Memphis Business Journal | Shoshana Cenker
If there ever was a time for leadership, the pandemic era has been that occasion.
As a leader, what do you do when COVID-19 shuts down all live performances, from ballet to music to theater, and on to art museums and other cultural attractions?
The answer involved perseverance — rebuilding audiences and visitors and finding funding from local, state, and national sources to weather an unprecedented upending of an industry.
For Memphis Business Journal’s next group of Women Who Lead, honoring leaders with top billing at arts nonprofits seemed to be another logical choice.
Also logical is highlighting the accomplishments of women who have broken through the glass ceiling and helped define their organizations.
Each woman chosen by MBJ’s editorial team has qualities that define leadership — from promoting, cultivating, and guiding artists and art groups to being financial stewards and creating an arts culture in Memphis.
Within arts nonprofits, the 10 Women Who Lead honorees lead and represent organizations such as the region’s primary arts funder, ArtsMemphis, and across a spectrum of museums and performing arts producers.
The arts are filled with talented and driven women executives, so this edition of Women Who Lead will have a second act, with additional arts nonprofit leaders featured in our Dec. 30 issue.
Women Who Lead is an ongoing monthly feature in MBJ sponsored by Simmons Bank.
President and CEO, ArtsMemphis
Though her title is president and CEO, Elizabeth Rouse says she and her team “serve as a convener and connector while building awareness for the arts and their impact.” That’s because ArtsMemphis is the primary arts funder in the Mid-South and a vehicle for contributors to support the arts community. For her specifically, that means Elizabeth has the opportunity to direct strategy and innovation in that sector.
The career achievement she’s most proud of is ArtsMemphis’ and the local arts industry’s “creativity and impact on this community despite the pandemic.” That includes ArtsMemphis’ record year in 2021 of granting $3.1 million to 67 arts organizations and hundreds of individual artists through strategic partnerships and new avenues to support people, programs, and operations.
Looking ahead, Elizabeth’s goal is to continue driving appreciation for the arts, and accelerating ArtsMemphis’ impact as the organization celebrates 60 years of operation and $90-plus million invested in the Memphis community.
“I see a shift, particularly in how people experience the arts. We’re moving from defining performing and visual arts as a ticketed experience to one that is more accessible and part of everyday life. We’re seeing more immersive and integrated offerings.”