Powered by WHYY and You


Leaders who help the city dance, sing, soar and grow 

By: Liz Dow, President of Leadership Philadelphia

Sometimes in Philadelphia it seems like every public leader ends up enmeshed in controversy and scandal.

That’s not true, really.   The city is full of exemplary leaders doing extraordinary things.  But often those leaders operate away from the highly covered arenas such as politics and sports.  To notice them, you have to broaden your definition of “leader” and look beyond the usual suspects who dominate the media.

Leadership Philadelphia began its Connectors project in 2006 to shine a light on all the good leadership that happens in this region, and to see if that might encourage more leaders to step.

In the third phase of that effort, Leadership Philadelphia compiled a list of the top 76 Creative Connectors, members of the local arts and culture community who are the glue that binds it together.  These are the folks who seem to know everyone, connect for the common good, and get things done without worrying about getting credit for it.  That’s leadership. More »

Meet the Connectors
  • Executive Director, Taller Puertorriqueno, Inc.

    As Executive Director of Taller Puertorriqueno, Febo-San Miguel initiates educational programs and gathers community support for local, Latino artists. Seeing art as a vehicle for social change, Febo-San Miguel's work seeks to celebrate cultural roots and create a sense of community and belonging.
    Read More »
  • Founder, Lucky Old Souls

    Matthew Feldman founded Lucky Old Souls in 2008 to improve the local music scene. He previously led a weekly radio show on G-town Radio, which ended in August. Lucky Old Souls continues as a monthly concert series which focuses on jazz, rhythm and blues, and soul music.
    Read More »
  • Director, Drexel University Arts

    Tracking changes in the cultural sector and cultivating the leaders who will address them, Cecelia Fitzgibbon prepares 60 students a year to enter the field as managers, leaders and entrepreneurs. As Director of the graduate arts administration program at Drexel University, she has created curriculum that responds to the dynamic trends in the industry. Read More »

  • Under the direction of Jane Golden, The Mural Arts Program of Philadelphia has produced more than 3,000 works of public art. Golden works directly with artists and the community to revitalize urban spaces, spur dialogue and push social change through public art. Read More »
  • Vice President for Global Initiatives and Government Relations, The Philadelphia Orchestra

    As Vice President of Global Initiatives and Government Relations for the Philadelphia Orchestra, Craig Hamilton has been widening the audience for one of the finest orchestras in the world. Hamilton had his hand in an historic agreement Read More »
  • Assistant Professor, Drexel University; Executive Vice President of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance

    Until August, Julie Hawkins was executive vice president for policy at the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance. She has been a leader at the intersection of the arts, culture and public policy. Read More »
  • Executive Director, Asian Arts Initiative

    Gayle Isa founded the Asian Arts Initiative to create a space for Asian Americans around the region to express their experiences. She has been part of the arts and culture community in Philadelphia for over 16 years. Read More »
  • Founding Director,

    Hilary Jay is a senior fellow at the University of the Arts. She founded DesignPhiladelphia, an annual open participation festival which promotes design industries in the city. Lectures, open studio, street installations, and other public exhibitions are meant to stimulate conversation and draw citizens together.py. Read More »
  • Former Executive Director, Philagrafika

    Teresa Jaynes is the co-founder of Philagrafika and recently retired in her role as Executive Director. Over her eleven year tenure, Jaynes oversaw the organization grow from a grassroots initiative of volunteers to an organization capable of mounting an international contemporary art event that involved 92 arts organizations and institutions from across the Philadelphia region. Read More »
  • Founder and Music Director, Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra

    Jeri Lynne Johnson founded the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra, which holds community programs and concerts performed by ethnically diverse musicians. The company seeks to express Philadelphia's rich cultural diversity. Read More »
  • President, Greater Philadephia Cultural Alliance

    Kaiden became President of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance in 2010. Since then he's been leading several collaborative arts initiatives. He is chief architect of Engage 2020, a civic engagement initiative focused on doubling cultural participation in Greater Philadelphia by 2020. Read More »
  • President, Philadelphia Sculptors

    As President of Philadelphia Sculptors, Leslie Kaufman leads the organization in promotion of contemporary sculpture. It offers presentations, workshops, and demonstrations for the community and acts as an advocate for professional sculptors.
    Read More »
  • Owner, The Grand Review

    Todd Kimmell is an archivist, historian, and curator, though better known to the public as a film presenter, fund raising auctioneer, lecturer and occasionally a performer. With his new venture, The Grand Review, Kimmell delves deep into the vaults of museums, libraries and important private collections and digitally restores and reintroduces forgotten works. Read More »
  • Professor of Multimedia & Communication, Senior Fellow, Corzo Center for the Creative Economy

    Neil Kleinman is a professor at the Corzo Center for Creative Economy in partnership with The University of the Arts. The center assists in the development of initiatives which build connections between students and business professionals.Read More »
  • Principal, WolfBrown

    A principal with WolfBrown, a national consulting firm with offices in Philadelphia, Joseph Kluger also serves as chair of Mayor Nutter's Cultural Advisory Council. A former president of the Philadelphia Orchestra, he is a consultant to arts institutions. Read More »
  • Executive Producing Director, Philadelphia Young Playwrights

    Glen Knapp is the Executive Producing Director for Philadelphia Young Playwrights. The organization engages youth, their families, and communities in creating and producing theatre while building new theatre audiences within these groups.Read More »
  • Founder & Artistic Director, Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers and CHI Movement Arts Center

    Kun-Yang Lin is the founder and artistic director of a dance troupe that bears his name. The organization aims to enhance the diversity and vitality of the Italian Market district of Philadelphia.
    Read More »

    Video Profile »
  • Founding Producer, White Pines Productions

    Benjamin Lloyd teaches acting at Temple University's School of Communication and Theater. Lloyd leads the White Pines Production Company, focused on new performance, readings, and classes for kids and adults in Elkins Park. Read More »
  • Artistic Director, Bucks County Choral Society

    Thomas Lloyd, an Associate Professor of Music at Haverford College and Artistic Director of the Bucks County Choral Society, is a key figure in a number of musically rooted institutions. His goal is to enrich the community through the choral arts experience. He has assembled choirs and led nine tours abroad in collaborative performances with other local institutions. Lloyd also founded, "Singing for Seniors," a nationally recognized program that brings together senior choirs across Buck County.Read More »
  • Director of Operations, Old City District

    As director of operations for the Old City District, Brett Mapp is an activist for local art events and seeks funding for these projects. He is also deeply involved in the Mural Arts Program. Read More »
  • Executive Director, Philly Improv Theater

    Greg Maughan is the executive director of the Philly Improv Theatre, which features training in improv, sketch, stand-up comedy and storytelling for students. Although the emphasis is on the local community, students and instructors have gone on to perform nationally. Read More »
  • Director, ArtsRising/Philadelphia Education Fund

    ArtsRising is a collaborative initiative of the Philadelphia Education Fund, Fleisher Art Memorial and Public Citizens for Children and Youth to bring richer art experiences to young people in Philadelphia. As director, Varissa McMickens forges strategic partnerships with arts and education organizations. Arts Rising/Philadelphia Education Fund. Read More »
  • Executive Director, Community Design Collaborative

    As executive director of the Community Design Collaborative in Philadelphia, Beth Miller links volunteer architects, planners, and designers with non-profit organizations. Read More »
  • Interim Director, Kensington Area Neighborhood Advisory Committee, New Kensington Community Development Corporation

    Kevin Musselman works directly with the local Kensington community to revitalize its urban spaces and engage its residents. He creates links among talented craftsmen and artists in New Kensington through projects such as the Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby. Read More »
  • Executive Director, Art-Reach

    As executive director of Art-Reach, Michael Norris works to connect under-served audiences with cultural experiences. He also frequently serves on panels as a moderator for other arts initiatives. Read More »
  • Founder, The Frator Heru Institute

    Yumy Odom founded the Frator Heru Institute in Philadelphia to develop strategies to help black families face their challenges. He also founded the East Coast Black Age Comics Convention to help combat illiteracy through comic book art. He formerly ran Temple University's Pan-African Studies Community Education Program. Read More »
  • Director Live Arts Brewery and Philly Fringe

    As director of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival, Craig Peterson provides logistics and venues for artistic experiments in theater, dance, and live performance. He connects artists with arts organizations worldwide. Read More »
  • Co-Artistic Director, Pig Iron Theatre Company

    Gabriel Quinn Bauriedel, Co-Artistic Director of the Pig Iron Theater Company, is known for creating exuberant and lively performances that engage and expand diverse audiences. Read More »
  • Founder & President, World Café Live

    Hal Real, music promoter, founded the World Cafe Live in University City and the World Café Live at the Queen Theater in Wilmington, Del. He works to enliven the landscape for contemporary music audiences and musicians. Real launched the Live Connections program to engage and inform students around music. Read More »
  • Artistic Director, Theatre Horizon

    Erin Reilly is co-founder of Theatre Horizon in Norristown, Montgomery County. Reilly acts, directs, and helps to cultivate an ever-growing community of artists, students, and audiences. Theater Horizon's camps and drama classes serves more than 1,000 children, including a pioneering autism program. Read More »
  • CEO/Treasurer, theartblog.org

    Libby Rosof co-founded theartblog.org with fellow Creative Connector Roberta Fallon. Together, the duo interviews local artists and help to bridge the gap between ordinary people and Philadelphia's art scene. Rosof also helped to form the Zero.1% for Art Commission to distribute art to the general public.
    Read More »
  • Director of Institutional Advancement, Walnut Street Theatre

    As director of institutional advancement for the Walnut Street Theatre, Rebekah Sassi is a frequent speaker, peer panelist, and mentor to young arts administrators. Read More »
  • Executive Director, Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture

    As leader of Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture, Hazami Sayed supports the Arab-American community's pursuit and affirmation of its cultural identity in America. Sayed is also a photographer and architect who has worked on urban development projects around Philadelphia and New York City. Read More »
  • CEO, Philadelphia Arts in Education Partnership

    Pearl Schaeffer is the chief executive officer of the Philadelphia Arts in Education Partnership where she works to create opportunities for K-12 students in schools and community sites across the region to learn about and through the arts. She is also an adjunct professor at the University of the Arts.
    Read More »
  • Director, The Artistic Rebuttal Book Project

    Amy Lynne Scheidegger is an artist and blogger who was riding SEPTA one day when she overheard a conversation about the worthlessness of art. She decided to respond, in a big way, and the Artistic Rebuttal Book Project was born as a digital collaborative project. It has its own T-shirt now, so you know it's on a roll. More than 200 people from 53 cities have contributed. Read More »
  • Senior Associate, Valerie M. Jones Associates,

    Barbara Silzle for more than 20 years has advised cultural organizations about community programs and fund-raising. She is a former casting director for the Drama Guild, vice chair of the Valentine Foundation and a councilwoman in Lansdowne Borough, Delaware County. Read More »
  • Co-Director, Headlong Dance Theater

    Andrew Simonet helped found the Headlong Dance Theater on South Broad Street. Headlong is committed to collaboration, humor and experimentation. He also founded Artists U., a professional development program for local performing artists. Read More »
  • Co-Director, Headlong Dance Theater

    In Headlong Dance Theater's collaborative management structure, Amy Smith not only dances and choreographs, she is in charge of "the financials." She does financial consulting and tax preparation for other local performing artists and several small artistic companies. Read More »
  • Boss, Little Giant Media

    Tayyib Smith is the man behind two.one.five magazine and founder of Little Giant creative agency. Smith acts as a conduit between artists and the music industry and works for urban revitalization in Philadelphia. Read More »
  • Executive Director, The Arts Garage

    Ola Solanke founded the Arts Garage as a nightlife venue for literary and performing artists and nightly DJ dance music. He sees it as a venue where intermingling and tolerance can be nurtured. Read More »
  • Executive Director, First Person Arts

    Even before founding First Person Arts, Solot had long been active in the Philadelphia art scene. At FPA, she presents documentary arts programs, using memoirs as a tool to foster compassion among people of varying backgrounds. Read More »
  • Founder & Managing Director, CultureWorks Greater Philadelphia

    Thaddeus Squire leads the CultureWorks consulting firm to assist cultural organizations in meeting their creative and business goals. He started and produced Hidden City Philadelphia, engaging over 200 artists and 10,000 visions to renew interest in neglected sites rich in cultural history. He's creative director of the Hidden City Philadelphia blog. Read More »
  • Chief Cultural Officer, Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy, City of Philadelphia

    Gary Steuer brings over 30 years of experience in the arts scene, policy, and management to his position as Chief Cultural Officer in Philadelphia. He seeks to nurture community conversation and grow the city’s the creative economy though his work at the city’s “culture czar.” Read More »
  • Producing Director, Philadelphia Live Arts Festival

    As co-founder of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival, Nick Stuccio brings cutting edge cultural experiences to the City of Brotherly Love. Stuccio gives artists from all disciplines and levels a platform to express their talents and passions. Read More »
  • Independent Creative Director

    Ed Tettemer is a brand strategist and writer who has worked with several arts organizations to refine their messaging. He works to learn about diverse figures in the culture scene, and to introduce them to one another, and to potential clients. Read More »
  • Musician, The Roots

    Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson is drummer extraordinaire for The Roots, one of Philadelphia's most successful bands and house band for "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon." Read More »
  • Executive Director, Play On, Philly!

    Stanford Thompson has helped to bring the Venezuelan music program, El Sistema, to Philadelphia through St. Francis de Sales School in West Philadelphia. The goal is to build a foundation for a prosperous and sustainable society in Philadelphia by allowing at-risk children to acquire high-level executive functioning skills through music education.Read More »
  • Owner & Photographer, JJ Tiziou Photography

    Jacques-Jean Tiziou is a photographer who seeks to use his work to celebrate, empower, and inspires communities. If you've been to the Philadelphia International Airport lately, you've seen one of his recent, ambitious projects, the huge parking garage mural called "How Philly Moves." Read More »
  • Co-Editor, Painted Bride Quarterly

    Kathleen Volk Miller works with college students to publish the non-profit literary magazine, Painted Bride Quarterly. She provides a respected platform to give students and emerging regional authors a voice. Volk Miller is also co-director of Drexel Publishing Group and Associate Teaching Professor at Drexel University. Read More »
  • Vice President of Cultural Tourism, Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation

    Through Philly 360, Patricia Washington uses social networks to build buzz about Philadelphia as a premiere travel hot spot. Washington convenes creative ambassadors to reach out to African American tourists and residents. Read More »
  • Director, Dance/USA Philadelphia

    Lois Welk advances professional dance by providing services and leadership through Dance USA. She convenes the dance community to strengthen the infrastructure for dance creation, education and performance. Read More »
  • Executive Director, InLiquid

    Rachel Zimmerman is an artist who founded the nonprofit InLiquid in 1999 to provide exposure for visual artists and designers, and to serve as a free public hub for arts information. InLiquid also presents exhibitions in a variety of venues. Read More »
  • Owner, Zorich Consulting

    Mikhail Zorich runs Mosaica, the main cultural event for the Russian-speaking community. He brings together people from different ethnic, religious, and professional backgrounds and has a blog called Russian Events in Philadelphia. Read More »
  • Owner, R5 Productions

    As founder and owner of R5 Productions, Sean Agnew worked to make live music by touring artists more accessible to younger Philadelphia-area concertgoers. He has transformed the defunct Spaghetti Warehouse restaurant on Spring Garden Street into Union Transfer, a new concert venue with a 1,000-person capacity. Read More »
  • Executive Director, Fairmount Park Art Association

    As executive director of the Fairmount Park Art Association, Penny Balkin Bach has led a drive to preserve outdoor sculpture in the city. She works generally to promote appreciation and preservation of public art. Read More »
  • Director of Arts, International House Philadelphia

    Renae Dinerman serves as Director of Arts at International House Philadelphia, where more than 400 students, scholars, and interns convene and reside. The organization works to promote "high quality international arts and humanities" programs to promote cooperation and respect among people of different cultures.
    Read More »
  • Founder, Digital Media Strategist
    Media Bureau, Inc.

    Benjamin Barnett is founder and digital media strategist of the Philadelphia-based Media Bureau agency. He works to connect independent film makers with a diverse group of peers through the Philadelphia Independent Film Festival. Read More »
  • President,
    Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

    Drew Becher became president of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society in 2010. Becher has tried to create a sense of community in the city through civic landscaping and horticultural projects such as the Pop-Up Garden. Read More »
  • Board Member,
    Pennsylvanians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty

    Poet Aja Beech is a board member of Pennsylvanians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. She uses her poetry to mobilize a network of activists aiming to stop capital punishment. Read More »
  • Director of Theatre Programs,
    National Constitution Center

    As director of theater programs at the National Constitution Center, Nora Berger-Green works to integrate theatre into educational programs about constitutional issues, with the goal of spurring conversations among visiting students. Read More »
  • President,
    Rockstar Entertainment

    Marc Byers founded Rockstar Entertainment, an entertainment marketing firm in Center City. Byers uses his connections to create strategic partnerships among musical performers, writers and producers.Read More »
  • President & CEO,
    The Mann Center for the Performing Arts"

    Catherine Cahill came on board as President and CEO of the Mann Center in 2008. She uses her 20 years of experience in performing arts to try to bring world class performances at affordable prices to the center in Fairmount Park. Read More »
  • "Executive Director
    Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA)
    Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts"

    As executive director of the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts, a new initiative of Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Ed Cambron oversees all aspects of the month-long event.Read More »
  • Founder & Executive Director, Arts Sanctuary

    Lorene Cary is a novelist, educator and winner of the Philadelphia Award. She founded Art Sanctuary in North Philadelphia, a program that uses work by black artists to “inspire and unite” individuals. In October, Mayor Michael Nutter appointed Cary as a member of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission.
    Read More »
  • Artistic Director & Co-Founder, 1812 Productions

    As artistic director of 1812, Childs brings lots of laughter to Philadelphia's performing arts scene. As a leader and performer within the comedy and theater community, she uses humor to explore important local and national issues.
    Read More »
  • Executive Director. Philadelphia Community Access Media (PhillyCAM)

    As executive director for PhillyCAM, Gretjen Clausing has worked to secure public access to media channels. An activist in this field, she has tried to assemble media leaders in order to address the future of media.Read More »
  • Curator, Breadboard at the Science Center

    As head of programs at Breadboard in the University City Science Center, David Clayton plays at the intersection of art and technology. The project explores creative applications of technology in art. He helps organize the regular Ignite Philly events at Johnny Brenda's in Fishtown.
    Read More»
  • Executive Director, Jazz Bridge

    Suzanne Cloud helped found Jazz Bridge in 2004, as a way to help jazz and blues musicians who were having a hard time meeting living or medical expenses. She is herself a successful jazz vocalist. Jazz Bridge became a formal nonprofit in 2007.
    Read More »
  • Founder & Executive Director, PYPM

    Greg Corbin Jr. is a poet, activist, and community leader. In 2006, he founded the Philadelphia Youth Poetry Movement to provide space and mentoring to help Philadelphia youths discover the power of their voices through spoken word and literary expression.
    Read More »
  • Former President & CEO Director, Arts & Business Council of Greater Philadelphia

    Karen Davis is the former president and CEO of the Arts Business Council of Greater Philadelphia. The organization works to strengthen the connections between the business and cultural communities to stimulate creativity and innovation.
    Read More »
  • Owner, Kelly Drive designs

    Kevin Derrick founded the Kelly Drive web site as an online collaborative presenting the work of Philadelphia artisans and craftspeople. He also serves as senior marketing coordinator for the design firm of KlingStubbins.
    Read More »
  • Principal, P'unk Avenue

    Geoff DiMasi is a principal at P’unk Avenue, a Web design firm in South Philadelphia, and a founder of the Independents Hall, a co-working space for designers in Old City. He also helps organize the annual Ignite Philly event and the Junto, regular meetups to discuss local and global issues.
    Read More »
  • General Director, Opera Company of Philadelphia

    Since becoming a part of the Opera Company of Philadelphia, David Devan has been involved in a number of programs, such as the Aurora Series for Chamber Opera at the Perelman Theater and the innovative Hip H'Opera. Devan develops partnerships that connect the community to the opera world. Read More »
  • Co-Founder, Fourth Wall Arts

    Elijah Dornstreich is one of the founders of Fourth Wall Arts, which brings together eclectic artists with diverse audiences. Events are held monthly and feature fine art, music, dance, and theatre in an effort to engage audiences in varying ethnic groups and neighborhoods.
    Read More »
  • Director, Ladybird

    As director of Ladybird, Anna Drozdowski has helped to coordinate performing arts projects in the Philadelphia area. She helps produce cultural activities that inspire the community through dance.
    Read More »
  • Co-Founder, the artblog

    Roberta Fallon co-founded the artblog with Libby Rosof, another Creative Connector, to bridge the gap between ordinary people and art. The site curates content which promotes art and artists through multimedia content.
    Read More »


Key traits of Creative Connectors

"Connectors link us up with the world, introduce us to our social circles, and possess a special gift for bringing the world together."

- Malcolm Gladwell

  • Creative Connectors are hubs of trust, seen as trustworthy and credible.
  • They use art and design to mobilize people around an issue.
  • They foster one-to-one linkages among people they know.
  • They engage with diverse groups.
  • They consider the common good as well as personal agendas.
  • They convey a vision that generates excitement.
  • They think strategically, act decisively.
  • Most have founded an organization or program.
  • Most work in the non-profit sector.
  • Nearly three out of four moved here from somewhere else.
Use the pulldown to filter comments based on other users' ratings:

Comments for this article are closed.

Agnew, Sean
Balkin Bach, Penny
Barnett, Benjamin
Becher, Drew
Beech, Aja
Berger-Green, Nora
Byers, Marc
Cahill, Catherine
Cambron, Ed
(Photo by Martin Regusters)
Childs, Jennifer
Clausing, Gretjen
Clayton, David
Cloud, Suzanne
Corbin Jr., Greg
Davis, Karen
Derrick, Kevin
Devan, David
DiMasi, Geoff
Dinerman, Renae
Dornstreich, Elijah
Drozdowski, Anna
Fallon, Roberta
Febo-San Miguel, Carmen
Feldman, Matthew
Fitzgibbon, Cecelia
Golden, Jane
Hamilton, Craig
Hawkins, Julie
(Kimberly Paynter/For NewsWorks)
Jay, Hilary
Johnson, Jeri Lynne
Kaiden, Tom
Kaufman, Leslie
Kimmell, Todd
Kleinman, Neil
Kluger, Joseph
Knapp, Glen
Lin, Kun-Yang
Lloyd, Benjamin
Lloyd, Thomas
Mapp, Brett
Maughan, Greg
McMickens, Varissa
Miller, Beth
Musselman, Kevin
(Kimberly Paynter/For NewsWorks)
Odom, Yumy
Peterson, Craig
Quinn Bauriedel, Gabriel
Real, Hal
Reilly, Erin
Rosof, Libby
Sassi, Rebekah
Sayed, Hazami
Schaeffer, Pearl
Scheidegger, Amy Lynne
Silzle, Barbara
Simonet, Andrew
(Photo by J.J. Tiziou)
Smith, Tayyib
Solanke, Ola
Solot, Vicki
Squire, Thaddeus
Steuer, Gary
Stuccio, Nick
Tettemer, Ed
Thompson, Ahmir
Thompson, Stanford
(Photo by Page Widick)
Volk Miller, Kathleen
Washington, Patricia
Welk, Lois