WESTAF Announces New Executive Director
The WESTAF trustees are pleased to announce that Christian Gaines has been selected to serve as the organization's new executive director. Gaines was hired following a national search that was initiated in May 2018. He will move to Denver and begin work at the organization in mid January, 2019.
As executive director of WESTAF, Gaines will oversee the further development of WESTAF's arts-based technology projects. Those projects currently serve approximately 3,000 arts organizations and more than 220,000 artists nationwide. He will also work to support the development of the 13 state arts agencies in the WESTAF region. WESTAF currently supports the agencies through the funding of legislative advocacy, professional development, grant making, and policy research and development. Gaines is well-acquainted with state arts agencies and their intrinsic value. He is currently serving his second term as an appointee of Governor Rick Snyder to Michigan's state arts agency, the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA).
Gaines most recently served for five years as executive director of ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, Michigan. ArtPrize is a nonprofit international art competition open to every artist working in every medium from everywhere in the world. For 19 days in the early fall, around 500,000 visitors descend upon the city, attending artists exhibit around 1,500 works that appear in over 170 venues-and it is all free and open to the public. A total of $500,000 in prizes is awarded each year-half by smartphone-enabled public vote and half by a jury of art professionals. Through this process, ArtPrize encourages critical discourse, celebrates artists, transforms urban space, and promotes cultural understanding. The event is also recognized for awarding substantial participation grants to artists, venues, and educators each year, and for its contribution to the economic vitality of the region. While at ArtPrize, Gaines also oversaw software that matches artists to venues and managed the enhancement of a geofenced mobile voting platform.
Gaines' commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion is a strong fit with the leadership work in which WESTAF is engaged. During his tenure at ArtPrize, Gaines worked with staff and community partners to develop and implement programs that addressed and improved the end-to-end ArtPrize experience for artists, venues, and visitors of color. Gaines is also experienced in and committed to issues of accessibility in the arts. A longtime board member of the nonprofit DisArt, he has worked tirelessly to ensure that ArtPrize involved and embraced disability culture through exhibits, events, programs, and support services.
Gaines' background includes extensive work in the film industry. For five years, he worked at IMDb.com, an Amazon company, where he served as director of festival strategy and business development overseeing the global expansion of Withoutabox.com, a film submission and adjudication platform connecting filmmakers to film festivals worldwide. He also served for eight years as director of festivals for the American Film Institute in Los Angeles, California and for four years as festival director and director of programming at the Hawaii International Film Festival in Honolulu, Hawaii.
For additional information about this change in staff, contact Leah Horn, WESTAF's Director of Communication. She can be reached at Leah.Horn@WESTAF.org or 303-629-1166.