2019 Outstanding Individual Contribution Award Winner
The 2019 Award for Outstanding Individual Contribution was given to Russ Collins, the Executive Director of the Michigan Theater Foundation in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Given annually, this award recognizes an individual who demonstrates vision, dedication, selflessness and excellence through his or her contribution to historic theatres and their communities. Collins was responsible for the restoration/rehabilitation and now, the daily operation of the State Theatre, a 1940s Cinema Style theater and the Michigan Theater, a 1920s Movie Palace. Beginning his tenure in 1982, Collins has overseen multiple capital campaigns that led to the award-winning restoration of the Michigan Theater (receiving LHAT’s Outstanding Historic Theatre in America award, 2006) and more recently the adaptive reuse/historically sensitive renovation of the State Theatre. Today both venues are open 365 days a year and host over 350,000 patrons annually.
When asked about the nomination, Stephanie Silverman, LHAT’s Board Chair and Executive Director of the Belcourt Theatre in Nashville said, “Russ’ unparalleled commitment to protecting Ann Arbor’s historic theatres, building them into iconic cultural centers in the heart of one of America’s most vibrant college communities, and using those lessons learned to help strengthen a whole field of art houses makes him one of the best and most valuable theatre operators working today.”
Russ Collins is a not-for-profit arts administrator with an entrepreneurial approach to management. As a University of Michigan graduate student, he established a successful theatrical production and presentation company in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Collins has grown the Michigan Theater Foundation into an internationally recognized community-based, mission-driven theater preservation organization and exemplary presenter of diverse arts programs.
“Russ is almost as iconic within the League as many of our theatre marquees are in their communities,” exclaimed Ken Stein during the ceremony which was attended by film and theatre peers from across the nation. “He is just one of those people who you can call on at any time for advice and know that you are going to get the right answer at the right time.” Stein was quick to add, “He’s also good for a laugh when you need that too.”
In addition to taking on leadership roles within the LHAT throughout most of its existence, in 2008, Collins founded the Art House Convergence (AHC), in association with the Sundance Film Festival. Art House Convergence is a professional association dedicated to advancing excellence and sustainability in community-based, mission-driven cinemas. Interestingly, Collins’s experience with LHAT inspired his vision for the Art House Convergence, that of a national organization serving a specialized group of community-based, mission-driven arts institutions.
Collins was chosen to receive the LHAT Outstanding Individual Contribution award because of his leadership and vision, his ability to marshal resources, his skill in building consensus, and his commitment to mission and community service. He has had an immeasurable impact on the preservation and operation of the Michigan and State Theaters, on the vitality of Ann Arbor’s downtown, as well as on the advancement of historic theaters nationally and the promotion of community-based, mission-driven cinema exhibition around the world.