Alexis Spieldenner, co-founder and executive director of Bravo Niagara! Festival of the Arts, has been selected to participate in the DeVos Institute of Arts Management three-year Fellowship program.
The prestigious program out of the University of Maryland is led by founder Michael Kaiser, and president Brett Egan.
“I’m honoured to be selected as a DeVos Institute Fellow,” said Spieldenner in an email. “This will be an invaluable and transformative experience, not only for me professionally, but also for Bravo Niagara!.”
“Michael Kaiser is a leader in the arts world,” she continued. “I’ve admired his extraordinary career, leading organizations such as the Kennedy Center, Alvin Ailey, American Ballet Theatre, and the Royal Opera House. I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity to learn from Michael Kaiser, Brett Egan, and other experts in the field.”
Spieldenner is the only Canadian among the six fellows chosen through the competitive application process. Next summer she will attend the first of three annual month-long intensive sessions with peers from Colombia, Singapore, Charleston, Brooklyn and Chicago. The sessions will be led by DeVos Institute executives, consultants, and other experts in the arts.
“I’m particularly excited about the global perspective on arts management that this fellowship will offer,” added Spieldenner, “as well as the opportunity to learn from and collaborate with this inspiring group of arts managers from around the world.”
Originally the Kennedy Centre Institute of Arts Management, it was renamed in honour of Betsy and Dick DeVos, whose foundation contributed $22.5 million to it in 2010. Dick DeVos, who served as CEO of Amway from 1993 to 2002, is the son of the multi-level marketing company’s co-founder Richard DeVos. His wife Betsy, the former United States Secretary of Education in the Trump administration, was the Republican national committeewoman for Michigan from 1992 to 1997.
The institute’s fellowship program is designed to serve entrepreneurial executives in the arts and cultural sector. The fellows chosen must be prepared to look critically at their work, challenge assumptions, and develop rigorous strategies to address the most pressing issues facing their organizations, regions, and art forms at large. The institute’s website says their program is designed for individuals who have dedicated themselves to management, rather than artistic leadership.
Spieldenner says the fact that the institute emphasizes critical organizational capacities in long-term artistic planning, marketing, fundraising, board development, and financial management is exactly why she applied.
“There are many different aspects to creating a strong, sustainable arts organization,” she told The Local. “I’m eager to learn all I can to support Bravo Niagara!’s growth and help reach its full potential. This will also contribute to the Niagara region’s rich cultural landscape, and have an impact on our community. Ultimately, stronger arts organizations lead to more vibrant communities.”
With the DeVos Institute’s focus on justice, advancing social change, and empathy for other perspectives and ways of life, it’s a great fit for the direction that Bravo Niagara! has headed with much of its recent programming.
“The institute’s belief that art, and the dialogue it provokes, is an instrument of peace strongly resonates with me,” said Spieldenner. “Over the past several years, the Voices of Freedom Festival has become an important platform for amplifying underrepresented voices through the arts. The festival is one of Bravo Niagara!’s signature programs, and is something we will continue to focus our efforts on in the coming years.”
Spieldenner and the other six fellows will attend their first four-week residency in Washington, D.C. in July, 2022. The program is provided free of charge and funded by the DeVos Family Foundation.
“The early summer timing fits perfectly into Bravo Niagara!’s off season,” offered Spieldenner. “The fellowship program also offers ongoing mentoring, both during and between the month-long residencies. The program is designed so that all activities are applied directly to our organizations.”
The DeVos Institute has served more than 1,000 organizations from more than 80 countries since its founding during Kaiser’s tenure as President of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Spieldenner’s peers next July hail from the worlds of dance, theatre, orchestra administration and civic cultural management.
Added Christine Mori, Spieldenner’s proud mother and co-founder and artistic director at Bravo Niagara! Festival of the Arts, “this will be a remarkable opportunity for our organization.”