Deborah McAuliffe Senner, president of OKC’s Allied Arts, is retiring


After more than two decades with Allied Arts, Deborah McAuliffe Senner is retiring later this year as president and CEO of the Oklahoma nonprofit arts organization.

Senner, 61, told The Oklahoman in an email that she plans to retire as head of Allied Arts after the organization’s 2022 campaign ends.

“My tenure at Allied Arts has been incredible,” Senner said in a statement. “Fundraising isn’t easy, but I’ve never been there alone. I’m so grateful to the incredible team at Allied Arts, a strong and committed Board of Directors, and all of the arts organizations and cultures that make our state a better place to live in. I’m confident there is someone out there ready to take on this role and lead Allied Arts to even greater heights.

Based in Oklahoma City, Allied Arts is a United Arts Fund that provides essential funding and increased awareness to more than 40 arts and culture organizations in Oklahoma.

Allied Arts member agencies include the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, Lyric Theatre, deadCenter Film, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City Ballet, Science Museum Oklahoma, Arts Council Oklahoma City, Red Earth, Canterbury Voices, and Oklahoma City Museum of Art.

Due to rising COVID-19 cases, Allied Arts postponed the start of its annual campaign earlier this year to March. The invite-only launch event is now scheduled for March 10 at the Oklahoma City Convention Center.

The plan is to wrap up the campaign by the end of June, Senner said.

“Deborah is one of Oklahoma City’s most energetic and passionate leaders and Allied Arts has benefited immensely from her many years of service,” OKC Mayor David Holt said in a statement. “We applaud her unique ability to sell the importance of the arts to everyone. Our city is grateful for his visionary leadership for the arts.

Senner joined Allied Arts in 2001

Senner began her career with Allied Arts in September 2001 as Director of Organizational Development, later earning a promotion to Vice President.

After former President and CEO Donna Rinehart-Keever retired from Allied Arts in 2009 after 10 years, Senner was named her successor following a national search.

Under Senner’s leadership, Allied Arts grew from a $1.3 million organization to a $6.6 million organization.

It increased the number of arts organizations under its umbrella from 20 to more than 40, increased endowments from $1 million to more than $5 million, and expanded its service area from central Oklahoma to all 77 counties in the state.

Since the Spring 2020 COVID-19 outbreak, Allied Arts has worked to support non-profit arts organizations hard hit by the pandemic. Together with other Oklahoma arts advocacy groups, Senner and Allied Arts have since last summer spearheaded a multi-million-dollar public-private effort to “restart the arts.” .

“I’m personally sad to see her go,” Allied Arts board chairman Steve Mason said in a statement. “We have worked closely together over the past three years and Deborah’s many accomplishments speak for themselves. Even in the toughest times of the pandemic, she remained positive and determined and definitely left a lasting mark on the artistic community.

A recipient of Governor’s Awards for the Arts, Senner has been praised for her service to state, regional and national boards.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s the Oklahoma City Chamber (of Commerce) or MAPS, criminal justice reform, education or a nonprofit, I enter in every meeting thinking, ‘How can the arts be part of the solution?'” Senner told The Oklahoman in 2020. “I take all my roles in the community very seriously, as a nonprofit leader , parent, wife, volunteer, neighbor and friend – trying to make a difference wherever I go.”

The nonprofit arts community sees several leadership changes

Just six weeks into 2022, Senner is one of several OKC arts organization leaders who this year have revealed plans to step down or retire.

Peter Dolese announced last week that he would retire as executive director of the OKC Arts Council, which produces the long-running Arts Festival and several other programs, at the end of 2022.

Krystle Kaye, who served as executive director of the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition for nearly five years, is stepping down as director of the nonprofit, which provides support, training and opportunities for artists across the world, this week. ‘State.

Robert Mills stepped down as artistic director of Oklahoma City Ballet last month amid his 14th season leading the company he helped revive.

The Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center recently announced that Artistic Director Jeremiah Matthew Davis will assume the role of the nonprofit’s newly created director on March 1. As part of an organizational restructuring, Davis will succeed executive director Eddie Walker, who revealed earlier this year that he would retire in the spring. .

Senner told The Oklahoman in January that the local leadership changes were part of a larger national trend both in the nonprofit arts sector and across the board.

“I feel like COVID has taken its toll on that, maybe moving the timeline up for some…who are just approaching retirement age,” she said.

“What really interests me about our local arts leaders is that many of them have far exceeded national averages to keep those jobs. … We’ve had these people stick around for decades, while the national average is more like three to five years.”

Allied Arts will launch an extensive search for its next CEO, according to a press release. To ensure a smooth transition, Senner plans to remain engaged throughout the process.

“When I see the impact of the dollars raised by Allied Arts and find out that someone’s life is completely transformed because of the arts, those are the real highlights of their career,” Senner told The Oklahoman in 2020.

“We receive letters of thanks from thousands of children who were able to experience their first trip to a museum, see their first ballet or hear their first philharmonic concert. All of this still brings tears to my eyes and gives meaning to my hobby.”

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