Portland Opera Puccini in Concert Keller Auditorium Portland Oregon

Ronni S. Lacroute – Friend to the Arts

On Stage & Studio, Dmae Lo Roberts talks with perhaps the most influential benefactor of Oregon arts.

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Most artists and arts organizations in Oregon know the name of Ronni S. Lacroute. Anyone who attends performing arts events, art exhibits, films and music festivals knows her name. She’s mentioned in every welcome speech live or virtual as a generous donor and supporter.

But unlike many funders, Lacroute shows up to the events she sponsors. That’s because she’s personal in her giving and a model philanthropist who invests in the creation of the art itself as she also mentors and advises on the arts.

She tends to be a coveted audience member, too, like a family member who is visiting out of town. That’s not too far-fetched, since she lives in her modest home in McMinnville. Before the pandemic, it wasn’t unusual for Lacroute to attend several productions or events a week, sometimes taking the three-hour round-trip drive to Portland. Now she relies on rides to attend the events she sponsors, including for artistic directors such as Sharon Maroney at Broadway Rose Theatre, who recently drove her to see the company’s production of Loch Lomond. Still, her attendance is minimal, depending on her comfort level toward her health.

Lacroute is the former co-owner of the world-class Willakenzie Estate winery. She used to be a high school teacher in Massachusetts, until 1983. And before that she was the youngest French language professor at Suffolk University in Boston until they decided to fire all the female faculty, a practice that was legal then. She studied romance languages and literature and has degrees from Cornell University, the University of Michigan and the Paris-Sorbonne University. Since the early 2000s she has been one of the most recognizable, most accessible and generous patrons and donors to the arts in Oregon. And she’s just as busy as ever helping to sustain and shape the arts, relying on phone calls and occasional visits.

Artswatch has benefited from her generosity through the years, and so has Dmae Lo Roberts, through her nonprofit MediaRites. It’s all about relationships for Lacroute, and talking with her is an enjoyable experience.


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In this podcast conversation with Ronni S. Lacroute hear….

Why people matter when she’s giving and pointers for funding-seekers.

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Portland Opera Puccini in Concert Keller Auditorium Portland Oregon

“My advice is to do something truly meaningful and important, and then have a conversation with me about the impact of the project.”

Her background in Europe shaped her love the arts, but she especially remembers growing up in Communist bloc countries during the Cold War.

“Hey, I was a teenager, right. So I thought it was absolutely fabulous the opportunities to interact with spies and with people who were the KGB and all of that. So I found the bugs in my bedroom.”

Ronni, age 16, at a dinner at the American Embassy in 1961 with the son of a U.S. Army Sergeant who was stationed at the Embassy. “He was the only other person my age that I knew in Poland.”

How the pandemic affected her personally.  

“I felt very cut off from my arts family. We talked by telephone a lot, but it’s just not the same. Every time I saw people on the screen in a filmed production, I was realizing how much I missed being in the same room.”

Advice she has to other potential funders.

“I would say, you want to see the world become a better place, if you want to see healing in this in society, if you want to support your community, one of the best ways is through the arts. We can’t leave that out.”

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Lacroute also talks about the changes in the arts communities, especially regarding equity, diversity and inclusion, what makes her feel safe to attend live events again. And also hear her animal impressions, seriously!

Dmae with Ronni Lacroute and Marcella Crowson of Oregon Children’s Theatre on a visit last summer.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Dmae Roberts is a two-time Peabody winning radio producer, writer and theatre artist. Her work is often autobiographical and cross-cultural and informed by her biracial identity. Her Peabody award-winning documentary Mei Mei, a Daughter’s Song is a harrowing account of her mother’s childhood in Taiwan during WWII. She adapted this radio documentary into a film. She won a second Peabody-award for her eight-hour Crossing East documentary, the first Asian American history series on public radio. She received the Dr. Suzanne Ahn Civil Rights and Social Justice award from the Asian American Journalists Association and was selected as a United States Artists (USA) Fellow. Her stage plays and essays have been published in numerous publications. She published her memoir The Letting Go Trilogies: Stories of a Mixed-Race Family in 2016. As a theatre artist, she has won two Drammys, one for her acting and one for her play Picasso In The Back Seat which also won the Oregon Book Award. Her plays have been produced in Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, NYC and Florida. Roberts is the executive producer of MediaRites, a nonprofit multicultural production organization and co-founder of Theatre Diaspora, an Asian American/Pacific Islander non-profit theatre that started as a project of MediaRites. She created the Crossing East Archive of more than 200 hours of broadcast-quality, pan-AAPI interviews and oral histories. For 23 years, Roberts volunteered to host and produce Stage & Studio live on KBOO radio. In 2009, she started the podcast on StagenStudio.com, which continues at ArtsWatch.

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