VOICES: The arts are essential to a healthy and prosperous community



Never underestimate the impact one determined individual can have on an organization and in a community.

“The true mark of a leader is the willingness to stick with a bold course of action… even as the rest of the world wonders why you’re not marching in step with the status quo. In other words, real leaders are happy to zig while others zag. They understand that in an era of hyper-competition and non-stop disruption, the only way to stand out from the crowd is to stand for something special.” - Bill Taylor, from the article “Do You Pass the Leadership Test?”

This quote about leadership resonates with the path of success blazed by Ty Sutton as President & CEO of Dayton Live over the last nearly six years. He zigged when some thought he should zag, and he stood for something special.

Sutton and his family came to Dayton in 2018, just as several influential events occurred in our community: the Memorial Day tornados, the shooting in the Oregon District, the marches for social justice, and then the world shutting down due to COVID-19 pandemic.

He inherited an organization with a rich history, but which was struggling to maintain the stewardship of the iconic venues entrusted to its care, an organization searching for a way forward into a more stable and fruitful future. The Victoria Theatre Association – and indeed, the greater Dayton region – was on the cusp of change. Sutton instituted many changes in the operation of the organization, its finances, its programming, its relationships with its resident companies, and even its very brand and identity, launching the new Dayton Live name to elucidate everything that this now nearly 50-year-old organization encompasses.

Now, after modeling that boldness, commitment, and vision that is true leadership, Sutton is moving on to new challenges in 2024 with the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in south Florida, the 6th largest performing arts center in the U.S. While we’re sad to see him go, we’re proud of the work accomplished under his leadership by the staff and board of trustees.

The successes during Sutton’s tenure are significant and lay the groundwork for further growth and achievement for Dayton Live in the years ahead:

  • Leading the arts and culture community to foster economic development and talent attraction and retention in the Dayton region through community engagement.
  • Our increased collaboration with the other arts and cultural organizations, including supporting our resident companies Dayton Performing Arts Alliance, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, The Human Race Theatre Company and Muse Machine – as well as working with other nonprofits like Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, Dayton Art Institute, and Dayton History.
  • Our thoughtful ongoing evaluation, action, and commitment to Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Accessibility.
  • The broadening of our Education & Community Engagement offerings to serve the entire region through the Miami Valley High School Theatre Awards, the Dayton Live Creative Academy, and more.
  • Our strong financial position especially coming out of the recession/pandemic, ending the last three years in the black.

Dayton Live’s Board of Trustees has initiated a comprehensive search to identify the next President & CEO to lead Dayton Live into this next chapter. We are committed to ensuring a smooth transition and maintaining the momentum that Ty has established. During this transition period, Dayton Live will continue to operate seamlessly, and our dedicated team will ensure that all ongoing projects and initiatives progress without interruption. We remain steadfast in our commitment to serving our community and fulfilling our mission of strengthening community engagement in the arts through inspiring performances, educational opportunities, and world-class venues.

Now more than ever, Dayton Live stands for something special in this community. It stands for the deeply held belief that the arts are essential to a healthy and prosperous community and that these life-altering experiences represented by concerts, plays, dance performances, musicals, and more bring together our diverse community, making it stronger and more unified.

Dave Dickerson is the Chair of the Dayton Live Board of Trustees and President of Midwest Business Development – Miller Valentine Construction.

Erin Davis is the Vice Chair of the Dayton Live Board of Trustees and Partner at Taft Law.

About the Authors