Our Approach

WESTAF focuses its search expertise on securing new leaders for state and local arts agencies, regional and national arts service organizations, and leaders of organizations of color. Our key search capabilities include: a proven ability to organize and manage the multiple processes of a search effort, the ability to work effectively with governing boards and search committees and a strong knowledge of how to network through the cultural field–and beyond–to generate a strong pool of diverse candidates.

WESTAF brings the following knowledge and expertise to a search process:

  • We know the current and trending environment for employment in senior positions in the arts. As a nonprofit arts organization, WESTAF has direct knowledge of the challenges facing the nonprofit and governmentally supported art sector. In addition, WESTAF leadership is active at the regional and national levels in the development of policies designed to help the field survive and thrive.
  • WESTAF has a long-standing commitment to advancing inclusion and equity in the field. The knowledge and perspectives gained from more than 15 years of intensive work in this area directly impact and inform our work in the area of executive searches.
  • WESTAF is skilled at designing and managing search processes that are responsive to the needs the client’s needs. We recognize local, state, regional, and national-level searches especially benefit from well-designed, well-administered processes.
  • WESTAF has conducted several successful executive director searches for staff leaders of arts nonprofits and agencies.


WESTAF executive searches are centered on specific areas of the arts and culture field. WESTAF is not a generalist and does not extend its work to all areas within arts and culture. Our expertise is significant, but it has been purposefully limited.

WESTAF is in a unique position to effectively conduct executive searches because:

  • WESTAF has extensive knowledge of the arts and culture field and works in that environment every day. One of our roles as a regional arts organization is to advise professionals in the field how to succeed in that environment.
  • WESTAF understands the organizational cultures of state and local arts agencies, regional and national arts service organizations, and organizations of color. Therefore, we can advise search committees and organizational leadership on how to proceed with significant knowledge and also with solutions that are a good fit for that culture.
  • WESTAF is known and respected in the arts field. A communication from WESTAF to a potential candidate suggesting that they apply and/or have an informed dialogue with the search team increases the likelihood of engaging that candidate in the search process.
  • WESTAF enjoys strong relationships with arts professionals of color. As a result, we have considerable knowledge of a network of such professionals who should be contacted and encouraged to apply for an executive position. WESTAF is recognized for its important work in promoting multicultural leadership in the field, which distinguishes us from competitors and is a clear advantage for organizations looking to work with a consultant that understands and is committed to inclusion and equity in the workplace.
  • WESTAF is a trusted leader in the arts and culture sector whose staff has a deep knowledge of best practices in arts and organizational management. We continuously track current trends and issues affecting the field and use this knowledge when helping clients navigate their customized search process. WESTAF has the right credentials to ensure a positive, informed, and professional leadership transition experience.

Search Philosophy and Strategy  

WESTAF believes that time and creative effort must be invested in order to identify the correct person for a position. We find that compromising on quality in order to fill a position quickly is never the right decision. With that in mind, we approach the executive search process with the following core beliefs:

  • We believe that an intensive early dialogue with the search committee and key stakeholders is a critical to the success of a search. These individuals need to be in general agreement regarding the vision they have for a successful applicant, and also the criteria they will use to evaluate the applicants. This group also needs to understand and agree to the process.
  • We believe that a carefully considered recruitment effort will help attract top candidates. Knowing not only who is actively seeking a position but what qualified individuals might be moved to explore a new opportunity is critical to the success of the effort. Our recruiting activities are conducted with a high level of competence and discretion.
  • We take the experience of candidates through the search process very seriously and understand that their experiences are, by extension, a reflection of their interaction with our clients. Clients can rest assured that their organization is represented well and with the degree of professionalism and consideration WESTAF routinely demonstrates at every phase of the search process.
  • We believe in working closely with the search leadership throughout the process and in understanding not just the stated desires of the committee, but also the many nuances of the search, especially the occasional change in an organization’s prospects that may need to be integrated into the process mid-search.
  • We believe that, at times, the right person for the position is already involved in the organization–and sometimes they are not. We make certain to work with internal candidates and applicants who are close to the organization in a way that contributes to the success of the search.

Search Team  

  • Chrissy Deal, Manager, Lead Search Consultant
  • Laurel Sherman, Search Manager

Our Process

The primary service offered is the provision of a full search service to organizations seeking to hire a senior staff member. The key segments of this full search process are:

  • Consultation with the leadership of an organization seeking new senior staff
  • Preparation of a position announcement in collaboration with an organization’s search leadership team
  • Distribution of the position announcement to a targeted field
  • Management of the receipt and sorting of applications
  • Facilitation of the deliberations of the search committee in the selection process
  • Conduct candidate reference checks
  • Management of the interview process
  • Consultation with the search leadership regarding the offer
  • Consultation with the new employee and the hiring organization regarding the orientation and onboarding process

Fee Structure and Guarantee

WESTAF completes executive searches on a retained search, fixed-fee basis for an agreed-upon scope of work. We offer a range of services at competitive rates, ranging from full search to intake and processing management, search advisor services, and position distribution (especially to professionals of color). If the initial search effort is inconclusive or the successful candidate vacates the position within one year of their start date, we will reopen the search for no additional professional fee.

For additional information on WESTAF’s executive search services, please contact Chrissy.Deal@westaf.org.