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NASAA 2023 Executive Forum

Convening state arts agencies is one of the most important services NASAA provides. NASAA is a place where state arts agency staff can come together to learn from one another, share ideas and get energized about the essential work that state arts agencies do.

To support these connections, NASAA will continue to convene Assemblies in even-numbered years. These large conferences gather all state arts agency staff, council members, state arts advocates, and other allies for structured professional development and networking. In odd-numbered years, however, we will try something new!

A New Convening Approach

Starting in 2023, NASAA will switch to an Executive Forum model in alternate years. Executive Forums will be smaller gatherings for the executive and deputy/assistant directors of state and jurisdictional arts agencies. These meetings will be opportunities for in-depth, professionally facilitated dialogue about the most pressing issues facing state arts agencies. The emphasis will be on peer learning and conversations with colleagues.

This change responds to several trends:


The last few years have seen a lot of leadership change within the state arts agency field. Simultaneously, the pandemic disrupted organic opportunities for peer networking. To facilitate meaningful networking, NASAA’s 2023 Executive Forum will create a cohort experience that helps members connect with their counterparts in other states.

Today’s challenges

State arts agencies are grappling with complicated and sensitive issues—the kinds of challenges that require time for reflection and deeper conversations, in a setting where candor and trust can be built. A skillfully facilitated face-to-face forum will address these needs in ways that a typical conference structure cannot.

Capacity constraints

To reduce the budgetary and staff time pressures that traditional conferences place on both NASAA and state arts agencies, we’re seeking a smaller and more flexible convening model.

Geographic reach

Over time, by doing smaller gatherings in alternate years, we can visit more communities that would not be able to host a larger NASAA event.

Who Can Participate?

All state arts agency executive directors (including interim directors) and deputy/assistant directors (including those with different titles who perform deputy director responsibilities) are encouraged to participate. Limiting the forum to these two groups will develop strong leadership teams and help the event focus on strategic directions.

Face to Face

This is an in-person (not a virtual or hybrid) event. NASAA offers abundant virtual opportunities for executive and deputy director peer dialogues as well as online professional development sessions year-round, so our goal is to concentrate on face-to-face interactions during the Executive Forum.

Building relationships with colleagues is essential when creating a community that works to support all the leaders within it. With turnover at a high level in the state arts agency field, it’s particularly important that relationship and trust building be supported in an intentional way. In-person convenings can help us do that far better than virtual or hybrid ones.

We also will be discussing topics during the forum that may move into sensitive areas. To ensure that we create a supportive space to dig into those conversations and keep things in confidence, we are limiting participation to those who can join us in person. No streaming or recording will be conducted. What is said during the forum stays at the forum.

2023 Topics

The Executive Forum agenda will focus on priority issues facing executive and deputy directors. We’ll seek to equip state arts agencies to succeed in navigating issues such as:


Cultivating support and trust across the political spectrum; managing crises; exploring the advocacy latitudes and limitations of state arts agency leaders


Navigating different needs, constraints and “speeds of trust”; dealing with pushback; when influential stakeholders don’t want to relinquish their resources


Coping with staff stress/burnout; building cohesive and resilient staff teams

Emergent issues

What’s arising in real time as we are convening

We hope to leverage the collected experience and knowledge of NASAA’s members to create a collaborative learning experience, so we’ll be inviting executive and deputy director input into the forum agenda. To share suggestions, contact Eric Giles anytime.

Date and Location Coming Soon

The forum will be a three-day event taking place in the late fall or early winter of 2023. Day one will be a special orientation session for new executive directors (appointed after September 2022). Days two and three will engage all executive and deputy directors. Site selection is currently underway. Please stay tuned for additional timing, location and registration details.

Art by Steve Johnson