For Alan Harrison's CV (PDF format), just click here.

Experience.  Alan Harrison has over 20 years of senior experience in the nonprofit arts industry, acting as an agent of positive change with some of the most prolific companies in the country:  Lincoln Center Theater, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Michigan Opera Theatre, the Pasadena Playhouse,
Pittsburgh Public Theater, and
the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, to name a few.  

Turnaround expert.  Alan spent 6 years as the executive director for ArtsWest, now one of Seattle’s leading medium-sized nonprofit theatre, gallery, and arts education providers.  In this position, he not only served as the spokesperson and decision maker for the organization, but also its chief artistic, operations, administrative, marketing, development, and community officer.  His task, on some integral level, was virtually to put this company on his back.  After just 3 seasons, the company won awards for excellence in management (Opportunity Knocks “Best Nonprofit To Work For,” the only nonprofit in the state of Washington to receive the award – and the only arts nonprofit nationwide as well) and excellence in artistic execution (17 Broadway World Awards, including 2011’s Theater of the Year).  

As the managing director for the $9 million Alabama Shakespeare Festival (ASF) in Montgomery, Alan advocated for the arts not only to the public, but to state senators, congressional delegates, and ultimately to the then-governor of the state, Don Siegelman.  In addition, during four economically depressed years in the state, ASF ran surpluses in all but one year (after seven consecutive six-figure deficits before his arrival).

At The Pasadena Playhouse, the company was so close to bankruptcy that Bank of America, the major creditor, had already hired bulldozers that sat in front of the theatre.  There was $1.8 million in debt and no plan to recover.  Over a period of only 2 years, Alan's efforts led the Playhouse to be able to increase subscriber levels from 12,000 to 23,000 and increase the number of donors from dozens to hundreds.

As the special projects coordinator for Lincoln Center Theater, Alan worked in a team of stakeholders (all the departments of the staff and members of the board of directors) to create a new program that would answer these questions and make the organization accessible.  The innovation of a “membership” program came out of a series of long discussions by smart people not merely thinking out of the box, but smashing the box to bits and building a forest in its place that would self-sustain and grow.  The program – in which a patron purchases a membership to the organization, the membership entitling the person to see one performance of each play produced within that membership year for a vastly reduced price (at the time, $10) – solved every problem.  Lincoln Center Theater grew from 20,000 subscribers to 50,000 members in two years.  The company, at one point, had 5 plays running simultaneously:  2 on the Lincoln Center campus, 2 on Broadway, and 1 in an Off-Broadway house.  And all were available to members for only $10.  Because the company decided to innovate and was given the freedom and tools to do so, Lincoln Center Theater grew during his 3 years there from an $8 million budget to a $25 million budget and achieved astonishing critical success that is ongoing.

At Pittsburgh Public Theater, an opportunity arose with a shortage of youth attendance.  Alan directed a team to study the behavior and the upbringing of educationally aspirational people under the age of 25.  Their world was quite different from the world of two generations previous, when subscribing and getting the best seats raised status within the community.  Status was not the issue with the Under 25s.  Even price was not necessarily the issue.  The opportunity to reach the Under 25s was getting them to belong to an organization that drew other Under 25s, enough to create a critical mass.  In this way, they felt welcome as one would at a party in which the other people there are already friends.

To attract them, Alan created and implemented the “Under 25? Only $10!” program.  In the first year alone, the Public grew from an organization that had sold 800 student-rush tickets to 4,900 “Under 25s.”  That number grew to 7,000 during the second year.  He instituted this program at Seattle Rep in 1997 and the same metric grew in an even more astonishing way.  During the year before his implementation, 1,200 tickets were sold through a traditional student rush program.  During the first year, SRT drew 7,600 “Under 25s.” That number exceeded 10,000 during the successive years. 

The Under 25 program has been copied with high success all over the world. Over 200,000 (and counting) young patrons have participated and become arts lovers.

Vision.  Engaging new communities in the arts is at the heart of Alan's work.  No longer can it be assumed that age and upward financial mobility are predictors of arts participation.  The opportunity for corporate support is encouraging even though it is an unmistakable fact that the economy has compelled the game to change.  In this environment, the nonprofit arts industry can no longer define arts participation as a one-way conversation from artist to audience.  Corporate entities and leaders have a more valuable stake in the success of arts because their company’s success depends in part on a vibrant nonprofit arts industry.  The ROI is tangible; the by-product is a more knowledgeable, intellectually curious citizenry.  These successes speak to the obstacle-busting power of all the arts. 

Innovation.  Innovation is important to the creative class of thinkers that run a society.  The arts, especially the management of the arts, can bring about the kind of innovation that improves a whole region.  It is exciting to coalesce a dynamic arts organization's people into creating an environment rich in innovations; new ideas toward not merely a better community of arts and artists, but in a better community altogether. 

Style.  Alan has worked on over 300 productions – from Tony-winning Broadway musicals and plays to tiny, volunteer-led theatre productions in community colleges.  His knowledge of the nonprofit arts industry comes from the ground up.  He has worked at every level within all kinds of arts organizations and knows to the tiniest detail how to make them succeed.  As an executive, he has managed as few as 8 people and as many as 350, and worked successfully with boards of trustees and directors that had as few as 6 people and as many as 88.  He knows how to lobby, to persuade, to argue without harm, to passionately make the case for the arts, to risk everything, to get the right people on the bus and get them into the right seats, and to represent arts organizations successfully.

 

Alan Harrison | (206) 533-0242 | alan@alanharrison.org

Member, Advancement Northwest (AFP)