Blumenthal Performing Arts
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Winter 2021-22
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An Inextinguishable Passion
New Board Member Drawn to Performing Arts in Career and Community Involvement
Marisa Thalberg, Blumenthal Performing Arts board member.
by Adam Rhew
From the time she stepped into the spotlight to play the title character in an elementary school production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, Blumenthal Performing Arts’ newest board member, Marisa Thalberg, has felt a pull toward the stage.
“For me, that creativity and desire to perform, those seeds were sown really early on,” Thalberg recalls. “It was definitely my passion. The way some kids are great athletes or are great visual artists, for me it was the performing arts.” So it’s not a complete surprise to find Thalberg, executive vice president and chief brand and marketing officer at Lowe’s, on television as a judge on the USA Network product pitch show "America’s Big Deal."
“It’s funny how life comes back around in totally surprising ways,” Thalberg says.
She came to Lowe’s after leading marketing, branding and advertising for major brands including Taco Bell and Calvin Klein Cosmetics. “I guess I’ve always just loved being a communicator and a storyteller.”
Those passions – which took root around the time she had to dance with a much-shorter Prince Charming in that third-grade play – have woven themselves into Thalberg’s personal and professional lives. “Funny enough, you find yourself onstage presenting and communicating, and I realize that my background in the performing arts equipped me for that in ways that I might never have imagined,” she says.
Like many creatives, Thalberg struggled with the balance of her artistic and corporate interests. She had abandoned performing arts to pursue a career in advertising but couldn’t shake the feeling of being in the spotlight.
“For a lot of young, ambitious women, your 20s are this magical time. It was a very angst-ridden time for me as I was questioning whether I was on the right path,” she recalls. “I struggled with my identity and this fear that maybe I had left a different dream behind.”
So she decided to work with a Broadway voice coach and wound up singing cabaret after work in some well-known Theater District nightclubs. “My friends and colleagues would come watch, and it scratched the itch on some level, but I think it is reflective of not really wanting to give up that passion and trying to find a way to integrate it,” she says. “I had this continuation of trying to figure out, I think like a lot of people do, how your career and your passions are the same and not the same, how they intersect and then separate, how ultimately you find a way to fulfill them to the best of your ability in a holistic way.”
As her career in advertising and marketing took off, she married, gave birth to two daughters, and launched an organization for working mothers called Executive Moms.
“There weren’t a lot of resources for working moms, and this organization was ahead of its time in that it was pre-social media because it was really content and community,” Thalberg says. “Suddenly I found myself in a bit of a spotlight as a voice and a champion for working mothers. That was really satisfying because it was a different kind of stage where I was really giving back to women and helping people.”
Still, she kept finding her way back to the performing arts, becoming involved in organizations that her children were involved with, and eventually joining the board of TheaterworksUSA, a New York nonprofit that seeks to expand access to the arts.
When Thalberg’s career brought her to Southern California for a marketing leadership role at Taco Bell, she immersed herself in performing arts organizations there too. “It’s funny how you get older and those threads that are sort of hanging loosely start to weave themselves together and make sense,” she says.
It was clear to me almost from the start ... that Blumenthal was where I wanted to be, making sure people recognize the value of arts in our culture and our society and our lives.
— Marisa Thalberg, Blumenthal Performing Arts board member
Her family’s move to North Carolina last year – settling in amidst a pandemic, during a profound disruption in business, schooling and, yes, performing arts – came with plenty of trepidation.
“I took this opportunity at Lowe’s, never in a million years thinking my family and I would wind up in North Carolina,” Thalberg says with a laugh. “We’re New Yorkers! California was a stretch. North Carolina was really a stretch.” But it didn’t take long for her to find the stage yet again.
“It was clear to me almost from the start ... that Blumenthal was where I wanted to be,” she says, “making sure people recognize the value of arts in our culture and our society and our lives.”
That mission is particularly relevant now, as organizations like Blumenthal reopen their doors to the public after such a challenging period, Thalberg says. “You do worry: Can everyone re-emerge like a phoenix from those ashes? I think the encouraging answer is, ‘Yes.’” She points to the incredible response to Wicked during its four-week run in Charlotte marking Broadway’s return. “It was magical seeing it here. When you haven’t had something in a while, you’ve been deprived of it, maybe you just savor it that much more.”
Her hope is that our community can harness that spirit to grow Charlotte’s reputation as a center for arts and innovation.
“When I met Tom (Gabbard), I thought, ‘Wow, he is going to help Charlotte punch above its weight. And I’m excited about that,’” she says. “I’m proud of the fact that we get the best touring productions, the best casts, that we’re the biggest installation in North America for 'Immersive Van Gogh.' I want that to become a point of pride not just for Blumenthal, but for the city of Charlotte.
“I love that it is a hub for banking, but imagine the possibilities if it becomes a hub for creativity." ◼