Big Medium Announces Departure of Executive Director Shea Little; Launches Search for Managing Director

by Jessica Fuentes May 2, 2024

Big Medium, an Austin-based nonprofit art organization, has announced that Shea Little, its co-founder and Executive Director, will step down from his role. He will stay on for a stint to facilitate the hiring of an employee and assist in their transition to the organization’s new position of Managing Director.

A black and white photograph of artist and arts administrator Shea Little.

Shea Little at Big Medium’s original home, Bolm Studios, during the first East Austin Studio Tour, 2013.

In 2003, Mr. Little, in collaboration with Jana Swec and Joseph Phillips, organized the inaugural East Austin Studio Tour (now Big Medium’s Austin Studio Tour). Four years later, the artists established Big Medium in a building now known as Bolm Studios. In 2013, the organization partnered with the developers of Canopy and became an anchor tenant in the mixed-use creative complex. That same year, the organization produced the West Austin Studio Tour, the East Austin Studio Tour, and grew the Texas Biennial to host programs and exhibitions across the state. The biennial was founded in the early 2000s and is the longest-running state biennial in the U.S. 

Reflecting on 2013, Mr. Little told Glasstire, “I was young and ambitious and stretched myself and Big Medium as far as possible to make art happen across Austin and Texas.” More broadly, he shared, “My proudest moments have come when I have had the honor to help artists create, experiment, and share what they do with people.”

For over a decade, Big Medium served as a liaison for artists and assisted with the management of the Canopy property. In early 2023, the organization announced its plans to leave the complex and later that year it moved into its new space in South Austin.

In a press release, the Board of Directors noted, “Shea’s unwavering passion and commitment have shaped Big Medium and Austin’s artistic community into what it is today. While his direct impact on the lives of local artists is difficult to measure, Big Medium data collected over the past ten years indicates that artists and curators have benefited from more than $5 million in art sales and related income… Shea’s vision of building a diverse, accessible, and sustainable Austin arts community at a grassroots level will continue to shape our path going forward.”

When asked about his departure from the organization, Mr. Little explained, “I’m ready for a new chapter in my life, and the organization is ready for its own new chapter. Founders can either hold on forever and possibly the organization ends when they finally give up, or they can see that the organization can grow and prosper beyond the founder. This is my child, and it’s hard to let go, but I think Big Medium is in a good position for this change.”

A photograph of curator Coka Treviño.

Coka Treviño

Mr. Little noted that the art world is a difficult place in which to operate and that new leadership can foster innovative ideas that will help Big Medium thrive. He added, “Under the leadership of Coka Treviño, our Curator and Artistic Director, Big Medium will continue to do great work. Her vision for the future is exciting and groundbreaking. All we need is the funding and support to bring her vision to fruition. I’m happy leaving Big Medium in such good hands.”

While Mr. Little does not have a new job lined up yet, he stated that he is looking for a path that will provide a better work/life balance so he can focus on making art and spending time with his family. 

In light of Mr. Little’s forthcoming departure, the board established a transition committee that assessed the Executive Director role. A statement from Big Medium explained, “The committee recognized that Coka was truly leading the Big Medium programming and artistic direction in a way that justified a promotion to a director role. Once that decision was made, the committee re-conceived the Executive Director role into a Managing Director role so that our search would result in a job candidate that had a very focused background in operations and management… we felt like re-defining the leadership role as a Managing Director might expand the applicant pool so that we could find someone with a particular skill set, even if that skill set were developed in a non-art environment.”

The new Managing Director will oversee Big Medium’s business operations and co-lead the organization with Ms. Treviño. Regarding her recent promotion, Ms. Treviño said, “I am very fortunate to have learned from Shea and moved towards leadership slowly in the organization. It is an honor to be in this position formally when Big Medium and Austin are going through such tremendous changes.”

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Steven Evans May 2, 2024 - 10:39

I’ve worked with Shea on some great projects with tremendous results, and while I’m sad to see him depart his current role(s), I’m confident that Big Medium will thrive. I look forward to seeing what is next for Shea – he has been a great partner!


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