Reflections about David Lee from the Network
As we close the chapter of David Lee’s time as the CEO of Imagine MKE, we invited network partners to share reflections about his tenure. Below are some of the reflections.
Though we say a fond farewell to David as the leader of this merry band of arts advocates, the joyful, inclusive, and authentic leadership that he modeled will continue to take root within the network and impact the future of arts advocacy for Milwaukee, and beyond.
Thank you, David. We celebrate you!
-The Imagine MKE Team
"David: the world progresses under the leadership of visionaries. Communities thrive when partnered with others who care. And Milwaukee is beautiful because of the presence of The Arts Community. David, you are the culmination of all three. THANK YOU for your labor of love through Imagine MKE! Thank you for having the courage to bring the idea to life! I wish you well as your adventure continues.”
-Denisha Tate-McAlister, Denisha Tate & Associates, LLC
“I so admire the enthusiasm and sincerity with which David brings love into his work. His passion for the arts, supporting artists, and, above all, making connections between members of the Milwaukee community is palpable and inspiring. On a personal note, I cannot say enough how much I appreciate the way David and the Imagine MKE crew made me feel welcome and included as a newcomer to the city; I'll never forget the warm familiarity with which he not only recognized me when we met for the first time in person at the summit in 2021, but he unhesitatingly gave me the biggest hug like an old friend. Good luck, David!”
-Dianne Choie, Youth and Family Programs Coordinator, Milwaukee Art Museum
“David: it seems like only yesterday when we were interviewing you for the executive director position and I had the chance to learn about your eclectic background as an actor, chef, financier, non-profit leader and arm wrestling champ! As I’ve gotten to know you over the years, I’ve greatly admired and enjoyed seeing your entrepreneurial spirit, creativity and growth mindset at work to help launch and lead our start-up non-profit. I’m excited to see how you apply these skills to help Milwaukee flourish in new ways. Hate to see you leave IMKE, but glad you’ll be sticking around town.”
-Beth Ridley, Leadership and Workplace Culture Expert, Ridley Consulting Group + IMKE Board Member
"David is an extraordinary speaker, and an even better listener. He has helped encourage me to dream boldly, while acting practically, one action step at a time. And I will treasure, remember, and aspire to, the authenticity, grace, wit, and competence he demonstrated over and over again."
-Jill Anna Ponasik, Artistic Director, Milwaukee Opera Theatre
“David is a natural convener and connector. In his time with Imagine MKE he was able to build bridges and develop alliances with so many arts and culture constituents. He led the organization admirably through the challenges of the pandemic and was instrumental in rallying financial support. I wish David all the best in his future endeavors!”
-Julie Granger, Executive Vice President, MMAC + IMKE Board Member
“David's genuine enthusiasm for the mission behind Imagine and connecting the sector is truly admirable. He, and Imagine, started at an incredibly exciting time for Milwaukee – we were about to host the DNC. And obviously the year 2020 had its way with all of that. Still, David and his team rallied arts and culture in our city – one of the hardest hit by the pandemic – and truly built community within it while we were all apart.”
-Sarah Mac Lahr, Marketing Director, 88Nine Radio Milwaukee
“I've never seen a nonprofit operate with such a true spirit of joy and abundance. David's leadership represented all that nonprofit leadership should be, a focus not just on the mission but on people - employees, partners, and the community. I always got the sense that David believed and lived out the idea that doing good is the ultimate reward in and of itself.”
-Jeremy Ebersole, Executive Director, Milwaukee Preservation Alliance
“It has been and honor to get to know David as a person and as a leader who realizes the importance of the arts to humanity. His dedication, knowledge and skills have been evident in the humble way that he has offered encouragement, information and suggestions. I appreciate the way that David has remained present, aware and concerned while at the same time allowing the group members to rely on each other becoming stronger and more self-directed. I will miss him and hope that we cross paths again soon as he continues to live giving from his heart.”
-Rhulene Artis, Facilitator, Milwaukee Environmental Sciences Charter School
“When I became a new CEO in the region's arts and culture scene, David made a point of reaching out to welcome me. I'm so appreciative of his efforts to bring arts organizations together so that we view each other as collaborators in the same boat, rather than competition. That vision is something I will carry forward.”
-Ashley Fisher, CEO, Bel Canto Chorus
"The world needs more leaders who are genuine - who like David sing karaoke, include their arm wrestling skills on LinkedIn, and tell people that they love them. Let’s hope more folks follow his lead. "
-Megan McGee, Executive Director, Ex Fabula
Photo by Samer Ghani.