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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 are smaller gatherings for the executive and deputy/assistant directors of state and jurisdictional arts agencies. These meetings are opportunities for in-depth, professionally facilitated dialogue about the most pressing issues facing state arts agencies. The emphasis is 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 and jurisdictional arts agency and regional arts organization 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.

Date and Location

Institute of American Indian Arts. Photo by Marinainusa/Wikimedia Commons

December 4 – 6, 2023

Santa Fe, New Mexico

The 2023 Executive Forum begins with a special session on December 4 for new executive directors. This invitation-only event is tailored specifically for recent appointees. All new or interim executive directors appointed since September 2022 should plan to arrive no later than Sunday evening, December 3.

The full forum for all executive and deputy/assistant directors begins the evening of December 4 and runs for two full days on December 5 and 6. See the tentative agenda to inform your arrival and departure times. Santa Fe is a wonderful community with an abundance of cultural offerings to explore. All forum participants are encouraged to arrive early or stay late to take advantage of this creative destination.


Online registration for the NASAA 2023 Executive Form is now closed.

If you plan to attend but missed the registration cutoff, please contact NASAA Learning Services Manager Eric Giles no later than Thursday, November 30.

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 focuses on priority issues facing executive and deputy directors in their public-sector leadership roles. The program equips state arts agencies to succeed in navigating complex issues such as:

Today’s Policy Environment

Identify emerging policy trends affecting state arts agencies as well as strategic partnerships that can strengthen our work.

Serving All Constituents

Exchange ideas for the design of responsive programs and ways of reducing barriers to support.

Funding Practices

Learn about grant-making innovations, panel adjudication practices, legislative earmarks and more.


Find out how your colleagues in other states are coping with workforce shortages and staff burnout while building resilient staff teams.

Emergent Issues

The agenda allows opportunities for discussion of topics that arise organically from the group and have timely relevance to participants.

Banner art by Steve Johnson; photo courtesy Tourism Santa Fe