on the mark

Powerhouse new CEO sets the stage for Hobby Center for the Performing Arts' next big act

Powerhouse new CEO sets the stage for Hobby Center's next big act

Mark Folkes Hobby Center Houston
The dynamic fundraising guru Folkes takes over on August 22. Photo by Al Torres Photography

The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts is getting a new head honcho. Mark Folkes takes over as president and CEO on August 22.

For those who may be unfamiliar with Folkes, here’s a quick primer. When Stages opened its fabulous new facility The Gordy in 2020, it was Mark Folkes who was instrumental in making it happen. He arrived at the organization in 2015, and over the next five years of fundraising and promotion, pushed that project through to completion.

The result is a stunning new theater space for the Houston arts community. And all that was after he’d held positions at the Houston Symphony and Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast. 

He stepped down last year to take over as the chief growth officer at the Greater Houston Community Foundation. Now, he’s on the move again, and excited to take over the top spot at the Hobby Center, which marks its 20th anniversary this year, opening in May 2002.

“Arts and culture are at the center of our civic identity,” he said in a press release announcing his appointment. “Houston has so much to be proud of for fostering a dynamic and diverse arts ecosystem, and the Hobby Center is, in many ways, at the center of this progress. [It] is well positioned to become an even stronger community partner to Houston artists and audiences, and I am excited to lead the team to help deepen our impact in presenting engaging performing arts experiences for all Houstonians.”

The Hobby Center has been on the hunt for a new leader since January.

“With a passion for the performing arts, an impressive business acumen, and strong ties to the Houston community, Mark stood out as the right candidate for the position,” said Rob Doty, chairman of board of the Hobby Center Foundation. “There is no doubt he will be an outstanding leader for the Hobby Center for many years to come.”

Folkes is a powerhouse fundraiser. At Stages, he helmed a $35.8 million capital campaign that led to The Gordy, which opened in January 2020. His time there also included a period of dynamic growth, including the tripling of the operating budget and subscriber base.

At the Houston Symphony, he helped raise over $16 million annually in support of operations, sustainability, and endowment. And at the Greater Houston Community Foundation, he led a team that he philanthropic impact of the foundation through work with donors and clients.

As he steps into his role at the Hobby Center, he’s ready to lead that organization into its third decade.

“There is an amazing group of Houstonians driving forward the work of the Hobby Center, one that I am proud to join,” he said. “I look forward to partnering with the [Hobby Center board] and team to continue to build the Hobby Center as a thriving hub for the performing arts in Houston.”

Originally from Canada, Folkes has held positions with Canada’s National Arts Centre, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, and Houston Grand Opera. He is a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) and holds MBA and master of arts in arts administration degrees from the University of Cincinnati.