Barbara Sexton Smith
Photo-Fund for the Arts

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After 3 years as President & CEO of the Fund for the Arts, Barbara Sexton-Smith has announced that she will be retiring after the 2014 fundraising campaign finishes in June. Sexton Smith marked her 16th anniversary with the Fund for the Arts this year.

“We will find a new President & CEO for the Fund, but we will never be able to replace Barbara Sexton Smith”, said Jim Allen, President of the Fund for the Arts Board of Directors. “Nothing would please me more than having Barbara remain in her current role, but as she begins a new chapter in her life we respect and support her decision.”

Sexton-Smith took the reins at the Fund after the controversial departure of long-time CEO Allan Cowen. Her first challenge was responding to vigorous criticism of the Fund’s practices from within the arts community, and much of her focus has been on stabilizing the organization and honing the focus of their mission. She brought her distinctive, high-energy, populist approach to the task with fierce conviction, and, while she may not have resolved all of the issues catalogued by Fund critics, she at least righted the ship and grounded the Fund’s activities more deeply in the community.

During Sexton Smith’s leadership at the Fund, she was nationally recognized with the prestigious Michael Newton Award for Arts Leadership from American for the Arts in 2013, launched the wildly successful power2give online crowd-funding platform for Kentucky/Southern Indiana, and led two consecutive years of growth for the organization. Under Sexton Smith’s leadership, the Fund for the Arts received the 2012 Corey Medallion from the Children’s Theatre Foundation of America.

“Barbara Sexton Smith is one of Louisville’s most energetic and passionate leaders and the Fund for the Arts has benefited enormously from her many years of service,” Mayor Greg Fischer said. “She has a unique ability to sell the importance of the arts to everyone, from welders to CEOs.  Our city is grateful for her visionary and impressive leadership.”

The Fund for the Arts Board of Directors is currently conducting a comprehensive search and reviewing candidates from a local, regional and national pool of talent. As part of the 2013 Strategic Planning Initiative the Board is committed to implementing effective leadership transition strategies for both board and executive management leadership.  Sexton Smith will stay engaged throughout the process to ensure a smooth, normal transition.

“This is an amazing job!” said Sexton Smith. “There is someone out there ready to take on this mantle of leadership and help the Fund for the Arts reach new heights; and I am excited to see who that will be.  I may be leaving the Fund for the Arts, but I am not leaving the Louisville Arts Community.”

Fund for the Arts is the oldest united arts fund in the country and has generated more than $188 million since its establishment in 1949.  In 2013, the Fund for the Arts awarded 516 grants to 162 schools and community organizations throughout the region to provide financing for Arts experiences and administrative support. The Fund for the Arts also hosts, an online crowd-funding platform for any 501(c)3 organization in Kentucky and Southern Indiana to post Arts and culture projects and the nationally recognized NeXt! leadership development program for young professionals. For more information visit