Texans for the Arts Announces Ann Graham’s Upcoming Retirement; Names Christopher Kiley as Successor

by Jessica Fuentes June 30, 2023

This week Texans for the Arts (TFA), a non-partisan statewide arts advocacy organization, announced that Executive Director Ann S. Graham will retire this fall and current Associate Director, Christopher Kiley, will be Ms. Graham’s successor.

A photograph of arts advocate and cultural leader Ann S. Graham.

Ann S. Graham

During Ms. Graham’s time at TFA, the organization saw immense growth and success. Through her ten years of advocacy work with TFA, the Texas Legislature quadrupled funds to the Texas Commission on the Arts, which resulted in more support for arts organizations throughout the state. She also expanded TFA organizational memberships by 100%, and expanded the TFA’s Arts Advocacy Summit, a biennial gathering that provides advocacy training on ways to engage with elected officials in support of the arts. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, as many arts organizations struggled, Ms. Graham was instrumental in securing relief funding for arts organizations throughout the state. According to a press release by TFA, Ms. Graham “helped plant the seed of the idea in Houston which led to $5 million for Houston-based arts organizations through the American Rescue Plan Act,” and also advocated for the arts in relation to the Texas Travel Industry Recovery Program, which ultimately distributed $180 million to the travel, tourism and arts. Ms. Graham currently serves on the Governor’s Office of Broadband/Capital Regional Task Force, where she is a voice for the arts in regards to upcoming federal funds to expand broadband access across Texas.

Beyond her role within the state, Ms. Graham has also worked on a national level. In 2017 she was named vice chair of the Americans for the Arts’ State Arts Action Network, and from 2018 to 2021 she served as the network’s chair. In 2020 she was awarded the Alene Valkanas State Arts Advocacy Award, the highest national award for state arts advocacy leadership.

A press release from the TFA stated that Ms. Graham sees her greatest accomplishment as “raising the public’s awareness of the deeply valuable intersections of the arts to community life, making the case as to why investing public resources in the arts is a vital contribution to community health.”

Sara Sells Morgan, Director of the Art Museum of South Texas, noted in the release that along with being instrumental in growing arts funding in and beyond the state, Ms. Graham has supported the advocacy development of art and cultural leaders across Texas. 

Cookie Ruiz, Executive Director of Ballet Austin, TFA Board member, and former Board President, stated, “Ann works tirelessly to raise awareness about the vital role that arts, culture and creativity play in our lives and led TFA to secure dramatic increases in public funding. Today, TFA is known for its strategic partnerships and warm welcome to its new members reaching communities over the entire state of Texas. We are all grateful to Ann for her effective leadership, and relentless commitment to TFA’s mission, while repositioning art as an invaluable part of people’s lives.”

Ms. Graham will retire as Executive Director of TFA on October 31, 2023, at which point, Mr. Kiley will step into the role. Mr. Kiley has worked at the organization for nearly seven years. Previously he served as Executive Director of Derryfield School Repertory Theatre Program in Manchester, New Hampshire, and as a Congressional Aide in Washington, D.C. 

Fiona Bond, CEO of Creative Waco and current TFA President and Chair, remarked, “Ann Graham leaves an organization and a sector that is stronger and more successful because of her efforts. She has been recognized as the very best in the nation in arts advocacy, and therefore we are thrilled that she has played such a key role in preparing Chris as her successor. He comes with his own outstanding talents, and we could not be more thankful for this exemplary passing of the baton. The future for arts advocacy in Texas is big and bright!”

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