Sunday, August 23, 2009

August 23, 2009



Hello everybody.

"And the beat goes on.........."


This year I asked 60 leaders from all parts of our sector and all parts of the country – from large and small organizations – national, regional and local – and from every discipline and demographic to send me their nominations for the most powerful and influential leaders in our field. One third of these nominators participated in last year’s process, while two-thirds were new invitee nominators. The process was anonymous and none of the nominators knew the identity of any of the other nominators. All were free to nominate anyone they thought qualified, including themselves the only caveat being that this was about arts administration and organizational leadership, and so I asked that we leave artists off this list (that’s a whole other ranking). I know some of you out there think this list is incomplete and inaccurate without the inclusion of artists, but this ranking is principally about arts administration and the business behind the scenes. As such, you are, of course, right – it is, at best, incomplete.

Is this important? As I said last year: Yes, in many ways it is, because these people largely determine how the debates in our sector are framed and what the agendas will be. They are the people who control much, if not most of the money, and decide where the funding goes (at least in broad swatches), what issues should be on the front burner, and what we talk about when we meet. They influence our goals and objectives, our priorities and the positions we take – and even the way we do things. In large part, they are our most experienced and knowledgeable people -- our trend-setters, taste-makers, best thinkers, and established power brokers.

Nominees could come from any area within our field. Their power and influence could come from their position, who they are, what they have done, how long they have been in the field, how highly they are respected, the fact that they control purse strings (or grants in our case) or whatever criteria the nominator choose.

Each nominee was expected to have the capacity to exert influence in, and on, our field (either as a whole or on some distinct section therein) – how we arrive at policy, what agendas are set, who is considered an expert or not, what research is important, where money is spent, how we fundraise and market etc. etc. etc. Some nominees may be universally highly respected, others may have more than their share of detractors – the criteria is power and influence – not popularity. This really wasn’t a beauty contest. Nominators might strongly disagree with someone but still recognize that the person is powerful and influential.

The rankings reflect an attempt at balancing the actions, power and influence of leaders over the course of the past year, and prospectively for the coming year. Some of those ranked in the higher numbers may be nearing the end of their tenure in the position they currently occupy, for others the activities that pushed them to the forefront may have passed and they may now be receding into a lower profile. The power and influence of others may be on the rise as they assume new posts, are thrust into the center of new projects or otherwise see their stars rising. Still others may be in transition.

42 of those I asked for names responded and while this was by no means anything other than a subjective exercise, there was a fair representation of our sector in terms of who responded. Not really surprising, as last year, there seems to be a disproportionate number of people on the list whose sphere is national, and who, in one way or another, are connected with the control of pools of funds. As the economic crisis has put the hurt on most arts organizations across the country, and as local funding has seen precipitous declines, there is more emphasis this year on the NEA and the political reality of a new Democratic Administration – including those whose power stems from their connection to President Obama. While scores of names of local discipline based organization leaders were submitted, most were recognized primarily within their local venue or discipline and not nationally.

This list is, of course, incomplete and flawed. It is just an attempt to identify those perceived as being powerful within our small world. No insult is meant to anyone whose name is not on the list, and I am sure there are many people whose names should be on the list. While I personally agree with most of the final selections, there are some I find very surprising. I am also confused by the omission of others that I would have thought would have been consensus inclusions. And while there are many repeats from last year, there are also new names this year. Some climbed the list; others fell downward in their ranking. This is likely nothing more than a snapshot at one point in time.

(Note: There is again this year a “Bubbling Under” section listing other leaders in our field who didn’t quite make the list but very well might have – and probably will in the future. And, I've also included Barry's Picks - a personal nod to two younger leaders who I think are very likely to grow into major contributors to the arts in this country over time.)

Few other blogs that I have ever posted (over the past 10 years) seem to have generated as much buzz and interest as has this annual ranking. For those who believe they have been unfairly overlooked, you can commiserate with me later over a beer at the bar. Even if I were to have allowed my name to be nominated – which I did not – I wouldn’t have made the cut anyway, so I can appreciate other’s disappointment.


1. (Tie) BILL IVEY (former Chair of the NEA under Clinton; author; Director of the Curb Center of Art, Enterprise & Public Policy; Obama transition team).
Bill’s involvement in the Obama transition team, his successful efforts to gain Stimulus money for the NEA, the publication of his book Arts Inc. and his role in the search for the new Chair of the Endowment all added up to rank him in a tie (with his new BFF – Bob Lynch) for the most influential leader of the past year. Though his return to public policy discussions via his role as the Director of the Curb Center will likely give him a lower profile this year, he remains a key, pivotal player on the national arts stage and one of the sector’s principal “big picture”, strategic policy thinkers. Clearly the most active of the former Endowment Chairs.

BOB LYNCH (President, Americans for the Arts).
Americans for the Arts played a key role in the push for Stimulus money for the Endowment, and in the organization of arts leaders on behalf of President Obama. The Arts Action Fund grew significantly in both numbers of citizen advocates that can be called to action and the dollar amount available to support arts friendly candidates of both parties, and Americans for the Arts is “the” lobbying force for the arts on the federal level. Meanwhile, AFTA continues to lead in arts marketing, convenings, support for emerging leaders, arts education and outreach to the private sector and business communities and thus has long tentacles into the sector across the whole country. Bob remains a tireless traveler and his network grows annually. If there is a single voice for the arts, he’s it.

2. PATRICE WALKER POWELL (interim Director, National Endowment of the Arts).
Patrice skillfully and adroitly managed the Endowment at a critical time in the sector’s financial situation – working behind the scenes to secure, then defend, stimulus money for the arts & culture sector. She adroitly managed the Endowment’s affairs, quickly and transparently got the Stimulus money out where it was needed, and her management and diplomatic skills have kept respect for the agency high. Doubtless the new Chairman and other new appointees will rely heavily on her advice and counsel as they begin their tenures (if they are smart, they will anyway). She is precisely the kind of diplomatic talent that would do well in a high placed White House position, and she would be an ideal candidate for any Arts Czar post.

3. ROCCO LANDESMAN (incoming Chairman, National Endowment of the Arts)
The recently confirmed Obama choice for Chair of the Endowment, powerful Broadway producer, Mr. Landesman has already sparked some controversy by declaring that he intends to support art based solely on its quality and not on geography (a move counter to the painstaking efforts of his predecessors, Ivey and Gioia, and sure to not sit well with smaller and rural state arts groups and their Congressional representatives). This is a new mini-universe for him, and the advice on the street is that he needs to give himself time to acclimate. The new Chair arrives at a time when funding is finally returning to levels the Endowment enjoyed prior to the cultural wars of the 1990s that almost brought the agency down, and perhaps also the dawn of brand new such attacks from the right wing. Given the current financial meltdown in the sector, the Endowment has arguably never been more important to huge segments of the nonprofit arts universe. Whatever else, Mr. Landesman promises to bring new energy, vitality, passion and different ideas to the post; he isn’t likely to let attacks on the arts go unchallenged, and under his tutelage, this won’t be your father’s Endowment anymore.

4. CLAUDINE BROWN (Program Director, Arts & Culture Program, Nathan Cummings Foundation)
Reputed close ties to the Obama team, she organized a White House meeting with artists and arts leaders this past spring that vastly upped her creds and profile. Reported as a serious candidate for the Chairmanship of the Endowment, she continues to have a national platform based on the Cummings Foundation grant making and initiatives – particularly in the multicultural areas - most certainly a growth sector for arts in culture in the coming decade. That she may have access to the President, or at least his inner team, or even only that image - doesn’t hurt her power either.

5. MICHAEL KAISER (Executive Director, Kennedy Center for the Arts; author)
Very few national arts leaders have been more active, vocal or prominent in the past year than Mr. Kaiser who is redefining the scope of the Kennedy Center to national involvement in arts organizations across the country. Author of “The Art of the Turnaround” and on tour across country in support of his (sometimes controversial) theories as to how the arts can survive in the current economic crisis, he also launched the Arts In Crisis initiative and the Arts Manager online resource to support arts organization leadership. On a tour now to all fifty states to spread his messages. Receiving a lot of publicity, he isn’t shy and he has an agenda – though what it exactly is isn’t yet clear. No one should underestimate his resolve. A one-man Bob Lynch, and even more of a major player to be.

6. DANIEL WINDHAM (Director of Arts, The Wallace Foundation)
Quickly becoming one of the senior voices of the arts foundation community. The Wallace Foundation is the leader in the attempt to increase arts audiences and participation in the arts. A re-granting program with local partnerships in metropolitan areas across the country gives Wallace a national platform and spheres on influence coast to coast. Mr. Windham has an artist’s background and sensibility that serve him well.

7. (Tie) JOHN McGUIRK (incoming Program Officer, Performing Arts, Hewlett Foundation)
Returning to his former foundation home base with three more years experience under his belt, Mr. McGuirk now moves into one of the most powerful foundation positions in the arts. He knows what direction he wants to move and what challenges he wants to address, and his familiarity with the Hewlett program and his new title may give him the platform and freedom he might not have had at Irvine. One to watch for the future. His timing is good. Promises to be very effective.

BEN CAMERON (Program Director for the Arts, Doris Duke Foundation)
Still the most dynamic and sought after public speaker in all the arts, Mr. Cameron is one of the most insightful and astute analysts of the myriad nuances and ramifications of the problems the sector faces. A one man think tank. When he talks, people listen. Duke Foundation a pillar of performing arts funding. He needs a signature project.

OLIVE MOSIER (Director, Arts & Culture Program The William Penn Foundation)
Enormously experienced, quiet power broker and key player in funding initiatives – specifically in the greater Philadelphia area. Her unassuming demeanor belies tenacious understanding of how our sector works and how one must orchestrate divergent interests to arrive at consensus solutions. Another one to watch.

8. JANET BROWN (Executive Director, Grantmakers in the Arts)
The new voice of the arts grant making community, she is still testing the waters as to how and where she can lead this diverse group of funders. Not shy or timid by inclination, when and where she decides to move GIA, it will likely be a big deal. She didn’t take the job to sit quietly in a corner. This is her biggest stage and she knows how to play it.

9. SANDRA RUPERT (Executive Director, Arts Education Partnership)
No nonsense leader of the national arts education movement, having replaced the indomitable and iconic Dick Deasey as spokesperson for arts education in this country (promoted from within the organization). Small staff, but she is very focused. Arts Education continues to take two steps forward, two steps back, but it remains the most marketable arts endeavor to the general public and government. The arts need a victory soon in this area - a big one. Pressure is on.

10. SANDRA GIBSON (Executive Director, Association for Performing Arts Presenters)
Political survivor and increasingly adept insider player on the national arts scene, she remains the voice of the wildly and widely diverse presenting community – a task some have described as similar to trying to herd cats. APAP celebrates its’ 50th Anniversary and high profile.

11. (Tie)MARION GODFREY (Senior Director, Cultural Initiatives, The Pew Foundation)
The grand dame of arts funding in America, Ms. Godfrey now spends as much time working from home as from the office. As she slowly transitions out of her long time post at Pew, she continues to be one of the most sought after counselors and advisors to anybody and everybody in arts in America, and is likely, whether she intends it or not, to remain such. Haven't heard her swan song yet.

MOY ENG (outgoing Officer, Performing Arts, Hewlett Foundation)
For the past eight years, she has effectively and impressively directed one of the two or three most powerful foundation arts programs in the country, and in the process has helped fund arts education both in California and nationally, pushed for key research and data collection, including generational studies, helped a dozen or more major cultural institutions develop real sustainability, expanded arts facilities in northern California, and promoted several important collaborative efforts. Frequent in-demand speaker and panelist. Reputedly was on short list of candidates for Chair of the Endowment. Will be interesting to see where she decides to go next.

FRANCES PHILLIPS (Program Director, Arts & The Creative Work Fund, Haas Foundation)
Long time tactician and theoretician in arts funding, highly respected by colleagues and clients. Knows the sector backwards and forwards, including issues directly relevant to artists. Excellent writer and frequent contributor to GIA and other publications. Unassuming but no nonsense approach. A veteran’s veteran, she's leaving a legacy.

12. JONATHAN KATZ –(Executive Director – National Association of State Arts Agencies)
Decline in state arts agency fortunes lessens his and NASAA's influence, but he continues to intelligently and effectively help guide the state arts agencies through a myriad of sea changes and challenges, keeping most of them relevant and effective despite deep cuts and major threats to many. A road warrior and experienced trouble shooter - and a good thing.

13. KAL PENN – (White House liaison to arts & culture communities)
President Obama’s only move thus far to put someone in change of arts & culture into the White House. Not the Arts Czar many wanted or expected, former movie actor, Mr. Penn, is also the liaison to the Asian Community – an unusual combination of duties and client bases. Disappointingly conspicuously absent and quiet so far, remains to be seen what his role or contribution will be or whether or not he truly has the President’s ear. The potential for real power is there. Hopeful there IS a "there", there.

14. (Tie) LAURA ZUCKER (Executive Director, Los Angeles County Commission on Arts & Culture)
Experienced, smart, savvy, intelligent long time leader in the LA Arts scene. While many organizations seem to be on the throes of disintegration, Ms. Zucker seems to have everything under control in southern California. She usually does. If you want something done, and done right, she is the go-to person. An "A" LIST leader.

VICTORIA HAMILTON (Executive Director, San Diego Office of Arts & “Culture)
Like Ms. Zucker, Ms. Hamilton is a long time successful player in the San Diego local arts scene, with a similar ability to protect her agency irrespective of the threat level. Active in the Urban Arts League and nationally recognized. She's low key but not laid back.

BRUCE DAVIS (Executive Director, Arts Council of Silicon Valley)
Another survivor and astute local agency political player in the tricky high tech region of northern California. Successfully fought off draconian cuts to his agency. His Artsopolis website software licensed to scores of arts organizations around the country and is fast becoming the standard. Smart political player with extensive contacts. Recruited Linda Ronstadt for Americans for the Arts Washington DC Congressional testimony.

ERIN TRAPP – (Director Denver Office of Cultural Affairs)
Holds a Ph.D, and knows how to make an effective case for the value of the arts with the private sector and government. Well respected in the urban arts community for her experience with research and policy formulation and for her considerable communications skills.

ANNE KATZ Executive Director, Arts Wisconsin / Chair State Arts Action Network)
She continues to effectively speak for and guide the network of state and local arts agencies around the country including the backbone network of state advocacy organizations.

15. (Tie) ANTHONY RADICH (Executive Director, WESTAF)
Now one of the veteran leaders of the Regional Arts Councils, a risk taker who is willing to think outside the box and try new approaches to old problems. Quiet demeanor but steely resolve. Ever widening circle of influence and network of supporters.

MARY KENNEDY McCABE (Executive Director – Mid America Arts)
Another stand out in the crowded field of excellent Regional Arts organization directors, she knows how to serve her constituent base well.

16. (Tie)KRIS TUCKER (Executive Director - WASHINGTON State Arts Commission)
Still one of the most effective and dynamic long term state arts agency leaders in the country. Knows her stuff, doesn't sweat the small stuff, and rolls with the punches --- very effective.

ROBERT BOOKER (Executie Director - Arizona State Arts Commission)
Also knows the ins and outs of state arts agency dynamics by heart. Capable, experienced manager able to deal with wide variety of ups & downs. An authoritative voice in the NASAA community. Loves it in Phoenix. A Happy Camper.

17. CORA MIRIKITANI (Director Center for Cultural Innovation)
Now perhaps the leading spokesperson in the nonprofit arts administrative strata for the needs of the artist. Great strategic thinker. Able to implement ideas in a methodical manner that maximizes success. Able to ignore the stuff that is irrelevant. CCI continues to grow and expand under her leadership –for now California, but soon to be regional or national?

Renowned and respected dance community power broker involved on numerous levels in advancing the arts beyond the dance sector. Well connected, especially on the east coast. Behind the scenes player.

19. (Tie) ALAN BROWN (Consultant)
Continues to be one of the most respected independent researchers and consultants. Still the authority on audience development.

Pairing of these two highly experienced consultants (Sidford founded LINC, was New En gland Foundation for the Arts Ex. Director, and worked at Wallace. Cady was Arts Program officer at Irvine and coordinated TCC Knight Foundation Arts Access Program) resulted in more work than they had time for. Much in demand – conducted numerous (widely cited) critical studies of the impact of the economic meltdown on the sector. The very top of the consultant heap in 2009.

20. (Tie) DOUG McLENNAN – (Editor, ARTS JOURNAL)
The online Arts Journal just keeps getting bigger and better. Now, without question, the hub of all online news and opinion relevant to the nonprofit arts sector. Massive effort, fastidiously managed and an almost unbelievable accomplishment by one person. Looks like he has a staff of 25 people. It's mostly him. Increasing number of admirers.

Andrew continues to speak for the nation’s university degree in arts administration programs as well as offers insightful opinions and thoughts (with humor) via his very popular blog The Artful Manager. Frequent in-demand convention speaker / panelist.

Congresswoman Slaughter continues to lead the national federal Arts Caucus and the efforts to protect and fund the NEA. Public Hero Number One for the arts.

NINA OZLU TUNCELI – Chief Counsel of Government & Public Affairs - Americans for the Arts)
AFTA Advocacy / Lobbying guru extraordinaire. There very well might not be an NEA were it not for her efforts, organization, skill set and political savvy over the past two decades. The unsung hero.

22. TERESA EYRING (Executive Director, Theater Communications Group)
Not easy to replace Ben Cameron, but she has done an effective job in representing the huge, diverse, and active theater community and to raise continued awareness for collaborative ventures and projects. She has a huge platform, but so far she's been running so hard there's no time to think about how to use it. She's getting close.

23. ROBERT REDFORD – (Sundance Institute)
The foremost and most respected celebrity defender and supporter of the arts and arts education. More please.

24. MARGO LION – (Broadway Producer)
The driving force behind Obama’s Arts Advisory Committee that helped galvanize support for his presidential candidacy in both the “for” and “non” profit entertainment and arts sectors. Has the President’s ear. Major fund raiser. Quite possibly behind Rocco Landesman’s appointment to the NEA Chairmanship. Watch to see if she plays a role in the President’s Committee on the Arts & Humanities – as of today still populated by Bush appointees.

25. YOU
The heart and soul of nonprofit arts in America. In the aggregate, no one is more powerful, influential and important to the sustainability of the arts in America than YOU are. The people on this list are merely spokespeople for YOU.

Alan Cooper – Mid-Atlantic Arts Federation
Gerry Coombs – Southern Arts Federation
Mara Walker - Americans for the Arts
Luis Cancel – Executive Director San Francisco Arts Commission
Rory McPherson –Wallace Foundation
John Kilacky – San Francisco Foundation
Ramona Baker – consultant, Glouster College

Marc Vogl – Hewlett Foundation
Ian Moss – prolific young blogger

Have a great week.

UPCOMING in September: Six Part Online Forum Discussion of the Role of the National Endowment in American Arts & Culture and the Nonprofit Arts Sector.

Don't Quit