Deborah Obalil has over twenty years experience as a leader in the national arts and culture industry, having led multiple highly-acclaimed organizations and served as a well-regarded management consultant to the field. She was appointed the Executive Director of AICAD in June 2012, and then elevated to President & Executive Director in 2015. As President & Executive Director she leads the organization in achieving its mission of strengthening and connecting its members schools, thus advancing art and design education. A significant piece of that work is promoting the value of art and design education at all levels, a subject Deborah has been passionate about her entire life.
Prior to her appointment with AICAD, Deborah operated a successful boutique arts management consulting firm, Obalil & Associates, for four years. The firm provided consultation and facilitation in strategic planning, marketing research and planning, and board development for non-profit arts organizations, independent artists of all disciplines, and creative for-profit ventures.
Deborah’s career within arts organizations placed her most recently as the Executive Director of the Alliance of Artists Communities, an organization dedicated to the advancement of America’s creative vitality through supporting the field of artists’ communities, based in Providence, RI. The Alliance acts as the collective voice of the field while providing a variety of advocacy services and educational programs. During her six-year tenure as Executive Director, the Alliance’s membership grew by more than 20%, the annual budget tripled, and new relationships developed with the Ford Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation and the Joyce Foundation directed more than $2 million of re-granting funds through the Alliance. She also served on the board of directors of Res Artis, the international association for artist residency programs.
Previous to the Alliance, Deborah was the Director of the Arts Marketing Center & Research at the Arts & Business Council of Chicago. As Director of the Center, Deborah maintained and developed its programs and services in Chicago. This included presenting the Advanced Training Program, an intensive marketing training designed specifically for arts and cultural organizations; consulting with individual arts organizations on issues of audience development and earned income; and directing all research projects undertaken by the Center. During her tenure at the Center, Deborah authored the report Barriers and Motivations to Increased Arts Usage Among Medium and Light Users, and edited Diversifying Chicago’s Arts Audiences: A Progress Report, both published by the Arts Marketing Center. She also directed the development of smARTscope, a comprehensive management appraisal process specifically designed for arts organizations. Additionally, Deborah has been published in ArtsReach, a trade publication for arts management, and in The Experts Guide to Arts Marketing, published by the Arts & Business Council, Inc. and American Express.
Deborah often presents seminars across the country on numerous topics including marketing planning, generational marketing, marketing research, board development, public relations, and customer service. She has presented for such organizations as the Smithsonian Council, the Association of American Museums, the National Arts Marketing Conference, Association of Performing Arts Presenters, Chamber Music America, the Georgia Association of Community Arts Administrators, and the State Fund on Culture and the Arts in Hawaii. She has served on the faculty of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the Arts Administration department, Columbia College Chicago in the Arts, Entertainment & Media Management department and Rhode Island School of Design in the Graduate Studies department. Deborah received a Bachelor of Arts with research honors in History and Dance from Illinois Wesleyan University and completed the Executive Program for Non-Profit Leaders – Arts at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business.
Deborah has consistently volunteered throughout her career, serving on numerous boards. She currently serves as a director on the boards of the Foundation for Art & Healing, College Visions, and Clinica Esperanza/Hope Clinic. She is a former Board President of Rhode Island Citizens for the Arts, the statewide arts advocacy organization, and a Past Chair of New Urban Arts, a premier youth arts and leadership development program in Providence that encourages students and mentors to develop a life-long creative practice.