Announcing Arts Leaders as Cultural Innovators

Arts Leaders as Cultural Innovators is a national leadership development program designed to support adaptive change in the national arts sector. We are recruiting candidates for our first cohort in three pilot cities.

We are excited to introduce Arts Leaders as Cultural Innovators (ALACI), a national training program of EmcArts intended to support adaptive leadership in the arts field. Changes in the operating environment, including shifts in demographics, access to technology, and new forms of resource development are placing radical new demands on rising non-profit cultural leaders. These complex challenges require that leaders are able to think differently and adapt quickly to a dynamic environment if their organizations are to be healthy, resilient, and impactful. Adaptive Leadership provides the understanding, skills, and support that leaders need to create innovative solutions.

Program Elements

Over the course of 18 months, ALACI will inspire 30 “rising influencers” to advance their adaptive leadership skills and learn more about helping their communities facilitate adaptive change and address complex challenges.

Fellows will participate in activities such as executive coaching, group seminars, virtual learning modules, and practicing new approaches to problem solving under the tutelage of leadership development experts, leaders of innovative cultural organizations, and EmcArts staff. Training will focus on exploring five competencies essential for effective arts leaders:

  • An understanding of organizations as complex adaptive systems and ways for leadership behaviors to support internal effectiveness and external process facilitation
  • An awareness of oneself–both self-knowledge and the views others hold about one’s leadership style, approach, and effectiveness–and, based on such awareness, processes through which to understand and change behavior in support of adaptive work
  • An appreciation of how and where an organization can achieve leverage through innovation; this demands an ability to identify major complex challenges where adaptive responses can influence how the public understands the organization’s value
  • Knowledge of frameworks for innovating that are supported by useful and highly practical tools and handled effectively through the honing of specific process facilitation skills
  • The ability to facilitate constructive engagement across the team/organization that encourages a higher tolerance for risk, greater acceptance of ambiguity, and deep respect for conflict as a key contributor to adaptive work

Get Involved

ALACI will run in two cohorts of 15 individuals each, and the first program kicks off in March of 2015. Five Fellows from Rhode Island have been selected, and we are in the final stages of selecting candidates from Tucson and Phoenix, AZ.

ALACI is currently accepting applications from Greater Washington DC.

An information session will occur on Thursday, February 12 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

If you are in the DC area and would like to learn more, register to attend the session.


In the classic book Leadership Without Easy Answers, Ron Heifetz describes Adaptive Leadership as a set of strategies and practices that organizational leaders can use to break through deadlocks, achieve transformational change, and develop the ability to succeed in challenging environments.

ALACI is best suited for candidates who are mid-level or departmental staff members in larger organizations with significant leadership responsibilities and aspirations to executive leadership as adaptive practitioners, or leaders in smaller organizations who want to strengthen their capacity to lead adaptive work.

Are you interested in learning ways you can play a wider role in the cultural health of your community? Contact me to learn more about bringing ALACI to a community near you.

Arts Leaders as Cultural Innovators is designed in collaboration with John McCann and Partners in Performance.

Liz Dreyer is the Senior Program Manager at EmcArts, managing the Community Innovation Labs as well as the Arts Leaders as Cultural Innovators (ALACI) program. She is also a Process Facilitator in the New Pathways programs.