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Senior Program Officer - Arts & Creativity

Barr Foundation
Job Title: Senior Program Officer - Arts & Creativity
Job Type:
Job Search Ends:
April 26th, 2019
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About The Barr Foundation:

The Barr Foundation’s mission is to invest in human, natural and creative potential, serving as thoughtful stewards and catalysts. As stewards, the Barr Foundation (“Barr” or “the Foundation”) nurtures and enhances vital community assets. As catalysts, the Foundation cultivates and advances the breakthrough ideas that will shape our collective future. In all that the Barr Foundation does, it focuses on achieving impact as a constructive partner, willing to exercise leadership.

Based in Boston, Barr focuses regionally, and selectively engages nationally, working in partnership with nonprofits, foundations, the public sector and civic and business leaders to elevate the arts and creative expression, advance solutions for climate change and expand educational opportunity. With assets of more than $1.8 billion and annual grantmaking budget of $90 million for 2019, the Barr Foundation is one of the largest private foundations in New England.

A set of core values defined by the founders express the Barr Foundation’s beliefs about what constitutes effective philanthropy and guide how it carries out its philanthropic mission. Barr is committed to strive for excellence, invest in leaders, act with humility, adopt a long-term perspective, embrace risk and demonstrate curiosity. Additionally, while each of its programs is guided by distinct priorities and goals, in all aspects of work at Barr, it embraces a common set of approaches, namely: flexibility and nimbleness, a broad range of tools, knowledge and learning, openness and transparency and active collaboration. The Foundation understands that diversity, equity and inclusion are critical to achieving its goals, and is striving to build its own knowledge and practice to reflect this commitment.

Arts & Creativity Program

The Barr Foundation believes that art transforms the way we engage with the world. It brings beauty and meaning into our lives. Creativity can transcend conventions and generate new ideas, alternatives and possibilities. Arts and creativity have the power to connect people from disparate backgrounds, to deepen our understanding of our dynamic environment, and to help us imagine new, better, different futures.

Against a backdrop of rapidly changing demographics, technological advancements and evolving art forms, Barr’s Arts & Creativity program seeks to invest in bold ideas and leaders. The Foundation’s overarching goal in Arts & Creativity is to elevate the arts and creative expression, to engage and inspire a dynamic, thriving Massachusetts. The Barr Foundation pursues this goal through three strategies: advancing the capacity to adapt, take risks and engage changing audiences in new ways; fostering opportunities to connect the arts to other disciplines and sectors; and activating public support for the arts. Throughout these strategies, Barr seeks to lift up, recognize, and connect the social, political, and cultural contexts and lived experiences of diverse communities.

In 2018, Barr’s Arts & Creativity program launched its three newest initiatives: Creative Commonwealth, ArtsAmplified and the Barr-Klarman Massachusetts Arts Initiative. These initiatives, while diverse in design, share a common goal of building a more vibrant arts ecosystem and connecting communities in Massachusetts.

Creative Commonwealth is rooted in a partnership between Barr and five community foundations, representing an investment of over $7.5 million over six years. Together, they seek to build local networks for arts and culture, to support immigrant and under-represented communities, and to help the creative sector become more equitable and accessible statewide.

ArtsAmplified is a $30 million, six-year effort that is an investment in 15 leading arts organizations across Massachusetts dedicated to creating art and arts experiences that strengthen their communities. ArtsAmplified is an active laboratory that explores the confluence of four concepts that Barr considers vital to the future of arts organizations– artistic excellence, relevance, risk taking and civic leadership.

Barr-Klarman Massachusetts Arts Initiative is a $25 million investment over six years in 29 Massachusetts arts organizations to strengthen their financial health, capacity to adapt and change, and cultural competency. These organizations, representing diverse artistic disciplines, form a cohort of learners, working together to thrive in rapidly changing communities.

In 2019 and the years to come, Barr will continue deepening its work through the development of additional initiatives rooted in the Foundation’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, with a near-term focus on creative placemaking and the ecosystem of support for individual artists.

To learn more about the Barr Foundation, please visit barrfoundation.org.

The Opportunity:

The Senior Program Officer will play a significant role during an exciting time of growth for the Arts & Creativity Program. The Senior Program Officer will focus on implementing two strategies in particular: advancing the field’s capacity to adapt, take risks and engage changing audiences in new ways; and fostering opportunities to connect the arts to other disciplines and sectors.

Barr’s Arts & Creativity Program has an ambitious agenda, and the Senior Program Officer is a new position, joining a team consisting of the Director for Arts & Creativity, a Program Officer and a Program Assistant.

The Senior Program Officer will play a key role in designing and implementing new initiatives. S/he will play a lead role in identifying, developing, supporting and evaluating potential grantees, partners and potential funding opportunities and work with the Director for Arts & Creativity to effectively communicate potential grants and their impact and lessons to the Trustees and to the broader field. This work will be done through extensive conversation and network building with current and prospective grantees and leaders in the field. The Senior Program Officer will report to the Director for Arts & Creativity, San San Wong.

Key responsibilities of the Senior Program Officer include:

Planning and Strategy

  • Serve as a thought partner on the team by continually assessing the environment and bringing new knowledge that will inform implementation of the program’s strategies;
  • Work with the Director and team to design, implement and evaluate new initiatives; and
  • Maintain a wide breadth and depth of knowledge about artistic practice, organizational effectiveness and development, current trends, professional practices and policy pertinent to the program.


  • Scout and identify potential grantees and field-building opportunities, and conduct due diligence to ascertain fit and potential risks;
  • Work with potential grantees in proposal development to help design requests that are strategic and pivotal to an organization’s development; improve the quality of proposals; and evaluate and provide feedback on the feasibility and clarity of plans and outcomes;
  • Evaluate proposals, conduct site visits, monitor and manage active grants, assess their progress and communicate actively with grantees. Work with Foundation’s grants management team to administer grants from start to finish;
  • Develop and present quality grant write-ups, written analyses and reports for Foundation leadership, reflective of rigorous evaluations of grant recommendations and the context for this work;
  • Manage the evaluation of grants or grant clusters, in collaboration with Foundation staff who are leading the learning and evaluation activities; and
  • Lead or support convenings, workshops or other opportunities for learning and collaborative work among grantees and other partners.

Field Leadership

  • Cultivate strong working relationships with grantees, outside advisors, experts in the field, public sector partners and colleagues in philanthropy;
  • Organize meetings and convenings of field experts to share best practices, encourage collaboration and explore strategies for collective impact;
  • Provide leadership in the Senior Program Officer’s professional field through public speaking engagements, writing, panel discussions and use of social media, etc.;
  • Commission papers, program-related reports and videos and podcasts that broadly contribute to the Foundation’s understanding of new approaches, best practices and issues in Arts & Creativity relevant to the program’s interests; and
  • Collaborate with the Foundation’s communications team to disseminate information with the goal of advancing field knowledge.

Candidate Profile:

The Senior Program Officer will possess the following professional and personal attributes and competencies:

Strategic Thinking, Intellectual Curiosity and Execution

The Senior Program Officer thinks strategically, takes initiative and executes strategies, possessing the ability to define program objectives, evaluate progress and independently manage projects through a complete lifecycle. S/he brings exceptional quantitative and qualitative analytical skills necessary for identifying investment opportunities, assessing organizational health and capacity, designing and evaluating initiatives and evaluating proposals and outcomes. S/he possesses the knowledge and skills to analyze complex organizational and community conditions, understand policy and assess political and community dynamics; and brings knowledge of organizational development and the ability to assist in the creation of comprehensive approaches.

Passionate and Knowledgeable about Arts and Creativity

The Senior Program Officer embraces the belief that arts and creativity are fundamental and necessary for the health of the human spirit and shares a sense of urgency to amplify the arts’ role in communities and society today. S/he understands the artistic and creative process and is able to apply inherent elements – such as creative problem-solving, comfort with ambiguity and rigorous inquiry, conveying relevance and meaning, learning and iteration, and deep listening and collaboration, among others – to develop strategic and innovative investments to address ecosystem challenges. S/he will have experience working with the arts, culture and/or creative sectors and bring a deep knowledge of leading practices and trends.

Relationship Building and Collaboration

The Senior Program Officer builds and sustains strong and collaborative relationships with diverse constituencies, including both internal and external stakeholders. S/he also successfully develops partnerships outside the organization to advance the Foundation’s strategic priorities. S/he is a demonstrated team player who will be seen as a trusted advisor to grantees and partner organizations. S/he employs a collegial approach to sharing ideas and receiving feedback, considering new ideas, encouraging open dialogue and inspiring people to work towards common goals. S/he will have both humility and the strength of character to work effectively with other strong leaders in positive partnership.

Leading Through Influence

The Senior Program Officer brings a broad understanding of how the arts can be used as a vehicle to strengthen communities. Working in close collaboration with Foundation staff and trustees, s/he will help achieve the greatest possible impact through the Foundation’s grantmaking to support the arts landscape in the region. S/he possesses excellent writing and presentation skills including the ability to write clearly and succinctly under time pressure and to make well-organized, strong, verbal presentations to diverse constituencies in a variety of settings. Additionally, s/he will be seen as a key set of eyes and ears on the ground, sharing relevant research and findings with the team.

Understanding of and Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)

The Senior Program Officer will play a critical role in prioritizing and advancing equity as driver for the entire arts sector and supporting the Foundation’s efforts to strengthen DEI in its own work and culture. The Senior Program Officer’s leadership in DEI will need to be inherent in all aspects of this role, including efforts to build a diverse and inclusive workforce, strategies that create a pipeline for equitable leadership within the field and investing in programming and strategies that promote diversity and inclusion in all communities the Foundation serves. The Senior Program Officer brings relevant experience, expertise, an innovative and open mindset and a commitment to inclusive and equitable practices in his/her approach.

Commitment to the Mission

The Senior Program Officer will have a deep appreciation for the Foundation’s commitment to philanthropy. S/he will stay true to the values of the Foundation, inspiring and motivating others to embody them. The ideal candidate is an individual of high integrity, ethical standards and one who maintains confidentiality. S/he is committed to acting with humility, striving for excellence, adopting a long-term perspective and embracing risk – all of which are a reflection of Barr values.

Experience in philanthropy is a plus, but not required.  


Koya Leadership Partners has been exclusively retained for this search. Koya is an executive search firm that works exclusively with mission-driven clients. Anne McCarthy, Alison Ranney and Steve Fundarek are leading the engagement.

To make recommendations or to express your interest in this role, please email Anne, Alison and Steve directly at koyachicago@koyapartners.com. All inquiries and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.

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