Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts Executive Director Lakesha Green poses for a photo recently outside of the Wagon Wheel. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts Executive Director Lakesha Green poses for a photo recently outside of the Wagon Wheel. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
From New York to Georgia, Lakesha Green could have found a job anywhere with her background, but she chose to move to Warsaw to be the new executive director of the Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts after falling in love with what she found here.

“It’s definitely my gem in the lake. I love it,” she said in a recent interview.

Originally from Montgomery, Ala., she did her undergraduate studies at Alabama State University. After finishing there, she moved to Savannah, Ga., and attended Savannah College of Art and Design. She made Savannah her home for 13 years, working with a nonprofit youth organization, doing directing and arts integration.

“That’s really where my foundation started, in Savannah,” she said. “Building programs, working with government, working with the school system of how to build curriculum, how to serve underserved youth in the community.”

From there, Green continued to travel and consult up and down the East Coast while still directing and working with young people “because that was always my heart.” She returned to Alabama and taught in a school system because a former teacher asked her to and the school needed a drama teacher. She was there for about four years and then moved to New York and joined the Redhouse Center for the Arts in Syracuse, N.Y.

“I loved it. COVID changed everything of how we were programming and the cuts that happened because New York was a little different as far as lockdown, and the arts are really just now opening back up for real. We definitely survived it with all the virtual technology that we were able to use,” she said.

“That’s the short version of my life over the last 25 years,” Green said. “Really, doing art, writing art, consulting, grant writing, going into different organizations, doing capacity building of how to build programming, what’s unique about your programming in this particular city. So, going into different cities and learning them and studying them to really show what their need is.”

Now, she’s at the Wagon Wheel.

“Trying to build the capacity here, as well as expand on what we’re already doing so that we’re around for 66 more years. Just trying to see where we are, where could we be, what’s the next thing. So, I am learning the community and the gist of how everything works because this is the smallest city I’ve ever lived or worked in. It is the smallest, but it’s very interesting just how communal this community is, and I love it. That’s one of the things I love about living here is that connection with everybody and just how everybody pours into the arts. I love it,” Green said, adding that’s why the Wagon Wheel has been in Warsaw for 66 years.

Before she took the job at the Wagon Wheel, she had another job interview in Richmond, Va., on a Tuesday, but two board members cancelled because they were in the Bahamas and that was the third reschedule. She was due to be in Warsaw that Thursday and she wasn’t happy with how the job interview process was going in Richmond.

“But the Wagon Wheel, from the beginning of the whole interview process, it was amazing. Their team – I have to give Emily and Joni credit – they were phenomenal from beginning to end. When they set a date, when they set a time (they were there),” Green recalled.

She came to Warsaw for the interview.

“This was my first time coming to Warsaw. It was first visit and I literally fell in love. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh!’ because I didn’t know what to expect. I was like, nobody’s ever heard of this place,” she said, laughing. Her only previous visits to Indiana were to Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, and those were brief visits years ago. “So I was very open. When I got here, just the openness of taking the questions. I actually got to view the community. It wasn’t just me coming here, looking at the Wagon Wheel. They actually took me out into the community and people were just waving. I was like, ‘Are they really friendly or did you all just stage this?’”

The visit sold her on the Warsaw community.

“I just fell in love with the community. I really did. And I went back and I spoke with the Lord again. I was like, ‘Lord, I’m taking less money though, why do you want me to come here?’ But, my mom, she’s always been a stickler that ‘it’s not always about money, your gift is always going to take care of you. You’ve never lacked in any place that you’ve gone. You have to think about the longevity about what’s best for you and your son.’ And that’s what it really came down to, so here I am,” Green said.

Where she is in her life right now, she said Warsaw is the perfect fit for her and her son Hendrix.

“It’s peaceful. When you’ve lived in New York, when you’ve done the D.C. and Boston scene and all these big cities, you come here and it’s just like a breath of fresh air. It really is. And just the work and the people that are here. Working with (Artistic Director) Scott (Michaels), he’s amazing. His work has run circles across a lot of directors that I’ve worked with in New York. So, just the talent along here and just the heart that goes into it is beautiful. It’s like a hidden gem, it really is. It’s a beautiful thing that this community has with the Wagon Wheel. And young people have an opportunity to grow this program and I love it. I just want to make sure that it’s sustained and we’re going to be here for 66 more years,” she said.