Cindy Webb loves ballet. She never danced for a professional company, nor did she major in dance during college. But she always took classes, growing up and as an adult, and regardless of where she lived.
“When other people were running in the park, I took ballet courses,” she said.
So imagine her satisfaction when at age 54, after 25 years of nonprofit fundraising and consulting, she was hired as the director of development for the Tulsa Ballet.
She started this June, and in taking the position, Webb made a statement about the person she is and who she wants to be.
“I’m at the point in life where what I do is more important than what I make,” she said. “I’m living the dream world.”
The development is so recent that Webb is still renting an apartment in Tulsa and is still trying to sell the house in West Fork she owns with her husband, Tim.
But make no mistake. This is not a hardship for the Little Rock native. Fundraising for the ballet was an opportunity of a lifetime, so any associated inconveniences are merely incidental.
Webb had been freelance consulting for a couple of years when she got a call from a friend telling her about the job. Webb took a good look around, and realized there was nothing standing in her way. Both daughters were out of the house, her husband’s job was portable, and Tulsa was only 130 miles away.
“It was a perfect storm of opportunity,” she said.
Since 1995, the ballet has been under the fierce leadership of artistic director Marcello Angelini, known in the industry as “The Italian Tornado.” According to industry observers, Angelini is a big reason why the Tulsa Ballet is well-funded and enjoys a good reputation.
Webb shares that opinion.
“The best jobs in the world are when you work for people with vision and passion,” she said, referring to Angelini. “It’s an exciting place to be.”
In 2000, when Webb was managing her consulting firm, Promethean Partners LLC, she was honored as a Forty Under 40 by the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal.
Soon after graduating from Hendrix College in 1983 with a degree in math, she bought a one-way ticket to New York City.
“I said, ‘I’ll either make it or break it,’” she said.
She wound up living in New York for seven years. That’s where she broke into the fundraising industry. That’s where she met her husband. And that’s where she shared an elevator ride with perhaps the most famous ballet dancer of all time — Mikhail Baryshnikov — after rehearsal at a studio near the Lincoln Center.
“I had a blast,” she said of New York. “It was a phenomenal place to live.”
When it came time to have a family, Webb and her husband moved to Fayetteville. She worked as a development officer at the University of Arkansas, where she also earned her master’s in English, a full decade after earning her bachelor’s.
In 1996, she went to work for the Community Resource Group, a rural development agency operating in the south. But Webb didn’t really hit her stride until 1999, when she founded Promethean Partners.
The independent consulting firm had a client list that included Life Styles, Fayetteville Senior Center, Walmart Foundation, Walton Arts Center, and Benton County Habitat for Humanity, among others.
“I loved that role, but what I didn’t love was that it was a one-person operation,” she said.
She was with the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Foundation for six years, from 2006 to 2012, and has a deep appreciation for the organization’s mission. She said the 24-bed hospital in Springdale, set for groundbreaking next year, will be a godsend for parents who have to take their children to Little Rock for treatment.
“The people of Northwest Arkansas have wanted this for a long time,” she said. “Pediatric medicine is different than adult medicine, and it’s hard to do pediatrics in an adult hospital.”
Throughout her career, Webb has worked for, or consulted with, organizations with some type of charitable mission, from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center to the Mercy Health Foundation.
But with the Tulsa Ballet, the gist is much different. She has to convince people that the arts matter. That can be a challenge, but Webb doesn’t mind.
“You do something you love and you can do it forever,” she said.