Headlands Center for the Arts

Executive Director Headlands Center for the Arts

About Headlands Center for the Arts

Headlands Center for the Arts (Headlands) is a multidisciplinary, international arts center, best known for its Artist in Residence Program, dedicated to supporting artists; the creative process; and the development of new, innovative ideas, and artwork.

Headlands’ Artists Programs, including the internationally renowned Artist in Residence program, support artists of all disciplines—from visual artists to performers, musicians, architects, writers, and social practitioners —and provides opportunities for independent and collaborative creative work. Headlands’ impact is evident in the lives and careers of the artists who have participated in its programs, and the experiences of its visitors (approximately 13,000 annually).

Headlands Center for the Arts is about people, their ideas, and the things they create. Hosting nearly 100 artists each year, Headlands’ achieves its mission by offering opportunities for reflection, dialogue, and exchange that build understanding and appreciation for the role of art in society.

Several times a month, Headlands hosts public events such as open houses, exhibitions, conversations, community meals, walks, and workshops. Regardless of the format, events are designed to connect visitors to art in real time.

By the Numbers

Since its founding in 1982, Headlands has supported more than 1,700 artists. Creative innovations initiated by these individuals during their time at Headlands has led to groundbreaking work filling museums, galleries, theaters, bookshelves, and public spaces around the world. Artists come to Headlands from all over the world. This year, 16 countries are represented in the Artist in Residency cohort.

To date, Headlands Alumni Artists include:

14 MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Awardees

1 Academy Award Winner and 3 Academy Award Nominees

1 Turner Prize Awardee and 4 Turner Prize Finalists

2 Hugo Boss Prize Awardees and 4 Hugo Boss Prize Finalists

16 SFMOMA SECA Art Awardees and 16 SFMOMA SECA Art Award Finalists

46 Guggenheim Fellows

33 USA Fellows

29 Joan Mitchell Awardees

9 Anonymous was a Woman Awardees

44 Artadia Awardees

35 Creative Capital Awardees

12 Pollock-Krasner Awardees

41 Fleishhacker Foundation Eureka Fellows

12 MAP Fund Awardees

The Marin Headlands

Headlands’ campus comprises a cluster of artist-rehabilitated former military buildings, situated just north of the Golden Gate Bridge at historic Fort Barry located on Northern California’s Pacific Coast in the Marin Headlands—2100 windswept acres of hills, cliffs, coves, and beaches—in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA).

The GGNRA is one of the largest urban parks in the world and is known for its rich biodiversity, a result of the unique geology and the variety of habitats and microclimates in the region. Depending on where you are, you may spy coyotes, owls, bobcats, deer, wild turkeys, seals, raptors, rabbits, banana slugs, frogs, snakes, butterflies, and various other species. Originally home to the Native American Coastal Miwok, the park encompasses 59 miles of bay and ocean shoreline; its occupation spans centuries of California history, from Portuguese dairy farmers, Spanish conquistadors, and Cold War era Nike missile sites.

Headlands’ location, just 15 minutes outside of San Francisco, provides participating artists easy access to the Bay Area’s vibrant arts community and affords artists and visitors alike the unique opportunity to be immersed in a vast and inspiring natural environment—a place where time, scale, and perspective are all relative.

For more information on Headlands Center for the Arts, please visit its website.

The Opportunity

Headlands’ next Executive Director will provide rigorous, thoughtful, and strategic leadership while successfully ensuring the organization’s continued relevance and impact. They will work with the Board and staff to articulate what comes next for Headlands and provide visionary leadership for the field. As its most public ambassador, they will represent Headlands in the broader arts and philanthropic communities locally and nationally and serve as the organization’s main point of contact with the GGNRA. Working with and overseeing a full-time staff of 18, the Executive Director will have operational responsibility for Headlands’ programs, fundraising, events, finances, and staff. They are supported by a senior team with management duties in the functional areas of operations, development, programs, facilities, and communications.

Building on Headlands’ successful track record of supporting artists, the next Executive Director will focus on the following strategic opportunities:

Providing visionary leadership to increase Headlands’ impact in the field;

Continuing to build and advance Headlands’ visibility and brand;

Serving as a key player in the local arts ecosystem to advance new programmatic and strategic partnerships in order to better leverage Headlands’ strengths and expand visibility beyond the artist community;

Driving the current $30M comprehensive capital campaign to completion and working with the Board, staff, and the GGNRA on finalizing the master plan for the campus and capital improvements;

Leading fundraising strategy and implementation;

Maintaining a strong relationship with the GGNRA and advocating for Headlands in upcoming lease negotiations;

Advancing a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion across all organizational efforts;

Forging and fostering relationships with a broad range of constituents: Board, staff, artists, the GGNRA, foundations, peer organizations, etc.

Developing generative relationships with the Board;

Building strong relationships with staff and investing in their leadership development;

Embodying a shared leadership model, working with staff to envision new ideas for current and developing programs, and exploring new opportunities with artists;

Integrating innovations that sustain Headlands’ ability to deliver high quality, relevant programs and services to artists and the public; and

Personifying the vision and values of the organization.

Candidate Profile

The next Executive Director of Headlands will care deeply about artists and their ideas. They will bring an understanding of the importance, potential, and plurality of ways that art and creative practice can connect, engage, and transform individuals and communities alike.

Additionally, the ideal candidate will have the following professional and personal qualities, skills, and characteristics:

Visionary Leadership and an Advocate for the Arts

The Executive Director is a champion of the arts and artists. Embodying the organization’s core values, they will have the enthusiasm, boldness, and rigor to push the boundaries of the arts sector and will thoughtfully guide Headlands to achieve more expansive and equitable impact. The Executive Director will develop new and unique opportunities to serve the mission and bring an innovative lens to realize organizational growth. They will be an explorer, a learner, a creative, and intersectional thinker and thought leader. Additionally, the Executive Director will partner with the Board and staff to complete the master plan and maintain a culture of strategic planning across the organization. Through strategic, inclusive, and results-oriented leadership, they will be able to inspire the Board, staff, artists, and partners to invest in the future of Headlands. Additionally, with a strong hand in the artist programs, the Executive Director will support the development of strategies that create equitable support for artists within the field, invest in diverse programming, and the implementation of an inclusive approach to audience engagement.

A Passionate Ambassador and Fundraiser to Achieve Significant Growth for Headlands

The Executive Director is the public face and primary ambassador of Headlands, sharing its mission and vision with the outside world and working to increase the institution’s visibility and relevance more broadly. They will be a confident, considerate, and charismatic public speaker who possesses the ability to tell the story, influence outcomes, engage, listen, and moderate communications to various audiences. They will be a strong and empathetic verbal and written communicator, fluently conveying the organization’s value – and values – on a local, regional, and national level to a broad range of constituents. They are experienced in establishing and diversifying strong working and funding relationships in furtherance of an organization’s mission. They understand and enjoy the mechanics of fundraising and will enthusiastically and proactively share Headlands’ goals with existing and potential new donors, including individuals, members, foundations, corporations, and the GGNRA. They generate a powerful sense of common purpose with others and motivate them to engage in Headlands’ work.

Business Acumen and Management to Lead Balanced Organizational Advancement

The Executive Director is an executive with strong staff, operational, and financial management experience. They have a track record of inclusive, proactive accountability, and the proven ability to communicate clearly with stakeholders to accomplish desired results through adept oversight. The Executive Director will set the tone for staff culture internally by prioritizing the development of a culture of equity and inclusion across all organizational efforts. They will lead high performing diverse teams with a consistent focus on supporting team members’ continuous growth and development. They will utilize best practices in nonprofit strategic planning and management, including compelling communication messages and effective marketing strategies, and most importantly, ensure that overall day-to-day operations are aligned with strategic, mission-driven goals. They understand the importance of a robust partnership with the Board and will ensure fiduciary responsibility and sound financial management practices and accountability. They will also possess the knowledge and ability to ensure that the Board is achieving its primary responsibilities of best practice governance and fundraising.


Koya Leadership Partners, the executive search firm that specializes in mission-driven search, has been exclusively retained for this engagement. Alexandra Corvin and Ally Johnson are leading this search. To make recommendations or to express your interest in this role please visit this link or email Headlands [​at​] All nominations, inquiries, and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.