A veteran arts leader raised in Wisconsin will take charge of the Hennepin Theatre Trust, which presents Broadway shows in Minneapolis.

Mark Nerenhausen, former CEO of the AT&T Performing Arts Center in Dallas, replaces co-founder Tom Hoch, who stepped down two months ago to run for Minneapolis mayor.

A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Nerenhausen is said to be an accomplished fundraiser attuned to issues of diversity and equity.

He left the Dallas post in 2010 after launching the $354 million multistage facility. For the past six years, he has run a graduate program in arts leadership at Syracuse University in New York. He will start his new job April 3.

"Coming to the trust feels like coming home to me," he said in an interview Thursday.

"In graduate school, I interned at Artspace [the Minneapolis-based nonprofit] and worked on the Lowertown Lofts [in St. Paul]. My wife is a Carleton grad, and so is one of my daughters. Another daughter went to St. Olaf and now lives in the Twin Cities."

Born north of Green Bay, Wis., Nerenhausen, 62, grew up on Washington Island, a resort community off the tip of the Door Peninsula.

It was there that he got the bug for being an arts manager. At 17, he spearheaded the transformation of an old barn into a coffee shop, gallery and performance space. The Red Barn Coffee House still exists.

Still, he didn't think he could make a career out of it, so he studied Russian history and literature in college. It wasn't until graduate school that he realized "I wasn't feeling a sense of calling about Russia."

He took some time off and moved to a two-room cabin on the island with his brother.

"One day, as I was crumpling up a piece of paper to build a fire, I saw a little news note that caught my eye," he recalled. "It was about a student graduating from an arts management program. I thought, Aha! That's what I want to do."

Nerenhausen's resume includes jobs at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center in Hawaii, the Oshkosh (Wis.) Grand Opera House; the Bijou Theater in Knoxville, Tenn.; the Milwaukee Performing Arts Center, and the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Nashville.

"Mark joins the trust with an impressive record of success that spans the performing arts, fundraising, education and cultural development," said Ann Simonds, the trust's board chairwoman and interim CEO.

In taking over the trust, he will run four playhouses on Hennepin Avenue that draw a half-million ticket buyers each year.

612-673-4390 • @rohanpreston