Christen Boone recently became president and CEO of Fund for the Arts. After years of working in development for nonprofits and then running her own consulting company, this is THE big job. We met her in Portland at the Tim Faulkner Gallery to discuss the fund’s new vision and increased awareness of opportunities under her leadership.
You told Business First that your “ideal position in 2025” would be “Executive director of a nonprofit or foundation taking bold and innovative action to improve our community and the lives of the people that live in it.” You made your goal early! Is this the job you had in mind?
I didn’t have a particular organization in mind, but I have always been committed to building a stronger, more vibrant community. I want my children to grow up and live in a creative, diverse, thriving city, and the arts are a driving force for that energy and growth. The arts create a unique sense of place for Louisville that sets us apart from other cities. They are a part of who we are and a competitive strength. I am so honored to serve in this way.
What is the most pressing thing on your agenda to keep the arts thriving in this community?
It is an exciting time to step into this role. There is a new class of talented and dynamic leaders, from Kim Baker at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts to Teddy Abrams at the Louisville Orchestra. And there is a new level of creative placemaking underway across the community, in places like Portland and Smoketown. I am excited to explore how the arts can build community and bridge neighborhoods and ideologies in innovative and ever-inclusive ways.
What are your plans for raising awareness about the arts, in addition to raising money?
I am a connector. I love to connect people to their passion, people to people, and people to a vision and mission. Through the Fund for the Arts, we have the opportunity to connect people to the arts. Arts bring color and passion to our lives and life to our community.
You are embarking on a huge job, a huge opportunity. What are you most looking forward to?
Meeting our donors. More than 20,000 people make gifts to the Fund for the Arts every year. I hold sacred the trust our donors put in the Fund for the Arts, and I look forward to getting to know them, their dreams and their vision for this community. Also, I look forward to inviting more and more people to get involved.
Which of the arts are you most familiar with? Least familiar with?
I am most familiar with Actors Theatre. I was a volunteer usher at Actors Theatre of Louisville as a high school student. In 2001, I was working in Cincinnati and Sandy Speer (longtime Actors executive director and patriarch of the arts community) called me and said that he needed my help. I couldn’t say no to Sandy. I worked at Actors for six years, and then when I moved to The Parklands of Floyds Fork, I was invited to join Actors’ Board of Directors and served five years. I am least familiar with the Kentucky Opera, but I look forward to learning about and experiencing this incredible organization.
What’s your talent?
Supporting the arts is my talent. I took piano and dance lessons as a girl. They taught me discipline and poise, but talent? That would be pushing it. When I have time, I like to take photographs of architecture and travel. But I mostly take photos of my three sons. I really love black and white.
What is the biggest life lesson you have ever learned?
Women can have it “all”: a career, a family, three children and lots of fun — that is if your “all” includes take-out and dust bunnies.
Who is your mentor?
Many people have mentored me through different phases in my career: Phoebe Wood, David Jones, Todd Lowe and Jennifer Bielstein. Just as important as mentors, I have many, many friends and colleagues who have helped me along the way.
What is the best advice you have received in business?
- Take chances and trust yourself.
- Schedule a regular date night with your spouse. (Thanks, Mr. Jones.)
- Treat everyone with respect. (Thanks, Mom.)
If you were not in your current job, what would you love to do?
Build a school for girls in Latin America.
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
I am a killer back-up singer. “Wagon Wheel,” anyone?
What is your favorite place to eat?
Where do you like to shop?
What is a treat or a luxury you do for yourself?
Annual girls trip!
What is your weakness?
Chocolate and coffee.
What is your favorite thing to do in Louisville?
Arts and parks, of course!
What are three things you cannot live without, besides faith, family and friends?
There are not many “things” I cannot live without, but I absolutely could not live without my support system of family, friends, neighbors and babysitters.
- My iPhone because it holds my calendar, my contacts and my list of random ideas.
- Coffee (Did I already say that?)
What are you reading?
What are three of your favorite things right now?
My three favorite anythings are my sons, Brody (7), Miles (5) and Graham (3).
Thank you to Christen, who fit us into her busy new schedule and introduced us to a great gallery in Portland. For more information about Fund for the Arts, click here: fundforthearts.com
As always, much gratitude to my FACES photographer Adele Reding and her fantastic work. See her profile here: www.facebook.com