Sunday, August 28, 2011

2011 Top 25 Most Powerful and Influential Leaders in the Nonprofit Arts

Good morning.
“And the beat goes on……………………………………..”

This is the fourth annual Barry’s Blog Ranking of the Top 25 Most Powerful and Influential Leaders in the Nonprofit Arts.

I again asked leaders from all parts of our sector and all parts of the country (some 75 this year) – from large and small organizations – national, regional and local – and from different disciplines and demographics to send me their nominations for the most powerful and influential leaders in our field.  The process was anonymous and none of the nominators knew the identity of any of the other nominators.   At least 50% of the nominators in a given year are different from the previous year.  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).

As I have said before, this is, I believe, important 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.  They can ‘green light’ new programs and projects and are chiefly responsible for prioritizing which challenges we address. In large part, they are our most experienced and knowledgeable people – our best thinkers, and established power brokers.  I think it of value to know who we think these people are.  Like every other field or profession, there are those in the nonprofit arts who are powerful and influential.  To pretend that any world (ours included) is not stratified, tiered, territorial and subject to politics and disproportionately controlled by an oligarchy at the top is naïve.  I believe the people who work in our field are passionate and motivated and seek the higher good, but I also recognize that they are human beings, and that our field isn’t some separate and perfect world – and that power and influence are tangible currency – sometimes spent wisely, other times needlessly squandered.

Power is defined as “the capability of doing or accomplishing something; the possession of control or command over others; authority.”  Influence is defined as “the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others”.  Thus this ranking does not purport to measure impact, creativity, accomplishment or lasting effect – but rather who has the ability and capacity to get things done and move others to get things done – and in this case on a large stage -  or (perhaps even more importantly) who is perceived as having that ability, for the perception itself confers a degree of power and influence.  This ranking does not attempt to measure or evaluate anyone’s job performance or skill sets.

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

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 criterion is power and influence – not popularity – or even necessarily accomplishment (though I think all of these people have considerable accomplishments to their credit).  Inclusion on the list isn’t to imply these leaders have smooth sailing even within their spheres of influence. This really wasn’t a beauty contest.  Nominators might strongly disagree with someone on issues and even dislike them, 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.  Many names submitted have been on the list previously.  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.

Leaders come and go, move from one post to another and their fortunes and the fortunes of the organizations they lead change from year to year, as do both the circumstances in which they operate and their own level of activity and involvement.  Thus some leaders included on this list one year, may not be on the radar screen of my nominators the next year. Some move up in the rankings, while others fall down or off the list.  Admittedly this is but a subjective exercise, and this ranking is but a limited snapshot in time.  As such this list is, of course, incomplete and flawed. It is just an attempt to identify those perceived as being powerful and influential within our small world.  Doubtless a different group of nominators may have come up with a different list – though I believe this grouping is likely as representative as you can get.  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, as in prior years 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 previous lists, there are also many new names this year.  

There are, of course, countless unsung, brilliant leaders in our field – whose exemplary accomplishments and contributions are known to but a small circle and whose reputations are thus not yet widely established.  That they did not make this list in no way diminishes their contributions; rather it is more likely an indication that they are not yet, for whatever reason, perceived as having as much power and influence as others in our field.  Doubtless the profile of many of these leaders will rise over time.  Others may move on.  This list includes principally individuals who operate on a national stage, and most have long term tenures in the field and years of experience.

è Note:    I recognize that there ought to be a mechanism to single out those individuals who are gaining increasing respect from their peers in the field and who are thought to be the future of the nonprofit arts, but who may not yet have achieved any status as powerful or influential.  I have been working on, and will announce later this winter a new feature of the blog that will try to identify, honor, and acknowledge those leaders in our field who are increasingly impactful, innovative, and creative  --  those who are providing game changing leadership with truly new thinking and approaches, and those who are questioning some of the old assumptions and positing other ways to address the complex issues we face, and give that new cohort of the best and brightest of our future their due recognition and a voice.  It’s a new and creative concept and approach and I hope it will be interesting to the readership.   It will not, however, be another Top List. 

This year I have added what seem to me the big challenges for each of the Top Five Leaders.

And finally:   Don’t shoot me.  I’m just the messenger.

Neither I, nor any employee at WESTAF, (which distributes this blog, but in no way has any part whatsoever as the author or originator of this list) was eligible for inclusion on this ranking. 

Here then is this year’s Ranking:

The Top Ten:
1.     Janet BrownExecutive Director, Grantmakers in the Arts
She has re-fashioned, re-positioned and re-energized GIA for the future and in the process made it an emerging central policy powerhouse.  With the cuts to public funding as a backdrop, under her leadership GIA has become even more visible and influential.   As one of her boosters noted:  Janet has brought a fresh and grounded approach to arts philanthropy, which has re-focused a lens on issues that are much more relevant to a much broader segment of the arts community as a whole.  And as another noted:   She is successfully harnessing and better positioning America's arts funders to affect public policy. She's reaching across sectors to other funders to get things done. She is my hero!!”   Her challenge is to see through what she has started and deliver on the promise of the major changes she wants to see happen.  Promoting change is hard enough – sustaining it is often more challenging.

2.      Bob LynchPresident and CEO Americans for the Arts
Re-energized himself this year, he has been increasingly vocal and unwilling to parse his words in the effort to defend arts funding – and his candor and frankness have found a wider audience for him and the AFTA empire – which continues to simply be the premier arts organization in the country with fingers in everything from developing emerging leaders, to arts education policy formation, to defense of the NEA, to facilitating business intersections and political partnerships, to research.  While AFTA may be a boomer centric organization, he and AFTA represent the very best of what that generation has done for the arts in America.  Everything arts administrators do today owes something, in part anyway, to him and AFTA.  His job is to keep AFTA in the forefront – and the challenge will be to keep it relevant by capturing the hearts and minds of the next generation of leaders,

3.     Rocco LandesmanChair of the National Endowment for the Arts
Despite a misstep here or there, his efforts to broker intersections and partnerships with other federal agencies and his attempts to continue to keep the Endowment  positioned to be a bi-partisan benefit across the whole country have helped (so far anyway) to keep the Endowment safe and relevant.  Rumors that he may step down following the 2012 election seem to have quieted down.  His charm and style make him popular and trusted and there is no question he thinks long and hard about how to do this job well and what is good for the Endowment.  The challenge will be how well he can deal with the coming increased pressure to cut or eliminate the agency as the T-Party moves to force hard decisions on deficit reduction.  The wolves remain at the door.  His job will be to keep them at bay.

4.     Jonathan KatzExecutive Director, National Association of State Arts Agencies
He has stepped up to the plate and provided strong leadership to his constituents and the field as a whole in the face of this year’s massive attacks on state funding to the arts, and in so doing has propelled himself back into the forefront of those to whom the field is turning for guidance.  His expertise, experience, and ability to cut through the b.s. and get to the heart of the issues and arguments helped more than one state weather the storm.  Championing more consolidation and collaboration he is trying to move a field long in the grips of doing things only one way into the future. As the leader of the State Arts Agency field, he has to figure out how to keep them alive, functioning and relevant to their constituents in an ever changing and more challenging economic environment.

5.     Michael Kaiser  - Executive Director, Kennedy Center for the Arts; author
Not quite as omnipresent as last year, he continues to post sometimes provocative, but almost always at least relevant thoughts via the Huffington Post and other venues and remains a highly visible advocate for professional development and uncompromising excellence in programming.   He has captured the attention of both arts boards and the public beyond the arts in communities across the country.  One nominator said this:  He is the closest thing our field has to a consensus management guru, and his fundraising prowess is legendary. He seems heavily focused on building the DeVos Institute these days, and it remains to be seen whether his influence will wax or wane once he’s shifted to exclusively manning that helm.”  He remains one of the sector’s most visible and listened to spokespeople.  His challenge is to make the DeVos Institute a game changer. 

6.       Foundation Funders:
·       Olive Mosier - Director, Arts & Culture Program, The William Penn Foundation
Her star continues to rise each year and she is now firmly established as one of the pre-eminent arts program officers in the country.  Her “model stewardship” approach is increasingly capturing the attention of the entire funding community and beyond.

·        Dennis Scholl, Director, Arts Program, Knight Foundation
An innovative thinker who has gained a lot of attention with out-of-the-box funding strategies that have captured the imagination of the field. 

7.     Adam Huttler  - Executive Director, Fractured Atlas
As one person said:  When someone asks me to look at which national organization do you most want to be like and why, I turn to Fractured Atlas. It is not interested in change for change sake but is vested in looking at new business models that can actually make a difference.  He is nimble and fresh and leads a young sharp team.  Sign me up!”   As Adam himself notes: “With 17,000+ members, Fractured Atlas has the largest membership of any arts service organization in the country. We are just beginning to explore ways of flexing that muscle on Capitol Hill. When we crack that nut, we’ll be a juggernaut.”
8.     Russell Willis TaylorPresident & CEO, National Arts Strategies
She continues to provide the means and mechanisms that lead the effort to develop new and emerging  talent, as well as provide meaningful and new approaches for advancing the skills of existing leadership.  And, as one person noted: “Russell personally helps push the field into self assessment, a (much)needed activity right now.”

9.       Advocates:
·       Betty Plumb  Executive Director, South Carolina Arts Alliance
Tireless workhorse and one of the major reasons the South Carolina state arts agency survived repeated attempts by the Governor to zero out its funding.  Old school advocacy guru who knows how to rally the troops and send the message home.  Described by one admirer as “masterful and inspirational”, she is highly respected for a job well done, and her efforts and organization are the model for a defense of an agency under attack.  As one person put it: “She’s the one you want in your corner in a fight like we had in South Carolina.”

·        Ra Joy  Arts Alliance Illinois
     Donna Collins - Ohio Citizens for the Arts
Understanding the value of building relationships over a long period of time, two of the country’s best run advocacy organizations – Arts Alliance of Illinois and the Ohio Citizens for the Arts – pulled off the impossible this year – getting their legislatures to each add significant new money to the state arts agency budget.  

10.  Alan BrownPrincipal, Wolf Brown Consulting
Brown remains at the top of the heap of an increasingly larger group of consultant researchers and experts.  No one has more influence in designing the audience research methodologies being used, or in setting the research agendas.

And the rest:
11.   The Major Urban Arts Leaders:
·       Laura Zucker - Executive Director, Los Angeles County Commission on Arts & Culture
The apex of what it means to be an arts professional.  She is not only one of the best big city arts administrators in the field, she is one of the best arts administrators to ever occupy the seat.

·       Michael Spring, Director Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs
Long tenured big city arts leader who deftly handles continuing local changes and challenges and still finds time to provide national LAA and advocacy leadership.  As one person put it: “He is simply in a class by himself.”

·       Gary SteuerChief Cultural Officer, City of Philadelphia
Increasing influence in the Philly metro area and beyond due, in part, to his ability to promote partnerships and collaborations.   He has a business perspective and an arts sensibility.

·       Kate Levin  Commissioner, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs
One well placed observer noted:  she controls by far the biggest arts funding budget in the nation, in what remains the cultural capital of the Western world. Perhaps she isn’t known very well outside New York City, but here she can move mountains when she wants to.

·       Victoria Hamilton  Executive Director, San Diego Office of Arts & Culture
Recipient of this year’s United States Urban Arts Federation’s Ray Hanley Innovation award , host of the AFTA Convention and still able to keep the city’s arts scene alive and flourishing amid huge challenges, she is also on the list of the best of the locals leadership.

12.   The Americans for the Arts Inner Circle:
·       Randy CohenVice President of Research and Policy
The king of arts research data bases, and increasingly the highly effective roving ambassador for AFTA.  He’s everywhere and knows everyone, and his networking skills are second to none.  Very likely that only Bob knows more about all the disparate parts of AFTA than Randy does.

·       Nina Ozlu TunceliChief Counsel of Government and Public Affairs
The principal architect of the defense of the NEA over the past two decades.  THE expert in arts advocacy in America.

13.   Other funders:
·       Ben Cameron  - Program Director for the Arts, Doris Duke Foundation
Even though his stump speeches are more predictable, he remains the most sought after speaker in the entire sector and his oratory skills are matched by his ability to analyze and convey the gut essence of the issues we face.  Inspiring and motivating.  As one person described him: “He’s the guy you want to explain things to anyone you want to convince of something. “

·       John McGuirkProgram Director, Performing Arts Program, Hewlett Foundation
Very likely the most powerful funding voice in California and increasingly active in GIA, his cachet is rising across the country.  One nominator observed:  John is quickly learning how to get things done quietly behind the scenes.  He is maturing into more of a ‘player’.”  His influence on policy is increasing.

14.   Arts Education:
·       Sandra Rupert Executive Director, Arts Education Partnership
Still the national clearinghouse for arts education efforts and policy debate, AEP under Sandra’s leadership continues to grapple and make sense of one of the most complex set of challenges the arts sector faces.

·       Richard Kessler -  Dean of The Mannes College New School for Music ; immediate past Executive Director of The Center for Arts Education.
One of, if not the most widely respected voices in the arts education arena.

·       Eric Booth Consultant
Widely regarded and sought after speaker / panelist / facilitator.  As one person noted:  “He only takes on projects that matter and has consistently challenged arts leaders to become community leaders in new ways.”

15.   State Arts Agencies:
·       Philip HornExecutive Director – Pennsylvania Council  on the Arts
He continues to impress people with his ability to keep his agency relevant, and for his reputation among his peers as knowledgeable, savvy and strategic in his thinking.  One of the last standing state arts agency leaders from pre 2000, he has a huge fan base for his no-nonsense approach to keeping the home fires lit and the machines all up and running.

·       Arnie FishbaughExecutive Director, Montana State Arts Council
She continues to keep her agency one step ahead of every funding and other challenge that relentlessly dog her by her astute consensus building and by being creative.  She is the penultimate leader of a small state arts effort.  She knows how to work a room, and for her, the entire state of Montana is the ‘room’.

16.   Steven Tepper  - Deputy Director of the Curb Center of Art, Enterprise & Public Policy
Though Bill Ivey has been less of a presence over the past year, Steven Tepper’s schedule has gotten busier as he continues to develop his policy chops and gain respect for his practical approach.  Clearly one of the sector’s leading policy wonks.

17.   Behind the scenes at the Endowment:
·       Joan Shikegawa Senior Deputy Chairman / Patrice Walker Powell  Deputy Chairman for Programs and Partnerships
The powers behind the throne, while Rocco is on the road, these two translate the ideas into action and really run the agency.

18.   Gigi Antoni  - Executive Director, Big Thought, Dallas Texas
Highly respected policy wonk with notable success in moving arts education forward in the face of all obstacles.  Strong national presence.   Her fan base is growing as her profile gets wider play. 

19.   Emerging Leaders:
·       Ian MossBlogger / Research Director - Fractured Atlas
As one person put it”  He’s the strongest, most provocative, well connected arts blogger that exists today and puts all others to shame.  He is willing to challenge the status quo and forces action instead of ambivalence.” 

·       Ebony McKinney Founding Director, San Francisco Bay Area Emerging Arts Professionals
One person observed that: “While she may be quiet and unassuming, she’s built the most successful model emerging arts leader organization in the country.”  Respected voice throughout the growing emerging leaders field.

·       Danielle Brazell – Executive Director, Arts for LA
       Growing acclaim for her job as head of the Los Angeles based arts advocacy group, she continues to gain experience and hone her chops as she is fast becoming one of the foremost spokespeople for arts advocacy – especially at the local level. 

·       Helena Fruscio, Director, Berkshire Creative
Innovative new face on the scene who knows how to develop unique partnerships with community leaders to advance the arts. 

20.   Jesse Rosen, President and CEO, League of American Orchestras
As one person put it: “The symphony world keeps hoping the clock will return to the mid 1990s and all will be well.  Jesse knows better and, against lots of field pressure, is trying to push the rock up the hill.”

21.   Jim CopenhaverSenior Partner of the consulting firm of J C Enterprises - Focused Learning / Interim Executive Director APAP
Long time consultant with decades of nonprofit arts experience, he is enjoying an increased profile as the interim Executive Director of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters while Sandra Gibson transitions out.

22.   Diane Ragsdaleblogger
One nominator noted that while she had more real power as the head of the Mellon   Foundation (Note: Diane says she was neither the head of the foundation nor even of the arts program, but rather a staffer), she seems to have even more influence with her blog – which is universally read by the national leadership of the sector.  She continues to zero in on issues the rest of the sector more often skirts and walks around.  She gets people to say what they think.

23.   Rachel GoslinsExecutive Director, The President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities
With the publication of the excellent and well received report:  Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future Through Creative Schools” she has seized what many observers were criticizing as a squandered opportunity of the Obama Administration to use the all too underutilized committee’s bully pulpit to impact policy, and in the process revitalized and made again relevant an all too invisible agency.

24.   Doug McClennanEditor the Arts Journal
The online clearinghouse of nonprofit arts related media coverage and sector blogs - Arts Journal - has become an institution itself.  Doug’s had a fairly low public profile this year, but the Journal’s sphere of influence continues to grow.

25.   State legislators in Kansas, South Carolina and across the country that over rode Gubernatorial arts fund veto votes in attempts to save state arts agencies and funding across the country (with notable successes and an admirable attempt in Kansas).

Bubbling under:
·         Scott Provancher, President, Arts & Science Council – Charlotte, North Carolina
·         Arnie Aprill, Founder / Creative Director CAPE (Chicago Arts Partnerships in   Education)
·         Regina Smith  Senior Program Officer, Arts and Culture, Kresge Foundation
·         Sarah CunninghamDirector of Education, National Endowment of the Arts

BARRY’S PERSONAL TOP TEN NODS:      People (in no particular order) that I have had close contact with, whom I respect and admire and whom I think deserve recognition for doing an exemplary job.  Some previously on the main list, some not.   Prerogative of the author – entirely personal.
·         Julie FryProgram Officer – Performing Arts  –      Hewlett Foundation
·         Diane Matarazza Consultant
·         Bill ClevelandDirector, Center for the Study of Art & Community
·         Mara WalkerCOO Americans for the Arts
·         Marian Godfrey  Senior Director, Cultural Initiatives, The Pew Foundation
·         Kris TuckerExecutive Director,  Washington State Arts Commission
·         Frances Phillips –Program Director, Arts & The Creative Work Fund, Haas Fund
·         Brad EricksonExecutive Director, Theater Bay Area
·         Dalouge Smith -  President and CEO of the San Diego Youth Symphony
·         Andrew TaylorDirector - BOLZ CENTER for Arts Administration / University of Wisconsin – Madison School of Business

Have a great week everyone.

Don’t Quit.