Ambitious. Intelligent. Independent.

"I had to make my own living and my own opportunity. But I made it! Don't sit down and wait for opportunities to come. Get up and make them." - Madam C.J. Walker

In January 2018, the Madam Walker Theatre Center (MWTC) and Indiana University (IU) embarked on a new partnership that will continue in the rich legacy and tradition of Madam C.J. Walker and include a complete renovation of the MWTC building and new programming.

The collaboration and the future renovations are all part of a larger strategic plan to elevate its profile and reach and ensure long-term sustainability. This partnership will lay the necessary groundwork to place the Walker on a stronger path forward to better serve the current generation of leaders, entrepreneurs and community members, as well as those to come.

Critical to this endeavor is the generous grant support of the Lilly Endowment Inc., totaling more than $15.3 million which will assist in the transitional operations of the Walker and a full renovation of the MWTC building, with state-of-the-art equipment, operational system updates and exterior improvements.

Additionally, through this effort, the Walker will be able focus on critical programming in the areas of art, financial literacy, leadership, entrepreneurship and philanthropy.

This new programmatic thrust will help to ensure the Walker’s sustainability and economic viability, and includes a new slate of class offerings, workshops, seminars and a speaker series in partnership with IUPUI, Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis, to help better serve the community. The Walker program offerings are built on collaborative partnerships and the Walker Board will engage the local community to provide thoughts in shaping future programming and partnership opportunities. In addition, space rental will continue in the newly renovated facility for public use.

Both the partnership and the support of the Lilly Endowment Inc., along with the strategic rebranding, including a name change to the Madam Walker Legacy Center is an important step towards the Walker’s long-term sustainability. Renovations are expected over an 18-month period, which accounts for contracting, permits, approvals and construction with the expected public opening of the new Madam Walker Legacy Center in 2019. As the last surviving iconic building on Indiana Avenue, a vibrant, active and modernized Walker, will benefit the community for decades to come.

Judith Thomas

Madame Walker Executive Director

I am excited to be a part of the revitalization of The Madam Walker Legacy Center.  I look forward to celebrating the cultural past of the building (MWLC) and Indiana Avenue while creating new energy, ideas and partnerships in the years to come. Madam Walker was a woman full of pride and ingenuity and her vision is still alive today in the Madam Walker Legacy Center.” – Judith B. Thomas

Born in Gary, Indiana, Judith B. Thomas and moved to Indianapolis in 1977 where she attended North Central High School and Butler University.  She has held position with WRTV Channel 6, Emmis Communications, the RCA Dome and the National Federation of State High School Associations. Most recently, she was the Director of Convention Services at Visit Indy.

Her expertise in facility management, sales, marketing, contract and union management, as well as stakeholder relations will effectively usher the Madam Walker Legacy Center into its next chapter.   These talents couple with her sound critical thinking skills, strategic problem solving abilities and unique ability to unify unique and diverse audiences will open the doors to new partnerships and innovative programming that will support the new mission and vision of the organization.

She has a love for all things artistic including jazz, dance, literature theatre and visual arts. Thomas and her husband Joe have been married for over 20 years and have 4 children.

Our Partners

The Madame Walker Legacy Center invites the community to become a part of our journey. Building renovations will be complete during Fall 2019. Please consider this when submitting your inquiry.

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617 Indiana Avenue

Indianapolis, Indiana 46202


An integral part of the Indianapolis community, the Madam Walker Theatre Center is a 501 c3 non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the legacy of Madam C.J. Walker by providing cultural education, promoting social justice, supporting entrepreneurship and empowering youth to become the next generation of business owners and civic leaders.

The Walker seeks to empower, educate and entertain and uses its historic building as a venue for celebrating cultural diversity, rich heritage and cultural traditions, primarily through art from the African-American perspective.