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Executive Director, Public Art

Association for Public Art
Pennsylvania, United States
Salary Commensurate with experience
Closing date
Mar 22, 2023

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Position Type
Arts, Community Foundations, Museum
Employment Type
Full Time

The Opportunity

The Association for Public Art (aPA), a pioneer of public art creation, stewardship and community engagement, is launching a search for an Executive Director to succeed Penny Balkin Bach, who retired after 40 years of distinguished leadership.  This is a significant inflection point for the organization as it recruits an innovative, inspiring and visionary Executive Director to succeed a long tenured and highly accomplished leader. 

The next Executive Director will have the opportunity to create an exciting new and transformative chapter for the aPA.  Building on a solid organizational base, the new leader will work with a strong staff and a dedicated and committed Board. This Executive Director will explore and animate new ways to transform the organization in the context of an increasingly dynamic field of public art.  They will guide and lead aPA’s mission-based work through the advancement of artistic excellence, development of a new strategic plan, generation of robust contributed and earned revenue streams and the expansion of diverse audiences.

Please see the announcement of Penny Balkin Bach here.

About the Association for Public Art (aPA)

The Association for Public Art carries out its mission to acquire, commission, preserve, interpret and promote public art in Philadelphia through exemplary and innovative programs and advocacy efforts.  Formerly the Fairmount Park Art Association, aPA is the nation’s first private, non-profit civic organization dedicated to an exciting and accessible “museum without walls” that informs, engages, and inspires diverse audiences, while advancing opportunities for artists to contribute to the city’s places, spaces, and its national prominence.

Since its establishment in 1872, the Association has been a model of public art vision, stewardship, and community engagement. The aPA thrives on its legacy and is distinguished by its commitment to permanent and temporary artworks and initiatives. The aPA’s curatorial vision and priorities support the integration of public art, urban design, and city-wide communities through exemplary projects, programs, exhibitions, publications, digital media, and advocacy efforts to connect people with public art.

The aPA celebrated its 150th year in 2022, by articulating and advancing core goals that build on its history, longevity, and cultural and civic leadership. With a commitment to invention, boldness, and cooperation, the aPA continues to seek the most imaginative and productive affinities among artists, sites, and the public.

aPA and the City of Philadelphia

The City of Philadelphia has one of the largest and significant collections of public art in the United States, owing in part to the early initiatives of the Association for Public Art. From its inception, the Association for Public Art has supported both the artistic and community perspectives that sustain public art in Philadelphia. The aPA encouraged the establishment and oversight of the City’s Art Jury (the forerunner of the current Art Commission) and Planning Commission, and the adoption of the nation’s first “percent for art” ordinances. Today, aPA continues to promote the important role that public art plays in the creation, enhancement, and understanding of civic spaces. Public art in Philadelphia is now initiated by a wide range of organizations and agencies with different missions, and the aPA regularly works in partnership with Philadelphia Parks & Recreation; the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy; and museums, community groups and cultural organizations in the region.

Land Acknowledgement (link)


Philadelphia, the nation’s sixth largest city, was founded in the 1680s by Quaker idealists as an alternative to the physical and social conditions in London. This “greene Country Towne, which will never be burnt, and always be wholesome” promised “freedom of conscience” and established a culture that would flourish over the centuries as the city evolved into a political, economic and creative center. Philadelphia served as the new nation’s capital in the 1790s and grew into an industrial powerhouse in the 19th century. More recently, the city has become a leading center for education, medicine, and technology. In recent decades, Philadelphia’s cultural footprint has expanded with a plethora of institutions that contribute significantly to the city’s quality of life and enhance its role as a desirable destination. 

7 Reasons to Move to Philadelphia in 2023 (link)

Position Summary

The Executive Director is responsible for impactful leadership and artistic direction of the Association for Public Art (aPA). They will create relevant opportunities for new works by artists and creative professionals, advocate for responsible maintenance and stewardship of public art.  In addition, they will advance audience engagement and the interpretation of art in public spaces, support civic and organizational collaboration and partnerships, and develop sustained financial support for projects and programming. The next Executive Director will engage with the aPA’s Board of Trustees and members, community advocates, colleagues, supporters, funders, and the media; and will demonstrate a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in all aspects of the aPA’s work.

The Executive Director will foster the Association’s reputation and artistic integrity through highly visible leadership position locally, nationally and globally, to advance the work of aPA in the context of a dynamic and evolving field of public art.

This individual reports to the Executive Committee of aPA’s Board of Trustees, comprised of up to 21 civic and cultural leaders. The Board operates with five Standing Committees: Audit, Finance, Development, Public Art and Nominating. The organization’s operations are supported in part by its membership and by an endowment overseen by a professional investment advisory firm that reports to the Finance Committee. Funds for special projects are raised from diversified sources, including individuals, foundations, government and corporate donors.

The Executive Director leads and inspires a highly motivated full-time staff of seven, including the Deputy Director, Assistant Curator and Project Manager, Marketing and Communications Manager, Communications Associate, Learning and Engagement Manager, Development Manager, and Administrative Services Manager.

Significant Priorities

  • Create a new strategic plan, in collaboration with the staff and board, which outlines a compelling and bold direction for the aPA as it looks toward the next 5 years.
  • Serve as the primary ambassador and chief fundraiser, in concert with the board and development team, in strategic and active donor cultivation and stewardship, ensuring diverse funding streams. This will be an important area of focus as these funds will support an ambitious new potential commission for the aPA.
  • Continue to solidify aPA’s identity with a clear, compelling, and proactive brand strategy that will strengthen and expand the critically important relationships within the community as well as with the greater public regionally and nationally.
  • Support, develop and retain a strong team and foster a transparent and collaborative culture through open communications with staff and board.

*Major Responsibilities include:

  • Acquisitions and Commissions
  • Conservation and Collections Management
  • Interpretation, Programming and Promotion
  • Fundraising, Donor Stewardship and Membership
  • Leadership and Governance
  • Financial Stability
  • Collaborations with other civic and cultural entities

*Addendum at the end of the description

Ideal Experience

  • A leadership role in art or art-adjacent organizations with demonstrated strategic, financial and managerial acumen
  • Demonstrated advocacy for the transformative role the arts play in a community and in society at large as well as an understanding about the current trends and unique opportunities in public art
  • Proven success in individual and institutional fundraising experience (either as an executive or board member)
  • Advancing diversity, equity, inclusion and access in significant ways
  • Track record of managing and working effectively with a board
  • Experience managing public art projects from concept to implementation
  • Experience with sophisticated digital tools and practices

Personal Attributes

  • High social and emotional intelligence; diplomatic and culturally competent
  • Aspirational, bold and willing to take informed risks in pursuit of aPA’s mission
  • Active listener and excellent communicator with public speaking skills
  • Ability to build and deepen relationships with a wide range of stakeholders
  • Ability to earn and build trust; engaging, authentic, approachable style



The Association for Public Art (aPA) is an Equal Opportunity Employer dedicated to employment nondiscrimination. The aPA values diversity and encourages candidates of all backgrounds to apply.

The aPA has retained Sally M. Sterling Executive Search to support the search for its next Executive Director.  We welcome comments, nominations or expressions of interest.  All applicants are asked to include a letter of interest with their resume.

Please send an email with supporting materials to the confidential email address:



Acquisitions and Commissions

The Executive Director will:

  • Lead public art excellence with innovation, diversity, inclusiveness, and equity
  • Identify opportunities and locations where public art can be appreciated and explored
  • Develop relationships with artists that support the integrity of the work of aPA throughout the commissioning process, including site selection, proposal, approval, design, technical assistance, construction and installation.
  • Acquire or commission significant and transformative artwork that might be permanent or temporary

projects that reflect ideas, trends, and issues in urban design and contemporary public art

  • Support interactive work that promotes audience enthusiasm and engagement
  • Assert aPA’s curatorial role, emphasizing aPA’s strengths as a private, non-profit organization with a long history and track-record
  • Enhance the visibility of aPA locally, nationally, and internationally
  • Seek associations with current urban design and planning activities
  • Develop partnerships and collaborations to leverage aPA’s resources and attract new audiences
  • Cultivate private philanthropy to enable the acquisition of artworks
  • Seek opportunities for collaboration with public art organizations nationwide

Conservation and Collections Management

The Executive Director will:

  • Support responsible stewardship of public art through conservation and advocacy
  • Guide the conservation and maintenance for aPA-owned sculptures, interpretive signage, and lighting
  • Identify and seek philanthropic support for special conservation and relocation projects
  • Research, Investigate and select appropriate sites for the relocation of existing sculptures
  • Advocate for the City’s site-specific and site-related public art treasures
  • Develop stewardship relationships with the City’s Public Art Office, Parks and Recreation, and others
  • Provide leadership locally and nationally in support of conservation and collections management

Interpretation, Programming and Promotion

The Executive Director will:

  • Position aPA as an authority and “thought leader” in the field of public art through lectures, writing and convenings
  • Cultivate public art knowledge and audience engagement while promoting the work of aPA
  • Develop original and exciting programing that calls attention to aPA’s creative approach
  • Advance and optimize the aPA’s digital technology systems, platforms, and services
  • Support an evolving social media strategy, using ongoing analytics to understand aPA’s audiences
  • Serve as Executive Producer of aPA’s award-winning Museum without Walls™: AUDIO program
  • Oversee the incorporation of signage and interpretive audio as part of all aPA projects
  • Oversee the production of maps and other collateral printed matter
  • Bring together audiences of diverse ages, interests, and backgrounds in support of public art
  • Produce annual meetings/spring events that examine topics of local and timely interest
  • Understand audiences through ongoing qualitative and quantitative analytics and assessments
  • Routinely evaluate programs, platforms, digital strategies, and analytics for effectiveness and efficiency

Fundraising, Donor Stewardship and Membership

The Executive Director will:

  • Oversee strategies for the identification, cultivation, solicitation, tracking, and stewardship of donors
  • Increase interest and support from individuals, corporations, government, and foundations
  • Increase aPA’s membership and donor base through communications and engagement and programs
  • Promote a culture of philanthropy at the aPA Board level
  • Encourage opportunities for donation and acquisition of major works of public art
  • Develop individual donor prospects with Board involvement
  • Expand The Conservation Society by emphasizing the preservation of our historic collection
  • Increase corporate support through “Partners in Public Art” and in-kind contributions
  • Cultivate multi-year foundation support for special projects 

Leadership and Governance

The Executive Director will:

  • Build organizational capacity through leadership, governance, management, and expertise
  • Support active Board committee work and provide opportunities for leadership development
  • Develop staff leadership to enhance the capacity of aPA’s curatorial and management team
  • Routinely review governance policies and guidelines

Routinely review staff positions, responsibilities, and organizational exigencies

  • Review staff compensation and benefits with Board Chair and Finance Committee Chair, using comparative wage and benefits surveys
  • Support staff professional development, activities, and affiliations

Financial Stability

The Executive Director will:

  • Sustain financial stability and growth to benefit aPA’s mission
  • Oversee investment practices and financial policies, services, costs, filings, and compliance
  • Review operating and program income, and expense statements and metrics
  • Review the annual Financial Plan and Audit with Board officers
  • Oversee annual reporting at the local, state, and federal levels
  • Maintain ERISA compliance through annual review of best practices, including benchmarking

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