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Network On Demand: Leading the Way – Executive Directors
Executive Directors are the leaders of non-profit organizations managing day-to-day operations, setting the vision, shaping the future, and steering their team to execute the mission of the organization. They must have a clear vision, implement a strategic plan, and effectively communicate that vision to their staff and Board of Directors, amongst a multitude of other responsibilities. These leadership skills aren’t developed overnight, and the pathways to this role often consist of a wide range of experiences, supportive mentors, and access to tools and resources. Watch as our panelists share the insight they have gained from their unique career paths and discover what steps you can take to become a leader in arts administration!
Jennifer Bielstein, Executive Director, American Conservatory Theater
Jennifer Bielstein (she/her) is the executive director of American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.). She serves on the board of Theatre Forward, as a member of the International Women’s Forum and the San Francisco Mayor’s Economic Recovery Task Force, and is the immediate past-president of the League of Resident Theatres (LORT) and founding chair of its Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee. Prior to coming to A.C.T. Bielstein was the managing director of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Actors Theatre of Louisville, and Writers Theatre in Chicago. She also worked for Steppenwolf Theatre, About Face Theatre, Northlight Theatre, and the Lincoln Park Zoo, and served on the boards of the League of Chicago Theatres, the Arts and Cultural Attractions Council, and other civic boards. She has received the Center for Nonprofit Excellence’s Pyramid Award of Excellence in Leadership and is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Bellarmine University.
Tiffani Gavin, Executive Director, Eugene O’Neill Theater Center
Tiffani Gavin brings more than 25 years of experience in theater administration and producing to her new position as Executive Director of the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. After beginning her career in general management at The Public Theater in NY and as a company manager at Blue Man Group, she went on to hold leadership positions in both nonprofit and commercial theater organizations, including Clear Channel Entertainment and the American Repertory Theater. She’s been the Manager of the Marquis Theatre on Broadway and has managed productions such as the National Tour of The Phantom of the Opera. As an Executive Producer for Clear Channel Entertainment and later as the General Manager/VP of Production at Martian Entertainment she commissioned and developed new work by emerging artists across the U.S. and internationally. While producing at Clear Channel, her broad portfolio included Broadway and off-Broadway productions as well as national tours. Among them were Ragtime (National Tour), The Producers (Broadway, National Tour), Hairspray (Broadway, National Tour), Sweet Charity (2005 Broadway Revival), Gumboots (National Tour, European Tour), Squeezebox (Off-Broadway), and Contact (National Tour). She was also the Sr. Director of Professional and International Licensing for Theatrical Rights Worldwide where she acquired and licensed secondary performing rights for musicals such as Monty Python’s Spamalot and The Color Purple. Tiffani is a native of East Norriton, PA, and has a B.A. from Brown University in both Sociology as well as in Modern Culture and Media with a focus in Mass Media and Cultural Representation.
Sheila Lewandowski, Executive Director, Chocolate Factory Theater
Sheila Lewandowski is the Executive Director and a co-founder of The Chocolate Factory Theater. In addition to her work at The Chocolate Factory Sheila is a community organizer and advocate for artists, and works to increase awareness of the importance of the arts in policy making in everything from education to housing to economic development and in regards to labor on a local, regional, state and national level. She is on the Executive Committee of Community Board 2 in Queens and chairs the Transportation Committee where she is known for her work for equity, accessibility and equality in land use and zoning laws, housing, development, access to resources and increasing community engagement. Sheila is a member of the CAN Steering Committee of Nonprofit New York and has been a guest professor at the Academy of Theater & Dance in Amsterdam and Marymount Manhattan College in NYC. She has been a guest speaker and panelist on topics ranging from Nonprofit Management to community organizing and development for Van Alen Institute, Dance NYC, LIC Partnership, WNYC among others.
Teresa Coleman Wash, Executive Artistic Director, Bishop Arts Theatre Center
is a producer, writer, and founding artistic director for the Bishop Arts Theatre Center whose mission is to cultivate a diverse and vibrant arts community while creating opportunities for local and emerging artists through performance and education. She is the 2019 recipient of the Theater Communications Group’s prestigious Peter Zeisler Memorial Award for artistic excellence and in 2018, she received the National Guild for Community Arts Education’s Milestone Award. Wash is a National Arts Strategies and Dallas Public Voices fellow who studied at Harvard Business School. She holds an MA in Arts Management from Goucher College and a BBA in Business Administration from Albany State University. Mrs. Wash has also earned several Irma P. Hall Awards including the 2020 Irma P. Hall Theatrical Excellence Medal. Teresa was elected to the Dramatists Guild of America Council in 2017 representing the Southern region where she also served on the steering committee.
Heather Hitchens, President & CEO – American Theatre Wing
Heather A. Hitchens is a nationally recognized arts leader with nearly 30 years of arts administration, policy, and program development experience.
Hitchens began her tenure as President and CEO of the American Theatre Wing in 2011. As the Wing’s chief executive officer, she is charged with maintaining its brand of excellence in the Tony Awards as well as overseeing and shaping its other vital grant making, professional development, educational, and media programs. All of these programs are focused on advancing theatre artists and professionals at ALL stages on the stage and behind the scenes. During her tenure at the Wing, the Organization’s budget has tripled, and its investment in programs has more than tripled. The Organization and Hitchens herself has also earned two Emmy nominations for the Wing’s “Working in the Theatre” docu-series.
Hitchens came to the Wing after a four-year term as Executive Director of the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), the largest state arts agency in the country. An appointee of Governor Eliot Spitzer, Hitchens oversaw the distribution of over $123 million in grants to more than 2,000 New York State organizations in every artistic discipline while at NYSCA. She also fostered closer collaboration and partnerships between the arts and other sectors including tourism, economic development, and parks, and in collaboration with a number of public and private funding sources, launched the New York State Cultural Data Project, which is developing more comprehensive and reliable data about the impact of the arts in the state.
Prior to her leadership of NYSCA, Hitchens served as President of the renowned national arts service organization Meet The Composer for nearly a decade. There, she served as a passionate advocate for composers revitalizing the organization’s artistic programs and strengthening its financial standing by establishing a multi-million dollar endowment fund and fostering a manyfold increase in individual giving. Hitchens also served as CEO of the Delaware Symphony Orchestra and worked in the development department of the American Music Theatre Festival.
Ms. Hitchens currently serves as an Adjunct Professor at Baruch College in the M.A. in Arts Administration program, and at SUNY New Paltz in the undergraduate Theatre Arts program. She holds a M.S. in Arts Administration from Drexel University and a B.M. in Percussion/Music Business from DePauw University.
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The Network provides emerging and developing theatre professionals advanced education, networking opportunities, and tools for career advancement within a supportive creative community.