89638 Requisition #

Stanford University seeks a Vice President for the Arts to oversee a dynamic portfolio of key arts organizations on its campus and to create a shared sense of purpose among them. In recent years, Stanford has significantly invested in the arts by creating an Arts District and establishing the Office of the Vice President for the Arts. This role presents an opportunity for an arts leader to elevate and integrate the arts at one of the world’s premier academic and research institutions, and to build bridges and foster community across the campus, in the Bay Area, and nationally.


Reporting to the President, the VP will collaborate across Stanford’s professional, academic, and public communities to bring forward a comprehensive, future-facing vision and plan for the arts at the university. At a time of accelerating change in and around the arts, and increasing expectations placed upon arts institutions, the VP will be entrusted with advocating for and manifesting the arts as an essential part of Stanford’s identity and mission.


Stanford is actively implementing a recently-adopted long-range vision: Fueled by optimism, ingenuity and a sense of responsibility, we seek to accelerate our purposeful impact in the world. The VP will develop a strategy for how the arts can best contribute to that long-range vision, drawing inspiration from overarching themes developed through university analyses:


  • First, in a society that has experienced health crises, isolation, technological mediation, economic fractures, civil unrest, and political discord, the arts can provide a way of connecting, processing, and recognizing our purpose. There are corresponding opportunities to redeploy Stanford’s human and organizational assets with a renewed focus on people, community, emotional and physical wellbeing, and engagement.


  • Second, the arts have a specific and powerful role to play in advancing social justice and catalyzing culture change. Art can strengthen our individual and collective capacities for empathy and action, and help usher in the kinds of transformation the world needs. Artists and those who bring their works into the public arena can be leaders in helping to imagine better futures.


  • Third, with its unique talents and resources, Stanford has a role to play in fueling the evolution of the arts and providing broad access to them, both on the campus and beyond it. Notably, Stanford can nurture new creative voices, connect the arts to various creative and scientific disciplines, and consistent with its larger mission, serve as a hub for innovation, research, and reflection around the arts.


These themes have both programmatic and operational implications. In addition, the Vice President for the Arts will be expected to foster equitable, inclusive, healthy organizational cultures and structures that can bring meaningful artistic experiences to life.


There is strong constituency alignment and excitement around the aforementioned themes. Stanford will be able to magnify its impact in the arts through establishing a clear intention that is right for the current moment. Continuing investment in the vibrancy and accessibility of the arts at Stanford, overseen by the VP, will enhance the university experience to the benefit of students, faculty, staff, alumni, artists, neighbors, and visitors.


About Stanford Arts and the Vice Presidency for the Arts


Over the last fifteen years Stanford has made the arts a priority. Through the transformative Stanford Arts Initiative (2006-2011), the university raised funds for new programs and curricula, added faculty positions, created graduate arts fellowships, and made significant capital improvements to provide exceptional teaching, exhibition, and performance venues.


The most visible aspect of the Arts Initiative is the Arts District, which includes the Bing Concert Hall (2013), the Anderson Collection at Stanford University (2014), the McMurtry Building for the Department of Art and Art History (2015), Roble Gym (renovated with performance spaces and a drop-in creative space in 2016) and Frost Amphitheater (renovated in 2019). These arts facilities joined Stanford’s existing art museum, the Cantor Arts Center (established 1894; renovated 1999). The proximity and density of these arts facilities in the Arts District provides for dynamic interactions among them. The Arts District’s location at the front of the campus highlights the importance the university has placed on the arts.


The Office of the Vice President for the Arts (VPA) was created in 2017 to raise the visibility and impact of the arts on campus. It consists of five units, along with a central office. Three of these units (the Cantor Arts Center, the Anderson Collection at Stanford University, and Stanford Live, which operates Bing Concert Hall and Frost Amphitheater) offer exhibitions, performances, and programs to a broad audience drawn from the Stanford community as well as the greater San Francisco Bay Area. Two of the units are smaller interdisciplinary academic institutes that primarily serve specific campus communities, although each one engages externally as well: the Institute for Diversity in the Arts (advancing interdisciplinary curricula and student engagement with a focus on social justice and communities of color) and the Stanford Arts Institute (emphasizing interdisciplinary arts research and curricula). The central VPA office offers support for student extracurricular arts activities and provides infrastructural support (finance, HR, digital services) to the VPA units.



Although the role of Vice President for the Arts has been in existence for several years, the incoming VP will be the first one to serve in a full-time appointment. This is a senior staff role, reporting directly to the President as a member of the President’s cabinet. Currently, the VP has the following direct reports: the directors of Cantor, Anderson, and Stanford Live; the faculty directors of the Institute for Diversity in the Arts and the Stanford Arts Institute; the Assistant Vice President for the Arts; and the Senior Director for Finance and Operations. The VP also works closely with the Senior Director of Arts Communications (University Communications) and the Executive Director, Development for the Arts (Office of Development).


The VP will collaborate closely with the Dean of the School of Humanities & Sciences and the Senior Associate Dean for Humanities & Arts, who oversee the academic arts departments of Art & Art History, Music, and Theater & Performance Studies, as well as the Creative Writing program. To ensure strategic integration of the arts, the VP will also collaborate closely with the Vice President and Chief External Relations Officer and his team, as well as with the Vice Provost for Student Affairs. In addition, the VP will work with leaders of campus arts programs outside the VPA structure to ensure open and effective communication and to support the broader campus arts community. This set of relationships includes the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education (which houses some undergraduate and residential arts programs) and the Office of Campus Engagement in the President’s Office.


Finally, the VP will work closely with the Stanford Arts Advisory Council, the role of which is to help shape and advance the university’s efforts in the arts by providing informed external perspectives on goals, priorities and programs; by helping provide and obtain financial support; and by advocating on the VPA’s behalf both within and beyond the Stanford community.


Opportunities and Challenges


The VP will be charged with shaping the future of the arts at Stanford in a way that takes full advantage of the specificity of the university: its intellectual resources, its location in the San Francisco Bay Area, its natural setting, and the breadth of the audiences it engages. The VP will work closely with faculty, students, alumni, and community members to evaluate opportunities for growth and innovation, and will guide and support leaders of the VPA units in developing a collective strategy for increased impact.


Stanford’s VPA units are operating at a high level of achievement. Excellent programs are being delivered across the units, sustained by the contributions of talented and dedicated staff, engaged students and faculty, and supportive donors (see the 2020 digital annual report for an overview). Understandably, all VPA units have had to pivot during COVID-19. Even so, they have continued to find ways to nurture creativity and engage audiences. With this strong foundation in place, the VP will be responsible for envisioning and spearheading the next phase for the arts at Stanford, embedding it in the university-wide planning effort underway to execute on the long-range vision.


The incoming VP will tackle the following specific opportunities and challenges:


Negotiating Autonomy + Connection

The leader of the VPA will support and amplify the activities of units that necessarily have a high degree of independence and multiple existing stakeholders. The VP will need to cultivate a productive balance of autonomy and coordination, so that each unit’s distinct strengths may contribute meaningfully to a holistic arts portfolio.


In addition, one of the VPA’s most prominent units, the Cantor Arts Center, is in the midst of a leadership transition. A director search process is slated to run slightly behind this Vice President search. This presents an opportunity for the VPA to be part of a change in senior arts leadership that will bring a fresh perspective and new energy. It is anticipated that the successful VP candidate will finalize the appointment of the Cantor director.


Strengthening Ties to Stanford’s Academic and Creative Environment

The VP will need to cultivate a productive and collaborative relationship with academic arts leadership and faculty. The more academic-facing arts units of the VPA—notably, the Institute for Diversity in the Arts and Stanford Arts Institute—form a bridge between the VPA and the academic community. Feedback from faculty confirms that there is an opportunity to strengthen the engagement of existing VPA programs with current departmental work, and to invest in the creative research and practice of Stanford’s arts faculty both on campus and in the surrounding Bay area creative community.


A similar set of opportunities can be defined in relation to Stanford’s well-established leadership across the humanities, sciences, medicine, technology, engineering, law, and many other fields. The VP will be expected to identify pathways to encourage interdisciplinary collaboration; to place artists at the center of socio-political issues, scientific investigations, and technological developments; and to strengthen VPA programs through all that the academic environment offers.


Promoting Diversity and Equity

In alignment with Stanford’s IDEAL (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access in a Learning Environment) initiative, the VPA has developed plans to advance goals of anti-racism, equity, and justice in and through the arts. The unique capacity of the arts to forge connections across differences resonates across all of the units in the VPA, forming an underlying commitment in programming and orientation. The Institute for Diversity in the Arts has an especially long and successful track record of stewarding the power of the arts toward social justice. Accordingly, efforts are underway to bolster its capacity and amplify its work.


Ensuring Financial Sustainability

Although the VPA units are operating well, thoughtful attention must be given to ensure their ongoing financial sustainability. The organizations that came out of the 2006-2011 Arts Initiative are still relatively new, so it is vital that these units are given the support they need to grow into integral parts of the university’s landscape. In addition, the facility closures and budget restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic require a renewed effort to ensure that the VPA units are appropriately resourced and positioned to thrive post-pandemic.


Launching the Arts Incubator

The new VP will have the opportunity to develop a recently created Arts Incubator, intended to fund and support exciting projects brought forward by Stanford faculty in the course of their work, often involving collaborators in the VPA or beyond Stanford. This new program will leverage Stanford’s distinctive artistic and intellectual resources as a platform for groundbreaking creative research and practice.  In developing this new Incubator, the VP will be expected to work closely with the two VPA interdisciplinary academic institutes and the Dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences. There are opportunities to forge synergies between arts units and to energize the Stanford community through this effort.


Leadership Profile


The Vice President for the Arts will play an instrumental role in shaping the future of the arts at Stanford, and by extension, in the life of the university’s immediate and neighboring communities. The successful candidate will have the requisite professional stature to position Stanford nationally and globally in setting the agenda around the arts in a time of seismic cultural, political, scientific, economic, and technological change.


Overseeing a sizable portfolio of entities in a prominent research university, the VP must be an effective builder and manager, as well as an astute diplomat—someone who can harness the university’s considerable intellectual and institutional capacities, galvanize collective reflection, and spearhead new strategic initiatives that demonstrate Stanford’s commitment to the arts in the 21st century.


The successful Vice President will have the following set of specific leadership characteristics and working approach:


  • Values and experience aligned with the opportunities for community engagement, social justice, and culture change. This requires an empathetic and people-focused approach, as well as a sensitivity to structural inequities in our society and in the arts specifically, and a commitment to advancing equity and justice.
  • Ability to engage with multiple stakeholders across many different constituencies. The arts bring together students, faculty, staff, creative partners, external community members, donors, and national and international experts—and more. An effective leader will understand the different perspectives of these varied constituents and how to interact with them effectively.
  • An informed understanding of the regional, national, and global arts landscape, with the ability to identify strategic opportunities for Stanford’s specific contributions to the arts field and the wider cultural ecosystem.
  • Ability to synthesize, coordinate, facilitate, support, and advocate for the independent VPA units.
  • Ability to work effectively with various communities, demonstrating how interdependence and collaboration can benefit each unit and the collective, with an approach that is more “rising tide lifts all boats” than “zero-sum”.
  • Responsible stewardship of human and budgetary resources, to ensure financial sustainability overall and to manage the complex logistics of each unit.
  • Adept fundraising skills, with ability to set clear and strategic funding priorities across the arts landscape, and to engage effectively with donor constituents.
  • Experience in establishing and implementing systems to evaluate progress against strategic goals and resulting impact.


The new VP will arrive at Stanford at a turning point for the arts on campus—and in the arts at large. The pandemic and the social justice movements that gained momentum in its wake have made the last year a time of disruption and reckoning for arts organizations of all kinds, both regionally and around the globe. Stanford has the opportunity to play a more proactive role in shaping the arts ecosystem that re-emerges from this experience. The VP can contribute to strategic initiatives that expand the reach of Stanford’s arts impact and put artists at the center of how we re-envision and re-build our community and society.


Professional Qualifications


The successful VP will bring many of the following qualifications, skills, and experiences to the role:


  • A deep, lived passion for working collaboratively with artists and knowledge of the contemporary visual arts and performing arts landscape in the U.S.
  • An interest and sustained career engagement with artistic and cross-disciplinary experimentation, research, and innovation.
  • The ability to engage stakeholders in the development of a collaborative vision, as well as the ability to articulate and communicate that vision to widely varying constituencies.
  • A demonstrated commitment to diversity and inclusion; experience working with and engaging diverse faculty, students, staff, and communities at a grassroots level; and the capacity to create a harmonious environment that welcomes and respects people who represent different racial, ethnic, religious, gender, gender-presentation, sexuality, geographic, cultural, ability, and socioeconomic groups.
  • The ability to lead through influence and persuasion, ideally in a decentralized and matrixed organization.
  • A track record of leadership and management experience within a relevant organization.
  • Experience leading and developing high-performing, talented staff and teams.
  • Success building an organization’s visibility and reputation both locally and nationally.
  • A natural affinity for building relationships and engaging broad networks.
  • Experience and/or appetite for leading and supporting development and fundraising efforts.
  • Strong business acumen and experience managing organizational finances.
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills.
  • A Bachelor’s degree is required; relevant advanced degree a plus.


Applications, Inquiries, and Nominations


Screening of complete applications will begin immediately and continue until the completion of the search process.




Regan Gough and Brett Barbour

Isaacson, Miller

1000 Sansome Street, Suite 300

San Francisco, CA 94111

Phone: 415.655.4900


The job duties listed are typical examples of work performed by positions in this job classification and are not designed to contain or be interpreted as a comprehensive inventory of all duties, tasks, and responsibilities. Specific duties and responsibilities may vary depending on department or program needs without changing the general nature and scope of the job or level of responsibility. Employees may also perform other duties as assigned.
Consistent with its obligations under the law, the University will provide reasonable accommodation to any employee with a disability who requires accommodation to perform the essential functions of his or her job.
Stanford is an equal employment opportunity and affirmative action employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, protected veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law.

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