Ronni Lacroute Is a Guardian Angel for Portland Artists

She’s quietly become one of the city’s most important patrons of the arts.

Ronni Lacroute

Age: 77

Occupation: Patron of the arts

Why She Matters: If you attend plays, art exhibits, film festivals or music festivals in the Portland area, you know about Ronni Lacroute. Despite a desire to avoid the spotlight, she’s become a name that audiences hear about but don’t often see. When artistic directors inevitably begin shows by declaring, “We’d like to thank our sponsor, Ronni Lacroute,” she doesn’t come onstage, preferring to let her financial support speak for itself.

A former East Coaster, Lacroute became the youngest French language professor at Suffolk University in the 1970s. She later moved to Silicon Valley and got a job in computing, but still found time to grow 50 fruit trees.

Since moving to Oregon, she has co-owned and sold the WillaKenzie Estate, a winery in Yamhill, Ore. Now, she has devoted her life to philanthropy, investing in the city’s arts community through her patronage and guidance. “I’m interested in more than just beautifully made artistic performances,” she says. “I want to see that it has an impact on the community that brings people together [and] helps people develop empathy for folks who aren’t like ourselves.”

Biggest Influence: “David Shifrin at Chamber Music NW and Allen Nause at Artists Repertory Theatre. [They] really got me excited about the potential of arts organizations to make the community a better place.”

Greatest Personal Achievement: “Even the smallest things I’ve done are sometimes as powerful as the biggest things. Now, it’s just helping companies survive the pandemic. There’s certain companies that told me they wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t helped them.”

Favorite Guilty Pleasure: “Having time to read for hours in the evening.”

Best Quote About Her: The words of Lacroute herself best sum up her impact: “For my 75th birthday, the arts community threw me an enormous bash at Portland Playhouse, and each representative did something to entertain me,” she says. “Some people did a roast, some read a poem. There was somebody who did a rap. I don’t have a favorite, but I have this memory of the whole arts community inventing stuff for me.”

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