Executive Director Search Updates

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. 



Jeff Hawthorne to serve as interim executive director

POSTED ON May 31, 2017.

The RACC board has announced that Jeff Hawthorne will serve as the organization’s interim executive director, effective July 1. Hawthorne is currently the organization’s director of community engagement. Read the full press release here.


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.


Search Committee Finalized


The search committee has been finalized. The members are:

We continue to encourage broad community participation in our Executive Director Search Survey, open through May 10. An executive summary of our findings will be posted on this page shortly thereafter.


Search Committee Hired Executive Search Firm


The RACC search committee has hired executive search firm Aspen Leadership Group to lead the process to find the successor to outgoing executive director Eloise Damrosch, who will be retiring June 30. The committee considered several search firms and was most impressed with Aspen’s diversity experience, extensive network and impressive track record of high level arts searches, including many successful arts appointments in Oregon.

Aspen Leadership Group’s lead project manager, Anne Johnson, will be in Portland on May 1 and 2 to meet the Search Committee and representatives of RACC staff and the arts community to begin the formal due diligence process. In addition the search committee has just released an online questionnaire, open to anybody interested in providing input on the search for RACC’s next Executive Director. You can participate in the survey here.


Retirement of Our Longtime Executive Director


With the retirement of our longtime executive director Eloise Damrosch, the RACC board has begun the process of finding her successor. We are committed to a transparent and inclusive search process resulting in the appointment of an outstanding individual to lead RACC into the future and continue to realize our mission of enriching our communities through arts and culture.

The RACC Board has appointed a Search Committee to steward the process of identifying and hiring the new executive director. In April the Search Committee will select an executive search firm who will help us manage the process of identifying, screening, interviewing and recruiting the new ED from a wide and diverse pool of candidates.

In the coming weeks we will be sharing in this space and in correspondence with our many constituents, the job posting, job description and ways to provide input on the search and selection process. There will be many opportunities for comment and suggestions, including a questionnaire, direct contact with the search committee at EDsearch@racc.org and regular progress reports in our newsletter and on the RACC website.

Once a finalist or finalists have been chosen there will be opportunities for community members to meet them and provide feedback to the Search Committee before a final choice is made. We are hopeful to have a new executive director in place late Summer or Early Fall.

We thank you for your ongoing support of RACC and our wonderful arts and culture community. We are excited about this new chapter of RACC and are grateful for your interest and input.