Headshot of Zenetta S. Drew

Executive Director, Dallas Black Dance Theatre

Putting butts in seats with digital arts education


13 min

Can we as arts leaders imagine a future where our challenges are sold-out theaters,
competition for sponsorship and growing global audiences?

The Dallas Cowboys did it — so why can’t we? With learnings from the sports world, Zenetta S. Drew, Executive Director of Dallas Black Dance Theatre, challenges us to rethink the impact of cultural literacy on audience development. By embracing technology and providing digital access to arts education, organizations can cultivate the audiences of tomorrow, today. 

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Zenetta S. Drew presented this talk live as part of the Innovator Series at the Tessitura Learning & Community Conference in Orlando, Fla. in August 2023.

Headshot of Zenetta S. Drew

Zenetta S. Drew

Executive Director
Dallas Black Dance Theatre

Zenetta has been Executive Director of Dallas Black Dance Theatre since 1987.

During her tenure, Dallas Black Dance Theatre has grown from an annual operating budget of $175,000 to over $4.9 million and has also grown from a community-based organization to a fully professional dance company. Under her administrative leadership, the company has performed on some of the world’s most prestigious stages including the Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, and the Olympics as well as performances for such luminaries as Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II and President Nelson Mandela.

Prior to Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Ms. Drew worked as an accounting manager for ARCO Oil and Gas Co. (BP Petroleum) where she was responsible for 50% of the corporation’s revenue. Ms. Drew is the first African American female to receive a BBA in Accounting from Texas A&M University-Commerce and she is the first African American female to be named a Distinguished Alumna in 2016. She is a graduate of the National Arts Strategies Executive Program through Harvard Business School (2016) and University of Michigan, Ross School of Business (2017).

She is the recipient of the 2003 Texas Legislative Black Caucus Outstanding Texan Award in Arts/Entertainment, 2004 recipient of the Dallas Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Alumnae Chapter’s Outstanding African American Women in the Arts Award and was recognized as one of 30 global business school graduates to receive the 2016 Influential Leaders Award for diversity and inclusion from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

She received the 2016 Obelisk Award for Outstanding Leadership Arts Alumnus from the Business Council for the Arts and the 2017 International Association of Blacks in Dance-Excellence in Arts Management Award. She also received the 2018 Dallas Historical Society Award for Arts Leadership, the 2021 Dance/USA’s Ernie Award, and was also a nominee for the Association for Performing Arts Professionals William Dawson Award in 2021.

Ms. Drew has served on more than 40 arts organization boards/advisory boards/committees that include Americans for the Arts, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Board Treasurer for the Cultural Data Project, and ViceChair of the Dallas Arts District. Ms. Drew has also been an Adjunct Professor in SMU’s M.A./M.B.A. Arts Management Program teaching Strategic Planning in the Arts.


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