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Author: Becca Vaclavik

Remembering Diane Dunn

In the late 90s, the Artist Series found itself at a crossroads. Recent seasons had reaped back-to-back deficit years. The advisory board had disbanded. The programming had been trimmed to a meager three or four events per year. It was a “now or never” kind of moment. Was there a way to keep the Artist Series afloat? Or was it time to retire it for good?

To hear her colleagues tell it now, Diane Dunn—longtime advisory board member and dear friend of the Artist Series—swooped in to save the day, and not a moment too soon. With a single offer, Diane became a much-needed knight in shining armor for CU’s presenting series.

“Diane had a quiet passion for things. And she truly believed in her heart that art is what makes life worth living,” says CU Presents Executive Director Joan McLean Braun. “She said, ‘I think you need to do more, not less. You need more people to give. I’m willing to give, and I’m willing to lead the giving team.’”

Diane offered to reinstate the Artist Series Advisory Board and to serve as its first chair. In the years that followed, she became one of the most fierce and vocal advocates of the program.

“Diane was generous with her time, with her resources, with her enthusiasm for other board members. That effort gave us the traction we needed. It gave us the support and advocacy to turn things around,” says McLean Braun.

The rest, as they say, is history. Because you’re sitting here in Macky, you know the Artist Series remains a beacon for world-class performers, in part because of Diane’s enthusiasm for giving.

Unfortunately, Diane passed away earlier this year from pancreatic cancer. But her advocacy lives on through those she influenced over the years.

“Diane was instrumental in getting me fully engaged with this board and its mission,” says Artist Series Advisory Board Chair Daryl James.

“She would say something that challenged you to think harder and commit more, and did it in such a positive way that the only answer you could give her was ‘yes.’ She believed in and gave so much to the Artist Series, leading us by example to every year support the series with enthusiasm and financial help. Diane leaves a legacy of stellar performing arts, and you can feel it with every performance.”

Speaking about her impact, Diane’s husband Dick Dunn says: “Just a few people—at the right place and time—resuscitated the Artist Series and made such a great difference in its trajectory. That ‘don’t stop and rest’ attitude can be daunting at times, but it’s essential.

“The Artist Series parallels what happens with great performers: They come out of a draining, intense performance with more energy than they went in.

I hope it’s that way for the Artist Series Advisory Board.”

Chick Corea Trilogy is sponsored by friends of Diane Dunn.
In celebration of the life of Diane Dunn, Pilobolus is sponsored by Dick Dunn.

Friends share their memories of Diane

Diane’s style

“Diane was a wonderful board member and a dear, dear friend to the Artist Series. Her passion for the organization was matched by her twinkling personality and her wonderful sense of style. I loved knowing and working with Diane and deeply appreciated her thoughtful leadership, her amazing support, and her sweet friendship.” – Lissy Garrison

Her love of dance

“Upon meeting Diane my first day as a new board member, Diane welcomed me as a member of her tribe—a tribe that includes dancers, lovers of dance, and those who believe in the alchemic potential of the arts. She was a storyteller, one who shared her memories about experiences, not from a self-centered place, but as a way of connecting and drawing folks together around common passions.

“Diane LOVED dance. She was a dancer, studying African dance primarily, but was passionate about the place of all dance in the Artist Series. Diane was also able to give her opinion about things without mushing your own. I felt that because I trusted my body as a dancer, she trusted me completely. This is an intelligence to get behind, she seemed to say—and what a gift that is to be witnessed and valued —particularly in a world where dancers and our intelligences are so often dismissed and overlooked. Diane overlooked nothing—she was rigorous in her research, thoughtful in her commentary, and stubborn about the value of the arts on a campus, in an artist series, and within culture at large. Her voice and her body’s wisdom will be missed and forever celebrated in the moments of dance that uplift our season.” – Erika Randall

Diane’s dedication

“Diane was intensely intelligent, creative, passionate, kind and deeply supportive of the mission of the Artist Series. I greatly valued getting to know her, meet her cats, and above all—her dedication to the arts!” – Jeni Webster

Her own artistry

“Diane was always welcoming and engaged and a fierce supporter of the Artist Series. We also connected around her love of jewelry-making and I would try to wear something interesting to show her. the necklaces and earrings she made were always so creative and colorful and she kept offering to have me come to the house and bead with her—I wish I had taken her up on that.” – Maryan Jaross

Diane’s presence

“What I appreciated about Diane was her passion and desire to bring the performing arts to a wide audience, especially the dance performances. One of her many contributions was her ability to suggest unique ideas to market to the patrons. She was always coming up with creative ways to capture more people to attend the Artist Series as well as, critically looking at the ways in which things were being done. She did not sit idly at the table.

“She was a very active advisory member and chimed in whenever she felt she had something to add to the discussion which was often the case. Diane will be missed, but her past presence at the table will continue to be felt by those that knew and appreciated her contributions over the years.” – Ellen Taxman