Springfield, MO

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2015 40 Under 40 Honoree: Leslie Forrester

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Leslie Forrester knew at a young age she was never going to perform on Broadway but that didn’t quench her passion for creativity and performance. She says these experiences were more than hobbies; they were, for her, a way of life.

“When thinking about what I hoped to accomplish professionally,” she says, “my career had to be arts-related.”

Forrester achieved that goal when, in December 2013, she got the executive director role at the Springfield Regional Arts Council. Forrester previously served as the SRAC’s arts education outreach coordinator 2007-09 before leaving the area to pursue a graduate degree. She says she and her husband had always wanted to return to Springfield, so when the executive director position came open, “I jumped at the opportunity.

“I am the leading advocate for support of the arts in Springfield and the 27 counties serviced by the SRAC,” Forrester says, noting her responsibilities include fundraising, program implementation and evaluation, membership development, budgeting and facility management. She will even clean the restrooms, if need be.

“No job is below my pay grade,” she says.

In addition to Forrester, the SRAC employs five others. Forrester says she guides the staff in achieving the SRAC’s mission of “transforming lives and enriching community through the arts” by setting an example of what it means to be a good leader.

“I encourage each person to make decisions and experiment with new ideas,” she says.

“When difficult decisions need to be made, we are able to work together with mutual respect and loyalty. We work as a team in almost everything we do.”

Forrester knows that being the executive director doesn’t mean she now knows how to resolve every issue she encounters.

“I recognize that I am still learning every day, which I share openly and honestly with my team members,” she says. “I don’t have all of the answers, so I surround myself with incredibly smart, passionate, educated community leaders who help guide me in the right direction.”

She says admitting she still has a lot to learn “trickles down to the staff.”

“They aren’t afraid to ask questions, to try new things and seek out their own learning opportunities,” Forrester says.

Forrester participates in Community Foundation of the Ozarks’ Learning Community, is a member of Leadership Springfield’s Class 30, co-chairs the arts and culture section of the Community Focus Report and is a member of the Any Given Child Action Committee, which provides access to arts programs to Springfield students.

“The arts give a community a soul, a purpose and an identity,” Forrester says. “Thanks to the transformational leadership that has come before me, the SRAC is in a prime spot to explore new heights. It is my responsibility to lead the team to get us there.”[[In-content Ad]]


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