NALI And Friends

Back in early September, I wrote about the National Arts Leadership Institute and Andrew Taylor commented “that he continue[s] to be frustrated by the disconnection of leadership initiatives in the arts.” This was based on the fact that there are many such institutes and few of them talk to each other so they end up inventing the wheel over and over again.

I decided to take a look at just how many there were out there and what they were offerings. I have to admit, while I didn’t doubt Andrew, it soon became clear as I searched that I could have continued far longer than I had.

Mostly I focussed on leadership training institutes that seemed to be focussed on offering sessions at conferences so my brief research doesn’t include programs like the Kennedy Center’s Institute for Arts Management which offer longer term internship and fellowship programs rather than an attempt to offer one day seminar type classes.

The Theatre Communications Group straddled both world offering the mentor/internships of the Kennedy Center along with institutes in conjunction with conferences.

Every conference I could think of seemed to have its own institute. I can see why Andrew Taylor felt there was a lot of duplication that might benefit from merged efforts because the list of topics covered is essentially identical.

First of course, came the Southern Arts Federation’s National Arts Leadership Institute.

The Western Arts Alliance has their own. (Since they hosted a NALI session, perhaps they are thinking of merging their offerings with them.)

-Arts MidWest professional development offerings.

Arts NorthWest has them at conference and sends them on the road through Washington and Oregon

And of course, the granddaddy of them all-Association of Performing Arts Presenters offers some learning..

Like Theatre Communications Group, the national organizations for the other performing arts also offer institutes at their conferences-Dance USA, American Symphony Orchestra League, OPERA America

Americans for the Arts also holds sessions at their conferences. Alas, their Arts and Business Council’s Arts Leadership Institute is only available for arts leaders in NYC.

When I found the leadership institute for the Alliance of NY State Arts Organizations, I realized I could probably find a similar program in nearly every state and decided to stop there.

Merging all these programs into a single national program most likely isn’t the answer since certain regional organizations have strengths the others don’t. (Western Arts Federation seems to have a strong research bent, for instance.)

Some consolidation that saw conferences hosting leadership institutes generated by one of a handful of regional or national organizations (who co-ordinated syllabi to some degree with one another) might in order to ensure quality and uniformity.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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