Leah Hamilton made short work of her professional development at Springfield Regional Arts Council. Three years after joining SRAC as administrative assistant for program development, Hamilton was promoted to executive director in 2009, at the age of 27.
“Since taking the executive leadership role at the SRAC, I have focused on rebuilding partnerships and kindling community collaboration through programming and initiatives that address community red flags or needs,” Hamilton says of her role, in which she also manages operations of The Creamery Arts Center, where SRAC shares office and creative space with ballet, opera and orchestra companies.
A year after taking SRAC’s top post, Hamilton faced the expiration of a federal grant that amounted to half of the council’s operating revenue. Hamilton says she brought the team together to find solutions.
“With the help of a dedicated board and staff through the worst economic recession since the 1930s, the SRAC has posted three years in the black, increasing memberships by 111 percent and sponsorship revenue by 73 percent, as well as introducing new programs and initiatives that address community red flags, specifically sustainable funding and capacity building for the arts,” she says.
Gloria Galanes, interim dean of Missouri State University’s College of Arts and Letters, considers Hamilton a key cog in bringing about collaboration among Springfield arts organizations, which at times compete for talent, patrons and sponsorship dollars. Galanes says she observed this firsthand working with Hamilton on the Arts Programming Sustainability Initiative.
“APSI was challenging because there had been a history of bad feelings between the other arts organizations, particularly the ones that share space in the Creamery, and the Arts Council, so Leah had a lot of animosity to overcome,” Galanes says. “The other art directors like her, trust her and know that she understands them and has their collective best interests at heart. This was no small feat.”
Hamilton views her work as pointing people toward a common goal.
“I realize that there is power in numbers and that working well with fellow employees and community leaders has the greater impact,” she says.
Hamilton performs roles for Springfield Little Theatre and Springfield Regional Opera, and is an adjunct instructor at Missouri State and Drury universities.Click here for full coverage of the 2012 Most Influential Women.