Executive Director

Executive Director

Living Arts

Detroit, MI   |   December 4, 2020

About Living Arts

Living Arts has built a strong foundation and reputation over the last twenty years by delivering high quality arts education experiences to young people from 3 months to 18 years of age and the educators and families that support them. Our team is aligned around our values and mission and we are heading into this executive leadership transition from a position of strong financial stability and with a commitment to the continued deepening of our mission through a racial justice lens.

We have made great strides toward our collective vision, supported by a $1.1 million budget, over the last few years– by acknowledging the value of teaching artistry with the highest hourly rate in the region and with our wide-spread relationships with organizations, municipalities, schools, and community spaces across Detroit.

Building on our strengths, we strive to achieve deeper engagement with young people and provide more opportunities in the future for artists’ advancement, work, mentorship, and professional development.

At Living Arts, we envision a future in which all youth have access to engaging, high-quality arts experiences, so they can lead with confidence and empathy, drawing strength from their cultures and communities. The leader of our team of 12 board members, 10 staff, and 40 contractual Teaching Artists, will share our alignment with three core values:

  • Respect for Young People | Directed by youth voice, we honor the self-determination of young people of all ages and commit to the creation of meaningful exchange based on developmentally appropriate practice.
  • Respect for Relationships | In community with one another, we remain responsive to the visions that families, organizations, educators, funders, and individuals bring to the work. We commit to co-creation with one another as we grow.
  • Respect for Artistic Excellence | Knowing that artists are uniquely positioned to develop young people and push challenging boundaries, we demand inquiry around the role of the arts as it intersects with education and community. We commit to the professional development and advancement of the teaching artist profession.

Our youth, teaching artists, parents, board members, and staff describe our organization as “Evolving,” “Impact,” “Vital,” “Powerful,” Opportunity,” “Growing,” and as “A Home.”

For more information on Living Arts please visit www.livingartsdetroit.org.

The Opportunity

We are looking for a passionate, visionary leader who can continue to evolve and carry out Living Arts’ mission to ignite creativity in the lives of Detroit youth through the performing, visual, and media arts.

Our next leader must be able to build on our fundamental strengths with a critical eye toward program development, execution, and evaluation. The person we seek will root the community at the center of programs and have a clear vision for the power of the arts for Black and Brown youth.

We are in a moment where our current leadership team has explicitly offered flexibility and support for our next Director, so the role will be resourced with facilitated connections and guidance to the degree the next leader desires and needs. This new leader will be the next person to build a clear pathway for the teaching artist and staff team to align and execute their vision.

As an organization, we know that being the Executive Director–and finding the right person for this moment in our organization–is of the utmost importance. That is why we have committed to an emergent process and are working alongside our current Executive Director and team, supported by a search committee representative of our stakeholders, to conduct this search in the most intentional fashion possible. We desire to attract someone who understands the importance of this kind of transition work, particularly at this moment.

The success of this individual will be measured through the effective delivery of high-quality programs, financial sustainability, performance of the team, and an increase in the public’s knowledge of the work of Living Arts. Attaining organizational goals and meeting roles and responsibilities listed below will be of utmost importance.

Who You Are

You are a leader who has deep passion for the arts, culturally-relevant education, and an understanding of young people in the City of Detroit. You embrace complexity and have the ability to co-create a unified and strong vision around staying relevant in, with, and to the community–while serving more young people, educators, and families across the region. At the same time, you have the skills and drive to keep the operational side of the organization going — by managing programs, leading fundraising efforts, and monitoring the organization’s financial health.

You are naturally at ease and engender comfort in rooms with young people, parents, artists, educators, and our philanthropic partners; have respect for fundraising, communications, and finance; maintain a learning mindset; are able to lead and mentor artists; and have a proven and developed perspective about the complexities of running a successful nonprofit arts and education organization. We expect that you will have expertise in the performing, visual, or media arts and/or PreK-12 educational systems, identify closely with the City of Detroit, and be reflective of the communities we serve.

Our stakeholders (youth, families, artists, staff, board, educators, community members, and funders) believe that success in the role will require an established record of leadership (in formal and/or informal capacities), as well as the abilities to set and articulate a clear vision; engage staff, Teaching Artists, and volunteer leadership around that vision; and hold the mission at the center of the work.

Candidate Profile

While no one candidate will possess every quality outlined for this position, the successful candidate will bring many of the following professional qualifications and personal attributes:

Programs & Evaluation (35%)

  • Work with the Program team to define success, develop program improvements, structure evaluation, stay on track with grant deliverables, and report yearly impact
  • Cultivate, solicit, and expand appropriate program partnerships to strengthen Living Arts’ program model(s). Monitor and increase contract service income by developing an appropriate model for the current market
  • Help develop training, reporting, quality assurance, and support protocols for Teaching Artists
  • Support Program Managers with Teaching Artist communications, problem solving, HR issues, and resource allocation
  • Maintain and increase contract service income by developing an appropriate model for the current market
  • Synthesize yearly evaluation into deliverable reports for funders and the public
  • Maintain and expand partnerships with local, regional, and national arts, education, youth, and advocacy organizations
  • Communicate program changes with the team and the Board of Directors

Development (30%)

  • Oversee and support the Director of Development on development goals and deliverables including: grants, sponsorships, individual and major gifts, board contributions, and events
  • Develop, with the Development Committee, a yearly fundraising plan that includes new prospects in each area by:
    • Maintaining strong relationships with grant managers, foundation staff, corporate partners, and individuals
    • Assessing potential feasibility and alignment of partner with Living Arts’ programs
    • Contributing to the creation of budgets, narratives, revisions, and reports as prepared by the Director of Development
    • Ensuring commitments are aligned with the program vision, values, and strategic plans
    • Ensuring reports accurately represent the work accomplished and are submitted on time
    • Providing support to the Director of Development, Event Planner, and Event Committee around the annual event and serve as the primary driver for sponsorship
    • Meeting with each board member individually to identify and check in on progress for give-get goals for the year and checking in quarterly
    • Serving on the Development Committee
    • Communicating Development-related information with the team and Board of Directors

Finance & Administration (20%)

  • Oversee and support the Director of Administration on financial and administrative goals and deliverables
  • In partnership with the team and Board Treasurer, prepare the annual organizational budget for approval before the fiscal year begins
  • Oversee the organization’s finances including budget monitoring, income and expense reports, asset growth, and cash flow projections
  • Ensure expenditures are classed to the appropriate funder
  • Monitor financial policies and procedures and make recommendations for improvement
  • Serve on the Finance Committee
  • Communicate changes with the team and Board of Directors and develop plans when sudden changes (positive or negative) in financial health occurs
  • Help the board identify new Board prospects and on-board new board members
  • Monitor and update HR policies and procedures
  • Oversee hiring and if necessary, letting go, of staff and contract employees

Coaching and Mentorship (10%)

  • Build and hone team culture, with focus on equity and leadership development
  • Build and hone skill sets of individual team members
  • Recruit professional facilitators, build agendas, and oversee the execution of professional development opportunities
  • Review team members annually and set compensation structure to match performance

Advocacy (5%)

  • Support policy and funding efforts locally, regionally, and nationally that impact the arts and education by presenting at community meetings, writing opinion pieces, and meeting with elected officials

In addition, strong candidates will offer:

  • Deep and demonstrated commitment to arts, education, and communities of color–notably in the City of Detroit
  • Demonstrated skills in achieving strategic objectives while managing multidisciplinary projects with wisdom and self-awareness
  • Demonstrated ability to coach staff, manage and develop high performance teams of diverse people
  • Ease of being with different people, ability to manage challenging situations with ease
  • Ability and willingness to balance many competing priorities at once including programming, fundraising, coaching and mentorship, and communications
  • Excellent and effective communication skills with a multitude of people (artists, staff, board, young people, families, educators, funders, press)
  • Knowledge of the languages and cultures of the young people in our programs.
  • An understanding and vision for the intersection of art, education, and social/racial justice
  • A commitment to building and maintaining strong relationships with partners
  • Understanding/connection to the development of culturally-relevant education
  • Connection to virtual education, distance learning, and educational design
  • Board development experience
Compensation & Benefits

The salary range for this position is $80,000 – $90,000 with benefits that include medical/dental/optical insurance, retirement, and generous time off.


Living Arts has engaged Koya Partners to help in this hire. Please submit a compelling cover letter and resume to Alicia Salerno here.


Living Arts is an equal opportunity employer and strongly encourages applications from people of color, persons with disabilities, women, and LGBTQ+ applicants.

About Koya Partners

Koya Partners, a part of the Diversified Search Group, is a leading executive search and strategic advising firm dedicated to connecting exceptionally talented people with mission-driven clients. Our founding philosophy—The Right Person in the Right Place Can Change the World—guides our work as we partner with nonprofits & NGOs, institutions of higher education, responsible businesses, and social enterprises in local communities and around the world.

At Koya, we don’t just accept difference—we celebrate it, support it, and thrive on it for the benefit of our team, our clients, and the communities we serve.

Koya is an equal opportunity employer fully committed to creating an environment and team that represents a variety of backgrounds, perspectives, styles, and experiences. We encourage all to apply because we believe a diversity of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone. Koya does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, age, sexual orientation, military status, veteran status, genetic information, gender identity, or any other characteristic protected by applicable federal, state, or local law.

For more information about Koya Partners, visit www.koyapartners.com.