RACC launches national search for new Executive Director

(Posted October 26, 2017)

The Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC) Board of Directors, together with its executive search firm Koya Leadership Partners, today released the job description for a new Executive Director. Applications are being accepted now, with a goal of having the new Executive Director in place next spring.

The position profile is available online at https://koyapartners.com/search/racc-executive-director-21/. The position profile can also be downloaded as a PDF (3 MB).

All inquiries about the position and search for candidates should be directed to Koya Leadership Partners, a national retained executive search and human capital consulting firm. The search committee selected Koya Leadership Partners because of their track record placing leaders in mission-driven organizations; their experience conducting searches for public arts agencies; and alignment with RACC on equity, diversity and inclusion.

“The RACC search committee and Koya Leadership Partners took an inclusive approach to designing the job description and the search process,” said Steve Rosenbaum, RACC’s board secretary and chair of the search committee. “We are confident that the search process will yield a new leader for RACC who is strategic and visionary, equity-focused and capable of building consensus.”

In June, RACC’s long-time Executive Director Eloise Damrosch retired, and the board spent the summer conducting a series of community conversations and surveys to reimagine and redefine the role of Executive Director going forward. RACC’s Director of Community Engagement, Jeff Hawthorne, has been serving as executive director in the interim.



Koya Leadership Partners meet with stakeholders

(Posted October 2, 2017)

In September, RACC retained Koya Leadership Partners as its exclusive search firm for RACC’s executive director position.

The first step in Koya’s search process includes meeting with a wide range of stakeholders relevant to the position to help inform the job profile.

On Sept. 27 – 29th, Koya search consultants Michelle Bonoan and Shelia Hennessey visited Portland and held stakeholder meetings, including:

  • RACC Staff
  • RACC Search Committee
  • RACC Board Chair
  • RACC Board of Directors
  • Community Panel #1: an artist and community activist
  • Community Panel #2: Representatives from Literary Arts, IPRC, Clackamas County Arts Alliance, and an advocate for artists with disabilities
  • Community Panel #3: Representatives from Oregon Symphony, Portland Opera, PICA, Portland Center Stage, Chamber Music Northwest, White Bird, Artists Repertory Theatre
  • Community Panel #4: Arts Workers for Equity
  • Portland City Commissioners Chloe Eudaly and Nick Fish

The search consultants also had dinners with search committee members and attended performances of An Octoroon at ART and Fun Home at The Armory.

We expect to have an updated timeline soon. We currently forecast that the job will be open for applications sometime later in October, and that the new ED will start the position in March or April of 2018.


Search Committee announces new search firm; timeline of activities to date

(Posted on September 22, 2017)

RACC is pleased to announce that it has retained Koya Leadership Partners as search firm for our Executive Director search.

After conducting our recent search firm RFP, Koya was the unanimous selection of our search committee for multiple reasons including:

  • Track record in placing leaders in mission-driven organizations
  • Experience conducting searches for public arts agencies
  • Alignment with RACC on equity, diversity and inclusion

RACC will be working with Koya’s Los Angeles office. Koya managing director Michelle Bonoan will be leading the search, and will be visiting Portland September 27-29 and meeting with dozens of stakeholders as part of Koya’s intake process.

We expect that the Executive Director job posting will be open for applications sometime in October.

The following is a recap of the RACC Search Committee’s activities to-date:

  • February
    • RACC Executive Committee discussion of need to form search committee
    • Search Committee appointed
    • 1st search firm RFP issued
  • March
    • Search Committee members finalized
    • Received initial search firm responses to RFPs
    • Search Committee review of Search Firm submissions
  • April
    • RACC Stakeholder online survey
    • Search Firm interviews
    • Aspen Leadership selected as initial search firm
  • May
    • Aspen Leadership conducts staff and community stakeholder interviews
    • Jeff Hawthorne identified as Interim Director
    • Search committee agrees on competencies needed in ED and drafts job description
  • June
    • Added Jenny M. Chu as Search Committee member
    • Search Committee Equity, Diversity & Inclusion offsite facilitated by Judith Mowry from the City of Portland’s Office of Equity and Human Rights.
    • Arts Workers for Equity (AWE) Stakeholder Committee met with members of Search Committee
    • Group of approximately 20 arts organizations sends letter to Search Committee requesting involvement in search process, identifies Paul King of White Bird as liason to search committee.
  • July
    • Jeff Hawthorne begins Interim Executive Director role
    • Search committee agrees on job description
    • Aspen Leadership and RACC part ways.
  • August
    • Search Committee and RACC staff identify approximately twenty search firms worth considering.
    • Search Committee issues RFP to approximately eight search firms.
    • Six proposals received and three firms identified as finalists. Finalists interviewed.
  • September
    • New Search Firm selected: Koya Leadership Partners



Search Committee update for August 31

RACC’s Search Committee continues to meet weekly. RFPs for executive search services were due to RACC on August 16, and we have narrowed those RFPs down to three finalists. We expect to announce our search firm shortly.

As always, you are invited to email edsearch@racc.org with your questions and other feedback. We are grateful for the continued support of the community.



Search Committee update for August 1

RACC’s Search Committee has spent the past two weeks researching executive search firms and creating a new RFP describing our search needs.

Today, we issued an RFP to a short-list of 6 executive search firms. Proposals are due August 16th, and we expect to have a firm hired by end of the month.

We expect to post the job description and start accepting applications in early September.

We have been further polishing our job description to capture the incredible opportunity we see for a new RACC ED who has the experience, passion and vision to bring people together and ensure that the Arts move with the social, political and economic forces shaping our region.

Former RACC Board Chair Carole Morse has resigned from the committee. We wish to thank her for her excellent contributions.

We would like to thank the community for its continued input and support.

Please email edsearch@racc.org to send questions, feedback or ideas to the search committee.


Search Committee update for July 14

The RACC Search Committee is no longer working with Aspen Leadership Group and is actively engaging new search firms.

The job description, which will be published after August 1, focuses on the following competencies:

Core Competencies

  • Equity, Inclusion & Diversity
  • Executive Level Management
  • Change Management
  • Commitment to the Arts

Secondary Competencies

  • Communication
  • Advocacy
  • Fundraising
  • Grant-making

In following our transparent process, we will continue to publish updates as they develop.


Search Committee continues progress, expects Executive Director job to post in mid-July

POSTED ON June 23, 2017:

RACC’s Search Committee spent the past month building internal alignment around the job description and recruiting process, so that we know what type of leader we want for RACC, and so that we can provide our recruiting firm with clear guidance.

We expect to have a job description published by mid-July. The Search Committee will publish details of the applicant review process, including further opportunities for public input by the time the job is published. Here is a highlight of recent activities:

  • On June 19, the committee held an offsite around equity/inclusion/diversity topics. The offsite was facilitated by Judith Mowry of the City of Portland Office of Equity and Human Rights (OEHR).
  • On June 15, Jenny M. Chu was added to the committee.
  • On June 3, committee members and RACC staff met with representatives of Art Workers for Equity (AWE) to listen to their concerns and suggestions.
  • On May 31, the committee received a letter from the leaders of 24 arts organizations asking for increased opportunities for input throughout the process.
  • On May 24, the RACC Board approved an updated charter for the Search Committee, establishing Steve Rosenbaum as chair and formally tasking the committee to bring back one or more candidates to the board for approval while keeping the Board and community updated along the way.

The updated committee roster is now as follows:

Members of the public are encouraged to email the committee (EDsearch@racc.org) with any thoughts, suggestions or feedback. 



Survey results

POSTED ON May 25, 2017.

In April, the Search Committee launched an online survey to solicit community input regarding RACC’s next Executive Director. In all, 249 community members completed the survey, and we thank you for your input! Here’s who we heard from:

  • 54% identified as individual artists
  • 60% work at a nonprofit organization

When asked whether respondents had received a grant or public art commission from RACC,

  • 59% said yes, frequently or occasionally
  • 17% said they have never received a grant or commission, although they have applied

In terms of regional representation, 71% of respondents live in Multnomah County, 4% live in Clackamas County, 10% live in Washington County, and 15% live elsewhere.


Here’s what we learned:

In ranking the desired attributes of our next Executive Director, the community prioritized:

  1. Leadership for diversity, equity and inclusion (including 29% who listed this as the top priority);
  2. Strong and effective advocacy for public support of the arts (19% who listed this as the top priority);
  3. Visionary and innovative thinker (18% listed this as the top priority).

Through additional, open-ended comments about attributes, many respondents talked about the need to have a strong relationship with individual artists; community engagement; and the need to understand Portland’s unique cultural and historic disparities.

When asked to describe the top issues facing RACC in the future, the community prioritized:

  1. (Virtual tie:) Increase public support for the arts (23.8% listed as their top issue);
  2. Continue focus on equity and diversity (23.6% listed as their top issue);
  3. Increase support for the arts in minority communities (11% listed as their top choice)

Also in this section, many respondents articulated the need to increase support for individual artists, which was not one of the options listed; we appreciate that input.  

In closing, several respondents offered additional comments regarding RACC’s search for a new executive director. A representative sample of those comments:

  • “Please make this a transparent process.”
  • “RACC has ignored the facilities crisis in Portland.”
  • “Someone who reflects some of the many diverse voices and perspectives of Portland’s growing community and who has the life experience to cultivate a city of artists and art enthusiasts from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, especially those most often left out of the art community.
  • “There is no one advocating for the arts anymore and we really need someone to rally the community and think creatively and progressively about how to leverage the collective impact of the arts and culture sector in the region.”
  • “They should understand artists.”
  • “We need an outstanding leader to be a lightning rod for the mission of RACC. Energy, passion and commitment!”
  • “RACC is a REGIONAL arts and culture council. I would love the new ED to engage with artists and arts organizations from all over the Portland metro area.”
  • “I would suggest proactively seeking candidates of color, female candidates, and LGBT+ candidates for this position by promoting the opening through allied organizations and using the networks of board members and others to ensure the search reaches these demographics.”
  • “This person should listen to the needs of the whole community, instead of focusing on the large institutions that get most of RACC’s money and attention.”
  • “RACC is a strong organization, the new Executive Director will have opportunity to build on what currently exists and address the changing funding environment for the arts. The need to build alliances with other organizations and agencies to ensure the arts continue to grow and flourish in Portland and Oregon.”
  • “Ensure the new ED has a high public profile.”

Although the survey is now closed, community members can continue to ask questions and provide input to the search committee by emailing EDSearch@racc.org.


Community input continues

POSTED ON May 12, 2017.

Lead recruiter Anne Johnson of Aspen Leadership Group was in Portland recently to meet separately with the Board-appointed search committee, with RACC staff, and with community representatives including:

  • Kristen Brayson, Portland Public Schools
  • Eva Calcagno, Washington County Libraries
  • Ronault Catalani, City of Portland New Portlanders Program
  • Erik Ferguson, dance artist and educator
  • Victoria Frey, Portland Institute for Contemporary Art
  • Jim Fullan, Oregon Symphony
  • Subashini Ganesan, New Expressive Works
  • Jose Gonzales, Miracle Theatre
  • Joaquin Lopez, music artist
  • Mike Murawski, Portland Art Museum
  • Martha Richards, Miller Foundation
  • Toni Tabora Roberts, Esper House
  • George Thorn, Arts Action Research
  • Carlos Windham, Resolutions NW

After much discussion and reflection and several follow-up meetings, the search committee has concluded that we would like to spend more time working on our process and consulting with the community before advertising the post of Executive Director. We know how eager everyone is to move forward, but we feel strongly that for the search to be as equitable and successful as we can make it, we need to take more time at this stage of the process.

Updates will continue to be posted on a regular basis, including the results of our community survey which will be published soon. (The survey is now closed. Thank you to everyone who participated!)

To contact the search committee, email EDSearch@racc.org.


What do we value, and where are we going?


I suspect people in our country – whatever  their political beliefs – will be grappling with the enormity of our recent election for years to come. Clearly it will be a while before new leadership is solidified and even longer to understand what they seriously intend to do. And then come the blows and counterblows (hopefully metaphorical). Maybe there will be some compromise, but that feels way beyond reach for now.

Meanwhile, incidents of racial slurs, violent protesters interrupting planned peaceful gatherings, and genuine fear for the present and future cast a pall over our city and especially those most targeted by bigotry, misogyny, racism, sexism, and prejudice of all kinds.  I believe that this is not the Portland region we want, that we at RACC are committed to overcoming. That Portland is unacceptable.

We may not have sway over what’s happening in our capital, but certainly we can recommit to our beliefs, values and hopes for an ever-improving Portland for every single person. In that spirit, I share below RACC’s Equity Statement created and adopted by our entire staff and Board last year:

We believe that the arts have the power to change hearts and minds, and to inspire social change. Prejudice and privilege have created barriers that RACC must dismantle, systematically and strategically, until everyone in our community has equitable access to arts and culture. 

 We acknowledge that there is no one perfect way to achieve equity, but we are willing to take risks because there is much work to do. We are thoughtfully researching and implementing new methods of thinking within our organizational culture, starting with an in-depth assessment of our services, policies and procedures. We are seeking out and listening to voices that have not been heard, and fully engaging under-represented populations in dialogue that will help us improve.

 We are committed to the full scope of this work and will hold ourselves accountable along the way—anything less would prove a disservice to ourselves and the communities we serve. RACC strives to be an organization that values and celebrates everyone’s life experiences, their voices and their histories. By consistently bringing new perspectives to our decision-making table, forming new relationships and alliances, and finding new ways to support creativity, RACC will be a strong, equitable and relevant organization. Throughout this process, we commit to humility, optimism and respect.

This is what we have promised to do and we strive to work every day with these goals foremost in mind and action. Our Board, days before the election, held a retreat to examine our roles in the community; to put our efforts in a larger west coast context; and to prioritize our actions for the near and long-term. At the end of the day equity was our Board’s number one, followed by clarification of our role and purpose, and working with multiple entities and individuals to address serious affordability issues for all people, for artists, and for arts organizations being priced out of living and working spaces. This must be addressed before it is too late.

Fundamental to achieving the optimum community we dream of are artists, arts providers, educators, cultural groups, creative problem solvers, innovators, visionary leaders of all kinds, youth, elders, and every citizen who wants to help. Tough times bring focus to this imperative work; clarify how important it is to work together toward shared goals; strengthen our resolve to create equal opportunities for all Portlanders; and encourage us to continue welcoming new Portlanders from around the globe to our Sanctuary City. We can do this and with everyone’s recommitment we will.

Local business owners Lisa Magnum and Jason Levian recently printed hundreds of colorful posters by hand at IPRC in an effort to help create safe places for all Portlanders. RACC has developed a slightly different version of their powerful poster – specifically including people with disabilities and all gender identities.

Together we can live by this statement and we happily make this poster available to others to use and to share:


Feel free to save and share the .jpg above, or click here to download as high-res PDF (11″ x 17″, 25KB)