Sunday, September 7, 2014

2014's Top 50 Most Powerful and Influential People in the Nonprofit Arts (USA)

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on………………."

This is the seventh annual Barry's Blog listing of the Most Powerful and Influential Leaders in the Nonprofit Arts in America.

If you are unfamiliar with this listing, please click here to go to last year's list and a full explanation of the list - why I think it's of value, its shortcomings and limitations, and the process of selection.  For the record, once again, this list intentionally does not include artists; it is limited to the United States; and it is, as are all such lists, arbitrary and subjective.  It is only meant to be a broad stroke snapshot of where power and influence in a small universe might lie.   I can personally think of a dozen or more people who could easily be on the list.   I do my best to make sure the input and vetting process is as representative of our field as I can make it, but it is not a perfect system.   It is not meant to be a popularity contest, nor does it purport to identify the best, most talented, most capable leaders. Power and influence are their own exclusive criteria for this list - and that is often, if not always, a judgment call.

Note that this year I invited the entire field to suggest names for inclusion on the list because I wanted to insure that - to the extent possible - I was aware of leaders who might qualify, but whom I was not familiar.  I got quite a few suggestions, and several of those suggestions ended up on this year's list.  Clearly there were (and are) scores of people who might qualify, and I seriously considered that maybe 50 names was not enough, but, in the end, kept it at the current 50 name level because it has to have a cut off point somewhere.   Note also that this list extols national leaders over more local or special sector leadership, not by design, but because the process of selection involves more people with a national perspective, and consensus on choices is more problematic for local leadership.  That by no means is intended to marginalize the power and influence of our sector's extraordinarily talented and skilled local leaders.  It also, not surprisingly, favors the people with the public face at an organization, rather than those unsung heroes who work behind the scenes to make things happen.  And finally, there are arts organizations that have a lot of power and influence apart from their leadership, and this list does not necessarily reflect those powerful institutions.  I salute all those on the list and bemoan the absence of those who are not.

The trend of this list, towards an expansion of the people (from more established leaders to newer people) who are perceived to wield influence and / or power in our sector, continued again this year, and nearly half the names on this year's list were not on last year's list.  Or, conversely, nearly half the names on last year's list are not on this year's list.  I think that churn is a healthy indicator that our sector continues to evolve and that, to a greater extent than in the past, influence and power is not necessarily concentrated in static places.

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 the list.

Here then is the 2014 List: (in no particular order of ranking)

National Leaders:

Jamie Bennett: Executive Director, Art Place America
Jamie now heads what is arguably the central focal point of arts funding in America - the Placemaking efforts under the Art Place banner.  His affability, penetrating analysis, and willingness not to parse his words continue to increase his stock across the sector, as he moves to the very forefront of national leadership.

Janet Brown:  President and CEO, Grantmakers in the Arts
She has changed the way arts funders work together and perhaps even how they think of their collective selves -- expanding, in the process, their collaboration and cooperation in tackling some big field issues.   After several years, she now has the challenge of moving forward the initiatives GIA has launched, and that will be less glamorous and more daunting “in the trenches” work -- work to which she is no stranger.  She is a major force and influence and highly regarded.

Bob Lynch:  President & CEO, Americans for the Arts
Americans for the Arts is now so omnipresent across the sector that whomever helms this organization in the future (like whomever occupies the Chair of the Endowment) is virtually assured a spot on any list of the powerful and influential.  Bob Lynch led that reality from a vision to fact.  Still on the road on a schedule that would give others pause, he is increasingly spending his time as a Senior Statesman bridging the arts and other sectors through (among other efforts) his seats on the Independent Sector, and the Department of Commerce US Travel and Tourism Advisory boards.  

Jane Chu:  Chairman, National Endowment of the Arts
By virtue of her position, she is powerful and influential in our field.  Like her predecessors she has begun the ritualistic “on the road” appearances to see and be seen as she begins to put her personal stamp on the agency.  Because the President did not appoint her for nearly a year after the departure of Rocco Landesman, Ms. Chu has an abbreviated tenure, and a ‘lame duck’ status coming sooner than it otherwise would - which adds some pressure for her to share her vision sooner as well.  From all accounts, she is knowledgable, personable and more than capable.

Mario Garcia Durham:  Executive Director, Association of Performing Arts Presenters
Under his leadership, APAP continues to lend its skills and assets to all the important efforts within the wider arts field - from arts education to advocacy to funding, while still capably serving his base of the nation’s presenting community.  No small accomplishment, that.

Adam Huttler:  Executive Director, Fractured Atlas
He continues to position Fractured Atlas as the one stop agency for small arts organization’s business needs. But more than that, he is also increasingly looked to for policy formation on a host of issues.  Nobody speaks for a generation really, but if the rising cohort of younger arts leadership were to have a single voice, he’d be a likely candidate.

Arts and Healing:
Gay Hanna:  Executive Director, National Center For Creative Aging
The intersection between the arts and aging; with healing, health care and life long quality of life has grown dramatically in just the last five years.  The field is now virtually universally recognized as one of the brightest spots in our future in terms of our value proposition, cross sector partnerships and collaboration, and interest by both the media and public.  Hanna has been working in the field for some time and is at the center of all that has been, and is, going on.

State / Regional Leaders:

Robert Booker:  Executive Director, Arizona Commission on the Arts
After some tough times in Arizona, the arts have made somewhat of a comeback in terms of government support and public value, thanks in part to his deft handling of a difficult political climate.  New innovative grant programs (including the Arts Tank) and increased activity in arts education, have helped to begin to rejuvenate his field.  As the Chair elect of Grantmakers in the Arts his national star is again on the ascendency.

Lisa Robb:  Executive Director, New York State Council on the Arts
Not the number one per capita funding SAA in the field, but still New York is New York, and its influence goes a long way in a lot of places.  And Robb is at the center of the action (and pressure).  She’s on a lot of people’s power broker lists.

Donna Collins: Executive Director, Ohio Arts Council
She was widely thought well of (even beyond Ohio) when she helmed the state arts education alliance and then the state arts advocacy group.  Now as the E.D. of the state agency, her circle is even wider, and her influence beyond Ohio likely to grow even more.

City Agency Leaders:

Kerry Adams Hapner: Director of Cultural Affairs for the City of San Jose, CA.
As the Chair of the U.S. Urban Arts Federation, she is the front person for the nation’s 60 largest city arts agencies.  She’s also increasingly visible in the philanthropic, arts and technology and other circles by virtue of her work on various panels.  As host to the NAMP 2011 Conference and the GIA Arts 2011 Art and Technology Conference, as well as her work with the cities, she is now well known nationally.  On the rise.

Jonathan Glus:  Executive Director, Houston Arts Council
Arts funding in Houston continues to be in better financial shape than most of its contemporaries, and Glus has played a vital role in keeping his agency at the forefront.  Hosting the GIA conference this year has added to his rising status on a national basis as a leader among the Big City Arts Agencies.  He runs a very good shop.

Roberto Bedoya: Executive Director, Tucson / Pima Arts Council
He continues to be the “go to” guy on the issues of equity and racism, and continues to be sought after as a speaker, pundit and analyst, while at the same time keeping his Arizona agency alive, relevant and at the forefront of survival innovation.

Laura Zucker:  Executive Director, Los Angeles County Arts Commission
Part arts administrator, now part University Arts Administration leader, she continues to produce work and results that are consistently the bar for others to aspire to.  She might as well just have a permanent seat on this list.

Robert Bush:  President, Arts & Science Council
Having ascended to the helm of the Charlotte based Arts & Science Council, he is finally in the leadership seat that it seems he has for a long time earned and deserved.  A major force for a decade or more at AFTA, his counsel and advice is sought by a wide range of arts leaders in various fields.  More than a survivor, he is a creator and under his stewardship his agency seems to be doing very well.

Danielle Brazell:  Executive Director, Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs
She made the list last year under the advocacy banner, and it's likely she still has influence in that area as the former head of the highly successful and regarded LA advocacy arm - ARTS FOR LA.  This year she was tapped by the mayor to replace Olga Garay English at the L.A. Department of Cultural Affairs - the city’s major arts agency - much to the applause of virtually everyone in the city.  Smart, tireless and diplomatic - big things are expected from her.

Tom DeCaigny: Executive Director, San Francisco Arts Commission
With a steady hand, deep understanding of the terrain and a diplomat’s flourish he has not only righted a leaky ship in the Bay Area, he has evolved into a national leader in the LAA field.


Sunil Iyengar:  Director, Office of Research and Analysis, National Endowment for the Arts
He continues to lead the NEA and an ever diverse and ambitious arts research field - bringing professionalism, organization and common sense in the process.

Anne Gadwa Nicodemus:  Principal, Metris Arts Consulting
Highly regarded and respected, with impeccable credentials, she’s everywhere on the research stage now.  Known for her rigorous and exacting work product, she gets into the issues and isn’t afraid to voice strong thoughts, take stands and question methodologies and results.

Randy Cohen:  Vice-President, Research and Policy, Americans for the Arts
One of the grand visionaries of the arts research field, it is his pioneering work that has guided the strategies and energies of much of the field’s efforts at advocacy and building value with the public.  Tireless cross country traveller, he has one of the better networks in the entire field.  He cuts through the B.S. and zeroes in on the real issues.

Ian David Moss:  Senior Director of Information Strategy, Fractured Atlas
His blog Createquity is on hiatus as he and an expanded team are retooling, and the final product is highly anticipated.  His reruns of past posts show just how prolific he is, and penetrating his comments have been. His influence on the whole of the research agenda continues to grow, in part, because he is everywhere involved.

Advocacy / Government:

Betty Plumb:  Executive Director, South Carolina Arts Alliance
She just keeps keeping on, and people know that as long as she’s on the case, the likely outcome is victory.  She has the patience of Job, the smarts of James Carville and the likability of a Tom Hanks.  She is one hell of an advocate - and a positive example across the divide.

SPECIAL MENTION:  Tom Cochran, CEO US Conference of Mayors.
A politician who seems to actually “get” what we are talking about when we argue for the value of the arts, he’s been instrumental in advancing local support for the arts, and expanding other political support.

Arts Education:  Note: This is National Arts in Education Week.   Celebrate!  Click here for more info.

Julie Fry: Program Officer, Performing Arts Program, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
Nearing the end of her term limited tenure at Hewlett, few practitioners in the arts education field know as much as she does about all the challenges and some of the solutions in arts education.  She approaches the problem of somehow making meaningful progress in the offering of arts education to all K-12 students with studied determination, diplomacy and a deep understanding of what works and what doesn’t, and why.

Ayanna Hudson:  Director of Arts Education, National Endowment for the Arts
She astutely and capably represents the Endowment in all the national and local efforts to move arts education forward, and has the talent to make everyone feel she and the agency relate to their individual situations.  A real dynamo.

Sandra Ruppert:  Director, Arts Education Partnership
She is the major domo at the Arts Partnership and at the center of the intersection of all the arts education efforts across the country.

Jonathan Herman:  Executive Director, National Guild for Community Arts Education
Under Herman’s continuing leadership, the National Guild is now foursquare at the center of all the initiatives from all over the field to move the Arts Education dime in the Community setting - linking the disparate and far flung interests of all the players - and the respect for the organization that may have once been wanting, is now established.  The Guild is part convener, part service organization, part linker, part professional development provider, and part policy formulator - and it does all those tasks effectively.


Josephine Ramirez: Program Director, Arts,The James Irvine Foundation
Irvine continues to lead the field in some crucial areas, including the challenge of how to promote true equity in funding allocations (one of the BIG issues in the field).  Currently exploring how to build a “field” that is committed to the idea of equity, they are exploring the very hard question of how to get certain segments of the established arts infrastructure to embrace equity as an idea not only that’s time has come, but that is good for everybody.  Ramirez is leading that important inquiry.  She is highly regarded for her intelligence, work commitment and understanding of the issues, and she has a great back-up staff.

Rip Rapson:  CEO, Kresge Foundation
As Chair of ArtPlace’s Funder’s Council, Rapson has stepped up his direct involvement with arts funding issues, and made important appearances at key conferences to share his very astute and well thought through theories of the value of arts and culture and maximization of impact funding.  In the process, as the head of a major foundation, he has upped the visibility and importance of all arts funding in the philanthropic community with other foundation presidents - arts funders and non funders.  He has a very quick mind and is as engaging and effective a spokesperson for the value of the arts as we have had in a long time.

John McGuirk:  Program Director, Performing Arts Program, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
He continues to be one of the key players on the West Coast philanthropic front, and in GIA,  as Hewlett continues to be in the forefront of arts education, the issues of transparency and communication, and in sustaining the California arts infrastructure.  His willingness to commit Hewlett to areas of inquiry that benefit the whole of the field, has expanded his reach and influence.

Ben Cameron:  Program Director, Arts, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
What can you say about the field’s foremost orator and his uncanny ability to distill all the rhetorical noise into coherent and understandable prose. Still, it is his funding programs at Duke that are changing - grant by grant - the circumstances of scores of individual arts organizations, and, perhaps, whole fields as well.

Dennis Scholl: Vice President, Arts - the Knight Foundation
Knight continues to champion innovation in grantmaking under his leadership, and they are basically the field leaders in the areas of communication and journalism.  Scholl remains one of the respected arts funders with substantial ties to other sector leadership.  Knight is the key funder in its ten client cities.

Huong Vu Bozarth:  The Boeing Company
Boeing’s involvement in the arts personifies the kind of relationship the entire field wants with private sector companies, and Hong Vu deftly keeps that relationship moving forward.  A model for the business community.

San San Wong:  Senior Program Officer, Arts and Culture Portfolio, Barr Foundation
Increasingly visible in the philanthropic area of community foundational funding, her keen insights and substantial experience have increased the demand for her counsel, and increased her influence in the field.  She bridges a number of areas effectively.

Ellen Michelson:  Founder, Aroha Philanthropies
Michelson is one of the major funders moving the arts and creativity and arts and aging to the “tipping point” and has influence and sway in this area - not just because of the money invested, but because she both knows what she is talking about and she cares.


Alan Brown:  Principal, Wolf / Brown Consulting
Still the Don and the Darling of all the arts research consultants, his work still guides much of what the funding community thinks about on a host of issues, and what they value too. Highly respected and influential, his power is in his ability to rationally and convincingly persuade.  His analysis and insight is almost always spot on.  And if he asks a question, the field wants the answer.

Holly Sidford / Marcy Hinand:  Helicon Collaborative
Back again, this dynamic duo continues to produce work for funders that garners widespread interest and respect across the field.  Their findings set the stage for derivative works by others that follow and their conclusions spark dialogue and reflection throughout the field.

Adrian Ellis:  Founder AEA
More than a consultant, as a senior thought leader, few people are more respected for their knowledge or insights than Ellis.  Getting the arts seated in a major way at the New Cities Summit is a major accomplishment, due principally to Ellis’ tireless efforts. People listen to him.


Steven Tepper: Dean, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, Arizona State University
Moving to helm the widely respected Herberger Institute school, Tepper continues his role as a respected and “go to” policy wonk, but now takes an ever more direct involvement in arts administration education at the University level - including research.  He still somehow has time to continue his involvement with SNAPP (the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project), raising its visibility year by year.  One of the sector's major thought leaders.

Ramona Baker:   Director, Master of Arts in Arts Administration Program at Goucher College
Arts leader and long time consultant, Baker is one of the sector's influences in mentoring and preparing the next generation of leadership, as well as in the growing field of University programs in arts administration.

Andrew Taylor:  Associate Professor, Arts Management, American University; AuthorThe Artful Manager
He’s been an influential educator and revered communicator for so long, he wears that suit with unequaled comfort and ease.  As an educator he has a long resume at the forefront of university programming for arts administration - both as a teacher and as a leader in the wider field.  As a blogger he is a beloved practitioner, appreciated for his ability to be succinct and insightful at the same time.

Innovation / Community Arts:

Laura Zabel: Executive Director, Springboard for the Arts
She continues to impress the field with her common sense approach to innovation for community arts organizations.  Her popularity remains on the upswing.

Richard Evans:  President, EmcArts
He’s established Emc Arts as “the” organization at the forefront of enabling innovation in the field, and grown it to major influence across the sector.  He may not have time to know everyone in the field, but increasingly, everyone knows who he is.

Discipline Areas:

Theatre: Theresa Eyring - Executive Director, Theatre Communications Group
Of all the arts disciplines, nowhere are stronger positions taken than in the theater world.  Eyring has successfully navigated the sometimes choppy waters of that field and made TCG an effective service provider to the discipline’s varied and diverse segments.  One observer noted of her skill that: "she could probably herd cats if she tried".

Visual:  David Skorton - Secretary of the Smithsonian
Former President of Cornell University he now heads the world’s largest museum and research complex.  As one person put it:  “With his $1.3 billion income statement and 6300 employees he should be on the list for sure”.   An arts supporter, he is committed to developing more thought leaders for the field, and if he can make good on that promise, his standing with all the arts people in our field will go up.

Nina Simon:  Executive Director, Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History
She continues to play the role of a new generation thinking innovator with ground breaking ideas and experiments in the museum world - highly prized thinking by a broad swatch of her cohorts.  One observer described her as simply a :  "Brilliant risk taker".

Music:  Jesse Rosen - President / CEO, League of American Orchestras
He successfully keeps a diverse field collaborative and cooperative and acts as an effective front person for an entire discipline. That he knows how to put out fires and spin negative developments positively doesn’t hurt.

Dance:  Amy Fitterer, Executive Director, Dance USA -
She’s molded DANCE USA into a more effective national service provider organization that has taken an equal place among the other discipline based umbrella groups.  Her government affairs background experience puts her at the center of the Beltway politics impacting the arts.

Rural:  Maryo Ewell, Colorado
One apt description was that: "She has been, and is, the “go to” person nationally for rural arts and small community thinking."  


Joe Patti:  Butts in the Seats
Patti is prolific, insightful, and widely read.  When he’s on target, he zeros in on the issues in a direct and informative way, and he is on target most of the time.  He can cut to the chase, and he sees nuances that others might easily miss.  Plus his blog postings are fun to read.  One to watch.

Thomas Cott: You’ve Cott Mail
Doug McLennan:  - Arts Journal
The sites these two maintain, remain indispensable reading for everyone in the arts who wants to stay abreast of what is going on.  The services they provide are simply invaluable.  The Kings of arts information aggregation.

Have a great week.

Don't Quit