Get to Know Michael Greer: Q+A with Priya Frank

Michael Greer became ArtsFund’s President & CEO on June 8, 2020. Seattle Arts Commission Chair Priya Frank recently connected with Michael over Zoom to ask a few questions about his move to Seattle and new leadership role in the Puget Sound arts community. View their conversation below.



Priya: What draws you to ArtsFund, and to Seattle, in this moment?

Michael: What originally drew me to ArtsFund were the deep connections it seemed to have to this community and the number of entry points it had to some important conversations in the field. Since I have taken on the role, the importance of these conversations have been amplified by COVID and the increased attention on social justice. I am as excited now as ever to be leading ArtsFund into these discussions and making sure that arts and culture are part of the solutions.

You recently wrote a piece on arts in times of crisis. What do you see as the role of arts in times of dramatic change?

As I mentioned in that LinkedIn piece, humanity has used art as a way to express things that are difficult or impossible for us to really comprehend. Sometimes that is pain and suffering, sometimes that is beauty. Dramatic, societal change like we are living through today presents all types of uncertainty and I believe that art is here to help us make sense of that.

As ArtsFund prepares to launch into its next half-century, what do you see as some of ArtsFund’s greatest opportunities?

ArtsFund is a leader in the arts and culture community of this region. Because of that, we have the ability to engage with a wide variety of partners. While we are rooted in the nonprofit community, our influence in the private and public sectors has allowed us to make real change over the past 50 years. I see ArtsFund as being able to leverage those partnership to continue making change in the next 50 years. From providing a platform on which new artistic voices can be heard, to growing the proverbial pie so that we can increase our philanthropic reach, ArtsFund is well positioned to be a leader that listens to our sector and advocates for the support it needs for the next half century.

From professional dance, to international finance, to running regional arts organizations, and now, ArtsFund, your career has been anything but typical. What is the through-line?

No, not typical. I think that the through-line might be empathy. I have always had a deep desire to understand the world around me and the people in it. In my mind, art and economics both represent ways in which we describe value. As an artist, the ability to use my body in order to connect to thousands of people was a formative experience. Working in the private sector helped me to see money and finance a means to some end. Leading ArtsFund, at a deeper level, allows me to help connect those ends to that sense of connection that the arts provides. I feel that organizations like ArtsFund, our supporters, and the organizations we support actually help our communities understand themselves better. That is an important thing that I am proud to be a part of.

You’re very active on LinkedIn (connect here). What’s something about you that we can’t find on your LinkedIn profile?

I have to admit I am a huge fan of space. Last night, the moon was out, and I woke up my entire family to come look through our telescope and look at the moon. I love the idea that everything that has ever happened to humanity has happened on this little itty-bitty ball of rock that’s floating in the middle of this infinite space, it’s just mind blowing. When I’m not doing things that are ArtsFund-related, I’m usually on YouTube watching ridiculous videos about physics and art and space and nature, and I don’t understand half of it, but it’s really mind blowing.