Fund for the Arts Names Christen Boone President and CEO

The Fund for the Arts has named Christen Boone to be its next president and CEO. Boone will join the Fund on July 7 for a transition period until current president Barbara Sexton Smith retires at the end of August. A 2014 transition was planned when Sexton Smith took the reins of the Fund for the Arts three years ago, following the retirement of longtime leader Allan Cowen.

Boone is the owner of her own development consulting company, The Boone Group, and is currently director of the Greater Louisville Project, which provides and analyzes research data centered on education, jobs and quality of life. 

A long-time fundraising professional in Louisville, Boone spearheaded the $120-million fundraising campaign to complete the Parklands of Floyds Fork project for 21st Century Parks. She serves on the board of Actors Theatre of Louisville, where she once worked as director of development. 

“I think our arts community is in an opportunity of dramatic change and growth,” says Boone, citing the number of new leaders at Louisville’s cornerstone arts organizations, like the Louisville Orchestra’s new music director Teddy Abrams and executive director Andrew Kipe, and Kim Baker, the new president of the Kentucky Center.  “I think we’re really positioned for a new era of growth and innovation and really unprecedented collaboration. You couple that with an entrepreneurial spirit among new and emerging artists and I think it’s an exciting time for me and for Louisville as a whole.”

Those new and emerging artists, who are contributing to Louisville’s arts landscape at an unprecedented rate and level of talent these days, have to compete with the more established cultural partners who receive the bulk of funding from the annual Fund for the Arts campaigns. Many local emerging 501(c)3 arts nonprofits take advantage of the Fund’s Power2Give crowd-funding platform, but may also be poised to move to the next level of funds development. 

“I think that’s something the Fund and its board will continue to think about and work on into the future, but there’s certainly a lot of really exciting work popping up,” says Boone. “I think of the work coming out of Theatre [502] and Le Petomane and Alley Theatre and El Delirio, and that’s just in of the theatre community.”

“I think the Fund has an opportunity and a responsibility to the community to continue to think about what the role can be, and ultimately our responsibility is to our donors, and to our promise and our mission to really support and grow a thriving arts community,” she says.

That thriving arts community isn’t without the challenges that arise in other mid-sized cities, Boone admits.

“The arts are both a vital part of the community and help make it grow, but they also can’t grow without a thriving overall economy,” she says. “And so we continue to, at the Fund for the Arts, reach out to new donors and to new partners. It also means that we need to continue to make sure we think about our current relationships as well.”

So that’s going to mean continuing to revisit strategies for donor and patron engagement, Boone says.

“Right now, the Fund for the Arts has nearly 30,000 donors that participate. Those are very large corporate donors, but they’re also very important workplace campaigns with donors who give a dollar a pay period to make this arts community sustainable. We need to continue to listen to those donors,” she says. “What are the ways they want to give? What kind of relationship do they want to have with us at the Fund for the Arts?”

Boone says Sexton Smith will be leaving the Fund “in a great place for continued growth.”

“She’s forged new relationships and built programs, she’s increased the focus on and the need for arts education, and I think that’s going to be a central point of her legacy,” says Boone. 

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