Sunday, September 13, 2015

2015's Top 50 Most Powerful and Influential Leaders in the Nonprofit Arts (USA)

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

This is the eighth annual Barry's Blog listing of the Top 50 Most Powerful and Influential Leaders in the Nonprofit Arts in America.

If you are unfamiliar with this listing, please click here to go to 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 snapshot of where power and influence in a small universe might lie.   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 necessarily purport to identify the best, most talented, most capable leaders. Power and influence (and the perception of where power and influence lie) are their own exclusive criteria for this list - and that is often, if not always, a judgment call.

Note that this year I again 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 as having substantial, sector wide, influence, but with whom I, or my nominators, were not familiar.  I again got quite a few suggestions, and several of those suggestions again ended up on this list.

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 and those operating within the various disciplines that comprise our field.  The list 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 and influential 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 again this year, nearly half the names on the list were not on last 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.  I also note that there is a trend for inclusion on the list of people with influence as the currency of power, and I think the list basically reflects that reality for our field:  Those that have power in our field, have it primarily because they have influence.

Note too that nine of the names on the list (presented at the beginning) are marked by an asterisk (*), denoting people who have been on the list virtually every year since its inception.  I note that these people are likely (as long as they remain in their current positions) to make this list every year.  So as to identify and single out those leaders whose power and influence is on the rise,  I propose to move those leaders always on this list to a virtual Hall of Fame of Nonprofit Arts Administrators designation -- effective with this list.  Thus there are now 59 names on the list this year, including these nine Hall of Famers.  In subsequent years, there will be reference to the Hall of Fame designees,  but they will not appear on the main list.  I also note that there are several others on the list this year who have been on several past lists, and they are likely candidates in the future for the virtual Hall of Fame.  This will hopefully allow the list to reflect evolution and changes in our leadership ecosystem.

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 2015 List:

First the inaugural class in the virtual Arts Administrator Hall of Fame:

*Bob Lynch:  President and CEO, Americans for the Arts
He's like a force of nature.  It's impossible to imagine the last five decades in the nonprofit arts without there being an Americans for the Arts - and Bob Lynch is Americans for the Arts.  Clearly in the first class of inductees into any arts administrator Hall of Fame.

*Janet Brown:  President and CEO, Grantmakers in the Arts
GIA's Capitalization, Arts Education, Equity and Racial Relations, Arts and Aging and other projects are at the forefront of the field in pushing change - and she is at the center of each of these major efforts.  She remains one of the most effective and respected leaders in the field.  And she continues to expand the box - forcing the rest of us to think.  She's had a remarkable career in our field and her contributions are inestimable.

*Laura Zucker:  Executive Director, Los Angeles County Arts Commission
What can anyone say?  If you wanted to invent a brilliant prototype local arts agency leader, she is what the result would be.  She's smart, savvy, knowledgable, connected, experienced, insightful and has vision, tenacity and energy.  And bottom line, she always gets the job done; and done right.

*Randy Cohen:  Vice-President, Research and Policy, Americans for the Arts
Still the most influential and widely relied on research in the nonprofit arts comes from his economic impact work at AFTA.  Thanks to a rigorous travel schedule, his network of contacts across the country is second to none.  One of the good guys, his research has helped government agencies and countless arts organizations make their case, and forever changed the dynamic.

*Alan Brown:  Principal, Wolf / Brown Consulting
His image and influence is faultless.  His reputation for insightful analysis well established.  He is the major domo in the consulting area.

*Holly Sidford:  Principal, Helicon Collaborative
Alan Brown's equal, her research and analysis has framed much of the debate and discussion on policy over the past decade.

*Steven Tepper: Dean, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, Arizona State University
He has been at the forefront of policy consideration and formulation in the field for well over a decade, and has shaped policies from professional development, to arts education, to the role of creativity in the wider society.

*Thomas CottYou’ve Cott Mail
*Doug McLennan:  - Arts Journal
Both these blog aggregation sites are well established and revered institutions within our field and virtually every leader in the field reads both regularly.  Cott and McLennan have made an enormous and lasting contribution to the expansion of information and knowledge within our field.

And here is the 2015 TOP 50 LIST: (In no particular order of ranking.  Categorical headings for informational purposes only.)

Jamie Bennett: Executive Director, Art Place America
Jamie had a very good year.  He expanded the Art Place staff and operation, arranged a ground breaking collaborative effort with the Federal Reserve Bank in San Francisco resulting in their magazine devoting an entire issue to considerations of Placemaking and the Arts, and supported yet more grant projects bearing fruit.  Placemaking is the elephant in every funding discussion and Art Place is all about Placemaking.  Jamie is firmly in charge of this effort, and is both a visionary and details oriented leader.

Jane Chu:  Chairwoman, National Endowment of the Arts
Every Chair of the Endowment is on this list.  Chairwoman Chu has proven to be an effective voice for the arts - in Washington and around the country.  Her travel schedule has been impressive as she has made contact with virtually every segment of our field - stumping on the road in support of the arts in America.  The Endowment is perhaps the single most important arts organization in the country.

Mario Garcia Durham:  Executive Director, Association of Performing Arts Presenters
The Arts Presenters community is one of the field's principal links between the nonprofit organizations, performing artists and the public, and Durham effectively represents the whole range of the presenters and their needs and interests.  APAP is more than just a service provider organization -- it's a force in the policy arena in its own right.

Rick Lowe - Project Row Houses
Artist / activist and now McArthur Foundation Genius Award winner, Lowe has for years been extolling the value of the arts in the neighborhood.  He has not only helped to nurture artists, but has helped others to understand how to help artists.  His influence continues to spread and he continues to carry his message across our universe and beyond it.  He's now one of the sector's foremost spokespeople and he has had his hand in projects from Watts to New Orleans to Seattle to Dallas and beyond. (Note:  While Lowe is clearly an artist, he is also an active leader in the arts administration field -  hence his inclusion on this list.)

Pam Breaux:  Executive Director, National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA)
Pam is now the leader of the SAAs, and after 30 years with Jonathan Katz at its helm, she is now charged with remaking, reinventing and moving the agency forward.  Her members will expect her to continue to serve their needs at the same high level established by Katz, but with new vision.  As the economy improves, so generally does funding to the SAAs, and with more money comes influence and power.

Adam Huttler:  Executive Director, Fractured Atlas
Fractured Atlas leads the field in services provided to small arts organizations, individual artists and startups.  Moreover, the organization is out front on employee compensation, research, workplace conditions and professional development.  He's moving from being one of the younger generation's leaders to an older more seasoned statesperson, but he hasn't lost his firebrand or intensity.  That's good news for all of us.

State / Regional Leaders:

Robert Booker:  Executive Director, Arizona Commission on the Arts
As the Chair of Grantmakers in the Arts, and a senior leader of the State Arts Agencies, his national star continues to shine bright.  And despite continued cuts and setbacks to his state agency budget, he still finds innovative and adaptive ways to keep his agency alive in supporting the arts in Arizona (e.g., look at his success in funding a new Arts and Aging program that is a way to put dollars in arts organization hands).  He's the very definition of a "Pro".

Lisa Robb:  Executive Director, New York State Council on the Arts
Robb remains at the center of all that goes on in the arts in the Empire State.  And New York has money to spend.

Craig Watson: Director, California Arts Council
With the CAC reinvigorated by the Governor's and Legislature's infusion of an additional eight million dollar funding budget plank (ostensibly not a one time addition, but a baseline budget item for the future), the agency again has the wherewithal to re-establish its influence and impact on the arts in California.  Craig is in a unique position, and he will be challenged as he navigates the waters by both increased demands, and expanded opportunities for real collaboration with the state's arts funding foundations.  His influence is on the rise, and so is his power.  California is back.

Donna Collins: Executive Director, Ohio Arts Council
Ohio has influence, and few people have more influence in Ohio arts than Collins.  That influence is likely to increase significantly as Ohio always plays a pivotal  (and often deciding) role in presidential elections - and Collins is first and foremost an advocate.

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 continues as the front person for the nation’s 60 largest city arts agencies.  As Director of a major city LAA, she has brought San Jose to the forefront of the nation's local hub efforts, and San Jose is a participant in increasing numbers of national projects and initiatives.  Her star continues to ascend.

Randy Engstrom:  Director of the Office of Arts and Culture for the City of Seattle
An up and coming national leader with a growing fan base nationally, he has the opportunity to wield considerable influence in Seattle and beyond.

Roberto Bedoya: Director of Civic Engagement, Tucson / Pima Arts Council
Bedoya transitions to the newly created post of Director of Civic Engagement allowing him to focus on and grow the PLACE Initiative.  The PLACE Initiative—PLACE stands for People, Land, Art, Culture and Engagement—is a series of grants for arts-based civic engagement projects and research activities - and this platform continues to give him a widely respected national reputation as the "go-to" guy on issues of equity and diversity - including as related to placemaking.

Michele Boone:  Commissioner City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events
She is firmly established as perhaps the most important big city arts leader in the midwest and one of the principal players in big city arts in the country.  As one nominator put it:  "She's smart. She knows when to hold em, and when to fold em."

Tom DeCaigny: Executive Director, San Francisco Arts Commission
His quiet profile belies significant behind the scenes power brokering, diplomacy and collaboration within the sometimes volatile San Francisco arts ecosystem.  As San Francisco continues to price all but the very well heeled out of residency, and with the Mayor and City Council wanting to do something about that, Tom has the opportunity to push for some creative and far reaching changes and new approaches, and depending on the success of those efforts, he is likely to have considerable influence as the same problem plagues other cities.

Jonathan Glus:  Executive Director, Houston Arts Council
Now as the President of Texans for the Arts (the state advocacy umbrella organization) and still head of the Houston Arts Council, Glus continues to be all about the 'Benjamins' - celebrating the new $5 million allocation by the State Legislature to the state arts effort, while his own agency in Houston continues to fare better than most.  He's shown political skill in handling potentially messy local situations well.  Lots of power in Texas, and lots of influence beyond.

Robert Bush:  President, Arts and Science Council, Charlotte
He's had influence for quite some time because of his experience and his quite extraordinary network of contacts (via long time AFTA involvement and beyond). Now fully established as the leader of the storied Charlotte agency, he also has power.  One nominator noted:  "He's opinionated, but not pushy.  Smart, but not cocky.  Self-assured, but not an egotist."

Tom Finkelpearl:  Commissioner, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs
With a budget rivaling that of the NEA, a background in running a museum, and the New York City platform as part of the new city administration, Finkelpearl has considerable power and influence. And his public persona doesn't seem shy.


Sunil Iyengar:  Director, Office of Research and Analysis, National Endowment for the Arts
NEA research keeps getting better and better and his role in the sector wide research community just keeps growing.

Anne Gadwa Nicodemus:  Principal, Metris Arts Consulting
She continues to set the bar for professional standards and continues to be seemingly everywhere on the research stage.  One wonders where she finds the time.

Ian David Moss:  Senior Director of Information Strategy, Fractured Atlas
He turned his blog Createquity into a research entity complemented by its own stellar editorial staff --  and that editorial team is addressing some of the major issues facing the field with in-depth, serious articles on the site.   His influence on the whole of the research agenda continues to grow as the Createquity machine's probing and deep analysis pieces are widely regarded and respected throughout the field.  Ian is a very serious, but wholly unpretentious, leader who deals with big policy issues and concerns.

Advocacy / Government:

Nina Ozlu Tunceli:
With the ramp up of the 2016 election, AFTA's efforts to insert the arts into the Presidential campaign makes her and the Arts Action Fund the center point for advocacy for the rest of this year and next.  The Arts Action Fund, while small compared to some political interest groups, nonetheless has considerably more influence than most people appreciate.  She knows politics and lobbying and how the game is really played.  She also knows how to shift the focus from local concerns to the national stage.  If the arts had the money to hire a big time a K Street lobbyist, she would easily fit the bill.

Arts Education: This is Arts Education Week.  A deep bow to all who work in the area.

Talia Gibas: Professional Development Programs Manager,  Los Angeles County Arts Commission
She is seemingly everywhere -- as is her work product.  Highly respected, she is in demand for all kinds of efforts to address issues - from Arts Education to Leadership Transition to Arts and Wellness.  She is definitely on the rise.

Eric Booth:  Arts Education
Eric is at the center of the burgeoning teaching artist movement and he is one of the key leaders in that arena (and on a global basis).

Jonathan Herman:  Executive Director, National Guild for Community Arts Education
The Guild keeps getting bigger and Herman’s influence continues to grow with it.  His conference is the one to go to for the arts education field.

Joe Landon:  Executive Director, California Alliance for Arts Education
He has taken the Alliance for Arts Education in California to new heights, greater successes and deeper penetration into the education community, and has gained national stature in the field.  CAAE is highly respected in large part because of the respect for Landon.

Linda Essig:  Director ASU’s arts entrepreneurship program, Pave
Her extensive expertise and work in the field of arts entrepreneurship, and her role as co-editor of Artivate (a journal of arts entrepreneurship) have made her one of the forces in this area, and she is widely known and respected in the movement.


Josephine Ramirez: Program Director, Arts,The James Irvine Foundation
Irvine takes chances other funders don't.  Under Ramirez's leadership, the foundation is continually trying to understand what makes audiences tick as well as how and why people participate (or don't) in the arts.  She's not afraid of controversy, asking hard questions, getting unexpected answers and pushing the envelope.  Irvine is a leader in the arts philanthropic world in large part because Ramirez isn't risk averse or afraid to take chances.  You can disagree with her, but can't deny her influence on thinking in the field.

Cora Mirikitani:  President / CEO Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP)
Aften a decade helming CCI (Center for Cultural Innovation), Cora's new position has her running an organization with a bigger portfolio than just the arts, and she is well positioned to wield influence as a bridge builder and facilitator of cross-over collaborations (which might just be the new buzz word for the arts as the field moves towards arts and aging, arts and science intersections, arts and social justice, expanded arts and education, arts and entrepreneurship and more).  Multi layered philanthropic strategies, whether termed engagement, placemaking, diversity or otherwise will likely dominate our field for the next decade or more, and a few people like Cora, will be in positions to  define and frame the new ecosystem.

John McGuirk:  Program Director, Performing Arts Program, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
He is now one of the grand lions of California Arts Philanthropy having been at the core of the arts foundation philanthropic community (at Irvine and Hewlett) longer than perhaps anyone in the state, except Francis Phillips at the Haas Foundation. Active in GIA, he is a voice listened to across the spectrum. Likely Future Hall of Famer

Gary Steuer:  President and CEO, Bonfils-Stanton Foundation
With a number of foundations redirecting their philanthropic support away from the arts, the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation has moved in the other direction - now funding the arts exclusively.  Steuer is in a unique position to influence other funders over the next few years as he rolls out this new approach and begins to measure the impact.

Huong Vu Bozarth:  The Boeing Company
Her influence extends beyond the Seattle area where she is center stage and very highly regarded in that community.  Boeing is a private enterprise that supports the arts in a way we wish all corporate citizens would emulate.  One nominator said:  "a passionate but informed advocate; an inspiring but patient mentor; and an ambassador who bridges many worlds to help us build a shared ethic of cultural empowerment."

San San Wong:  Senior Program Officer, Arts and Culture Portfolio, Barr Foundation
A leader in the equity push with extensive grant making experience, she is increasingly turning up on lists of leaders with influence.

Ellen Michelson:  Founder, Aroha Philanthropies
Teresa Bonner:  Program Director, Aroha Philanthropies
Arts and Aging is growing as a major initiative in the field for the arts to engage communities, make the case for the value of the arts, and as a bridge to other governmental programs and funding, and Michelson is the catalyst of much of that progress, and Bonner is one of those who make it happen.  Together they had a banner year.

F. Javier Torres - Director of national grantmaking, ArtPlace America.
His experience with diversification of funding and community outreach play into his current platform at ArtPlace and gives him influence as to how placemaking can support equity (among other things) across the country.  Very smart guy.


Jerry Allen / David Plettner- Saunders:  Founders / Partners The Cultural Planning Group
Cultural planning - particularly for cities and counties - is a cottage industry, and Allen and Plettner-Saunders pretty much own the territory.  They are the ones hired by more clients in this area than virtually anyone else.  They know their stuff and because these plans are major factors in how cities and counties approach the arts in their area - including prioritizing and funding - they have a lot of influence on the field.

Maria Rosario Jackson: Senior Advisor, Kresge Foundation
As director of the Culture, Creativity and Communities Program at the Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C. based national public policy research organization, she honed her expertise in urban planning, community development and the integration of the arts into those arenas - and became one of the 'go-to' people in that area.  She's sat on a dozen or so Boards, taught at university programs,  and consulted across the field.  Now as a senior advisor to the Kresge Foundation, she continues her influence in foundation policy development -- not just as Kresge, but far beyond.  If the arts actually had a national think tank, she'd be on it.

Richard Evans:  President, EmcArts
EmcArts continues to pioneer work in innovation and adaptive strategies for arts organizations.  He and his organization are increasingly well known and regarded across the spectrum of the nonprofit arts, including the major funding community.

Community Arts:

Laura Zabel: Executive Director, Springboard for the Arts
Her programs are innovative and have become textbook models for those in the community engagement and development areas.  Her influence remains on the upswing as her programs continue to succeed.

Deborah Cullinan: Chief Executive Officer Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
Yerba Buena center has had a number of nationally known arts administrators at its helm including John Kilacki and Ken Foster.  Cullinan joins that illustrious heritage and may eclipse those who came before her.  She is widely regarded as an innovative leader who knows how to enlist community involvement and inspire collaborative creative change in downtown environments.  She is a champion of the role of the "connector" and few do it better.  Considerable influence now augmented by a localized power base of some proportions.

James Kass - Founder / Executive Director, Youth Speaks
He basically launched the spoken word movement for young people, pioneered the resurgence in interest in poetry by youth (including rap / hip hop strains) and created and co-produced the 7 part HBO series Brave New Voices.  He has had tremendous influence on the thrust in the sector towards the arts and social change movement from the youth perspective.

Discipline Areas:

Angie Kim:  Executive Director, Center for Cultural Innovation
Moving into the chair occupied by Cora Mirikitani, she has substantial artist services and philanthropic experience under her belt as she now assumes the helm at a very influential and powerful organizational player in the sector.

Michael Rohd:  founding artistic director of Sojourn Theatre; Associate Professor at Northwestern University School of Communication.
Rohd is a much sought after speaker and advisor in the areas of social practice, capacity building, and community engagement and his influence is considerable.

Edythe and Eli Broad
Their new $140 million private Los Angeles based arts museum (housing their own extensive collection) is one of the biggest things to happen to the museum world in America in a long time.  How they manage their transition from widespread support for the arts to now focusing on steering their own physical ship may be a model for others in the future.  They have mega power and influence in the rarefied world of museums and art collections.

Jesse Rosen - President / CEO, League of American Orchestras
In an area with superstars (and some superegos) he maintains a balanced approach to serving his entire field.  His longevity and deft handling of some potentially messy issues increases his influence with both his membership and his peers.

Amy Fitterer, Executive Director, Dance USA -
She's given the dance community a national voice and that's made her influential across disciplines.


Diane Ragsdale - perhaps the most highly regarded policy wonk blogger in our field.  She is just heads above most of the rest in terms of her bold experimentation (e.g., the Beauty Course she created and taught this year) and her penetrating analysis of serious issues facing the sector.

Arlene Goldbard - She's the optimistic conscience in the field who dares all of us to imagine a world in which the arts are given their just due and in so doing inspires untold numbers.

Joe Patti:  His blog (and he is prolific) keeps hitting the mark by raising questions and issues the field is concerned with, but doesn't always identify for itself.

Ones to Watch:

Guillermina Gonzales - SAAN (State Arts Action Network) Chair
As Chair of the AFTA run state arts advocacy effort, she's reinvigorated the network and its poised to have some impact in the 2016 presidential election - at both the national and state levels.  If she can actually mold this group into a machine, she will have made her mark.  Time will tell.

Alan Salzenstein - Chair, Association of Arts Administration Educators
AAAE is the umbrella service group for the university programs (both undergraduate and graduate) awarding degrees in Arts Administration.  As the number of those programs has steadily increased, and as increasingly graduates with degrees are occupying key positions within our field, AAAE's influence and importance has increased as well, and Salzenstein has been working hard to expand his group both domestically and internationally and has made headway in moving this growing cohort to a higher profile in this field.

Remember: Don't Shoot the Messenger!

Have a great week.

Don't Quit