We believe that our cultural institutions are at a crossroads at which their relevance and even the role of the arts in civil society are being questioned. Cultural leaders are grappling with many complex and intractable questions. How do you take an institution designed in a bygone era and make it relevant today? How do you compete in an increasingly crowded market? What does a thriving financial model look like for a nonprofit cultural organization? In the face of such difficult questions it’s hard to find the time and support to explore the answers. There are exceptional leaders – across the country and abroad – who are working on creative solutions. The challenge is to support these leaders and harness the power of their ideas to create solutions that will reverberate throughout the cultural sector.
The development of this program was made possible by the support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Fidelity Foundation and The Kresge Foundation.
These three foundations have made an extraordinary commitment over many years to help arts and culture institutions address key challenges. We would like to thank each of them for their support – for NAS and the cultural sector.
The Chief Executive Program is a two-year initiative designed to unleash the collective power of 100 of the top executive leaders in the cultural sector to solve these intractable problems. These leaders will re-imagine what cultural institutions will be and how they can contribute to civil society.
Change can be a formidable undertaking. In our extensive work with cultural institutions we’ve studied how and why change happens. We’ve learned what can enable change and what can block it. Our approach to The Chief Executive Program is the culmination of these lessons – get the right people involved, immerse them in the issues, give them the space and funding for collaborative work, offer them the support to keep their momentum going and give voice to their ideas to help build models for the larger community.
The program is built upon the success of our pilot project for chief executives, Leadership and Convergence: Navigating Radical Change in Arts and Culture. Last November, 20 leaders from some of the most outstanding cultural institutions in the U.S. and abroad spent three and a half days exploring practical strategies for a new world of converging consumer interests, markets and industries. The level of discussion in the classroom and outpouring of ideas from the participants led us to expand the program to include additional academic partners, issue areas, support components and participants.
Through a highly competitive recruiting and application process, we will expand this cohort to 100 cultural executives from a wide range of disciplines, locations, perspectives and experience levels who are proven leaders of lynchpin institutions or noted leaders of innovative organizations and initiatives. These chief executives will spend two years learning, collaborating, building and changing the cultural sector.
At the heart of the program are three educational convenings at three of the top business schools in the country. Each of these multi-day events will focus on one of the key challenges for our field – the changing nature of competition, money and relevance. Using these issues as organizing themes, expert faculty teams will help participants dig into case studies and frameworks to gain new perspectives from which to evaluate the problems and develop creative responses. Learn more »
Finding a solution to an issue requires the financial room to experiment and move ideas forward. Recognizing this, we have established a $250,000 fund for change that will be available to participants through our Investment Marketplace. This online space will allow participants to propose projects, collaborate and direct investment to the projects they see as most promising that grow out of the program. Learn more »
An integral part of The Chief Executive Program is providing participants with the breathing room necessary to spark creative thinking. Equally important is what these chief executives will do once they return to the day-to-day of running a cultural institution. There are roadblocks to change in every organization and in every community. We recognize these challenges and will provide participants with peer and professional resources designed to help them anticipate and overcome the day-to-day barriers to realizing great ideas. Learn more »
To enable the participants to serve as change leaders in their communities, we want to bring attention to them, their organizations and their projects. Throughout the program we will shine a spotlight on our chief executives discussing their projects or experiences leading change in videos, publications and at conferences. This attention will help participants garner support for their work. Giving voice to their ideas will help build models for the rest of the cultural sector. Learn more »
The complex issues involved in leading a cultural nonprofit today can challenge even the most skilled management team. Using our first-hand experience in the arts and working with faculty from leading business and graduate schools, we deliver executive-level programs that help you find new opportunities, manage your resources and lead your organization toward its mission.