Fund for the Arts Committee Discusses Search for New CEO

The executive committee of the Fund for the Arts board of directors met Tuesday to discuss changes in the organization that will follow CEO Allan Cowen’s retirement. The committee debated how best to replace Cowen, and whether the fund needs to consider further changes to how it operates.

Many of the complaints that surrounded Cowen in the weeks before he announced his retirement came from visual artists who said they are not as well-supported by the fund as performing artists. In response, the committee discussed whether to hold a retreat to rethink its mission.

Outside of the meeting, interim president Barbara Sexton Smith said she won’t have a hand in those decisions, but she’ll go along with whatever the board decides.

“Well I think change is the underlying substance of all reality, so obviously we always, as anyone else, look to improve upon an already solid foundation,” she said.

The panel also debated the best way to find a replacement for Cowen. Before the meeting, chair Ron Murphy said a national search may not be necessary.

“We have some referrals that people have sent to each other saying, ‘Oh do you know this person or that person?’ I think usually you’d kind of feel those out before you go out and get some headhunter somewhere to look for you,” he said.

Several members of the community spoke in favor of a national search that includes local candidates, such as interim president Barbara Sexton Smith.

Cowen also addressed the committee. He said he plans to pursue consulting work after retiring.