, and Ruby Lerner. We joined Brooks Jones launching PepsiCo Summerfare, along with Paul King, Michael Naumann, Susan Sampliner, and Jack Thomas. Micki guided our thinking on where to find the audiences for as many as 17 performances a day. Her strategic thinking filled the houses.
- In the ’90s Micki guided conversations with Paul Kellogg and me at Glimmerglass Opera. She analyzed the minute details on each seat and its proximity to the stage—an analysis which, coupled with her understanding of audiences, always allowed Micki to lead us to correct decisions. Micki’s deep understanding of human nature was a force.
- In the 2000s Micki led workshops for Art/New York with Ginny Louloudes and Nello McDaniel, guiding the thinking of many young producers. Micki’s insights pushed, pulled, embraced, questioned.
- Recently, while I was still at Lincoln Center, I wanted to start a personal project to evolve my own family farm into an “artist-directed” residency site. I wanted it to be a place where we could invite entire companies for dramaturgical explorations; I also wanted to host artists with families. Micki guided my dream. Micki worked continuously with me as a member of our advisory council to bring the project to fruition.
Last month while vacationing in Montana I spent time with Chuck Tooley at the Wheeler Center. Micki had been a force there too. Her influence impacted the growth of the arts across our country as both a nurturing force in our personal lives, and an economic force in our communities.
I treasure the work we did together. I also treasure the personal times: long walks along the ocean at Kure Beach, evenings at the theatre, late nights in my NYC apartment solving world problems while a sharing bottle of wine. Exploratory events included conferences with the Alliance of Artists Communities as we plotted our next adventures.
When we were not together there were hours on the phone filled with professional observations and “girl” talk. This summer our conversations were intimate as health problems prevailed. Yet Micki only looked to the future with enthusiasm. I miss her. My heart is filled with tears, but reinforced by a lifetime of her love.
Karen Shafer is the founder and director of AKF Foundation for Culture and Environment at Aunt Karen’s Farm.