Executive Director: The Leeway Foundation

The Leeway Foundation supports women and trans artists and cultural producers working in communities at the intersection of art, culture, and social change. Through their grantmaking and other programs, they promote artistic expression that amplifies the voices of those on the margins, promotes sustainable and healthy communities, and works in the service of movements for economic and social justice. At a pivotal moment of change with Leeway’s long-time leader moving on, Leeway now invites applications and nominations for its next Executive Director.

The Executive Director will lead an exemplary staff, in partnership with a committed board, to continue to fund the impactful work of cultural producers in the Philadelphia area, expand resources deployed to support grantees and applicants, and influence the field of philanthropy to shift power to artists and communities they support.


Leeway believes that art is a vital tool for community building, self-expression, and individual and collective transformation. Art can bridge differences, center those who have been on the margins, and challenge and connect communities and individuals to live in peaceful coexistence. The organization and its people envision a world in which art flourishes in many forms as the cultural life blood of communities, where all have access to creative expression regardless of who they are, and where art and art-making is considered an essential element of our collective efforts to create a more just, peaceful world where all can live in dignity. Leeway’s guiding values are community, diversity, continuity, integrity, opportunity, originality, and social impact, as further detailed on its website.

At present, Leeway invests in artists through a range of grantmaking programs and other supports, including:

  • Susan DiPronio (ACG’07, LTA’13)
  • Sistah Mafalda (ACG’13, WOO’17)
  • Rasheedah Phillips & Camae Ayewa (ACG’07, LTA’15), aka Black Quantum Futurism
  • Sosena Solomon (ACG’13, LTA’14)

Art and Change Grant (ACG) provides grants of up to $2,500 for projects by women, trans, and/or gender nonconforming artists and cultural producers living in Greater Philadelphia and working on art for social change. Awarded projects must be supported by or in collaboration with a change partner (person, organization, or business that is part of the project).

Leeway Transformation Awards (LTA) are unrestricted annual awards of $15,000 to women, trans, and gender non-conforming artists and cultural producers living in Philadelphia who have a track record of creating art for social change that impacts a larger group or audience.

Media Artist + Activist Residency (MAR) provides grants of $25,000 (a $15,000 grant to the artist and a $10,000 grant to the organization) for work that documents, reframes, and/or amplifies the issues and campaigns addressed by the partnered organizations. The aim of this residency is to reveal and extend the ways that artists and the artistic process can work within organizations working towards social change.

Window of Opportunity (WOO) provides financial assistance of up to $1,500 to previous Leeway grant and award recipients who use the funds to take advantage of time- sensitive opportunities to support their art for social change. Those opportunities could be training or development workshops, conferences, residencies, travel, costs associated with documentation of a project, rental of equipment, purchase of materials, or payment of services for outreach or distribution.

Community Care Fund (CCF) provides financial assistance to Leeway grant and award recipients experiencing emergency needs. While planned to sunset, this fund grew out of Leeway’s COVID-19 Relief Fund and is an example of the organization’s responsive and holistic support for its community.

Funded by an initial gift from Philadelphia-based artist Linda Lee Alter in 1993, Leeway Foundation was established “to promote the welfare of women and to benefit the arts” in the five-county Philadelphia area and “encourage their increased recognition and representation in the arts community.” Through the leadership of outgoing Executive Director Denise Brown, Leeway’s commitment to funding women, trans, and gender-nonconforming artists and cultural producers creating work at the intersections of art, culture, and social change came about as the result of the foundation’s intention of finding ways to more fully live out its mission, as did its participatory grantmaking model. To learn more about Leeway’s history, please visit: www.leeway.org/about/history.


As the Leeway Foundation looks towards the future, staff and board have identified this leadership transition as an inflection point between “Leeway 2.0” and “Leeway 3.0” and are excited about how the next phase of the organization will build on and expand support for people and work at the intersection of arts, culture, and social change. As Leeway’s senior leader, the next Executive Director will work with board and staff to maintain and steward a healthy and welcoming organization, increase resources for local grantmaking, and continue to influence shifts in national philanthropy toward redistribution and ceding power. Areas of opportunity for the next Executive Director include the following:

Identifying Leeway’s Role Today

Just as Leeway has evolved, the set of circumstances in which cultural workers and activists operate has changed over time. The next Executive Director will likely bring an informed perspective on what artists working on social change need at this moment and how Leeway can support them, and then refine and further develop that perspective as they move into the role and learn from Leeway staff, board, grantees and awardees, applicants, and other partners. While Leeway’s vision and mission are clear, there is ample room for a new leader to advance the organization’s work in ways that respond to the current context and anticipate future needs and opportunities in the field and community.

Influencing Philanthropy to Shift Power

Under Denise’s leadership, Leeway has shifted from a family foundation to a field- leading progressive funder where staff support the professional development and personal wellbeing of applicants and grantmaking decisions are made by peer artists and cultural workers, activists, and organizers. This approach was made possible by the founding family’s visionary decision to cede power to artists and to make way for community stewardship of resources. Now, Leeway is positioned to build on its existing national reputation to influence other philanthropies to follow in its footsteps or find other ways of grantmaking that meaningfully shift decision making power and financial resources to grantees and broader community. The next Executive Director will be able to leverage their own network, Leeway’s current supporters, and the many successes of the past two decades to influence, assist, and potentially consult to other grantmakers undertaking their own journeys of transformation.

Expanding Resources to Increase Impact

Currently, Leeway’s operations and grantmaking work are primarily funded by returns from its endowment. In order to increase the size and/or number of grants Leeway awards annually, the next Executive Director will likely want to engage with funders, potentially including individual donors and/or allied philanthropies, who may be interested in funding the organization as an intermediary supporting artists and arts for social change. The Executive Director will serve as chief storyteller for Leeway and take the lead in developing and stewarding these funding relationships. They will need to identify (and, if necessary, increase) organizational capacity to support partnerships and resource development work over time.

Building a Hybrid, Place-Based Paradigm

Leeway is a place-based organization focused on funding, supporting, and building the skills and capacity of artists working to advance social change in six Philadelphia-area counties. A key part of Leeway’s approach to building community has historically been through offering grantmaking support, professional development, and showcase events in person to help foster long-term relationships between staff, board members, partner organizations, and artist applicants and grantees. At the start of the pandemic, the foundation pivoted to a virtual model, and has since adopted hybrid formats for both its workplace and its community-oriented programming. The next Executive Director will explore the question of what it means to do place-based work in a “post”-pandemic reality by developing flexible, inclusive, intentional strategies for convening and working that uphold Leeway’s value of radical hospitality while also making best use of limited resources and responding to the current norms and community needs.

Stewarding Organizational Culture and Development

Leeway staff and board members work together with respect, appreciation, and shared commitment to the artist communities they serve. As long-serving board members roll off, the next Executive Director will need to invite the board to build its membership and enter into new ways of working together. Honoring and fostering organizational values and culture while further strengthening governance muscles will be key to Leeway’s future.


The ideal candidate will possess many of the following professional and personal abilities, attributes, and experiences:

  • A nuanced understanding of equity and justice values and movements (including but not limited to gender justice, racial justice, disability justice), with an analysis of and demonstrated approach to work that centers on shifting resources and building community power.
  • Understanding of the fundamental and unique role artists and culture work play in social change work and ability to communicate Leeway’s impact in this system to a wide variety of stakeholders.
  • Collaborative and responsive leader with deep respect for others’ contributions, insights, and ways of working.
  • Experience leading organizations or people and programs through change to new ways of working that deepen, broaden, or shift impact. Appreciation of the importance of listening and understanding and honoring history in transformation work and balancing “what is” and “what has been” with “what could be.”
  • Enthusiasm for place-based work and either appreciation for or curiosity about the rich assets, diverse communities, and unique context of the Philadelphia area.
  • Demonstrated ability to build organizational resources for impact through development and/ or partnership work.
  • Strong oral and written communication skills, including demonstrated capacity to represent an organization’s work with authenticity and enthusiasm to external stakeholders.
  • Management experience, including financial management, operational oversight, and staff management and development.


The starting salary for the Executive Director is $130,000 – $147,000 and is aligned with Leeway’s organizational salary bands. Benefits include: employer-sponsored medical, dental, and vision coverage, life and disability insurance, employer contributions to a Savings Incentive Match plan for Employee’s account (SIMPLE/IRA) – as well as generous paid time off, plus holidays, and two organizational breaks each year (summer and winter).

How to Apply

More information about The Leeway Foundation may be found at: www.leeway.org

This search is being led by Cara PearsallEva Rosenberg, and Chels Fryer of NPAG. Due to the pace of this search, candidates are strongly encouraged to apply as soon as possible. Candidates may submit their cover letter, outlining their interest and qualifications, along with their resume via NPAG’s website.

If you need assistance and/or accommodations during the application or recruiting process, please email Chels at: chelsea@npag.com.

Equal Employment Opportunity Statement & Invitation from Leeway

At Leeway Foundation, we believe that a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace makes us a more relevant, creative, and resilient organization. We encourage people of all backgrounds, ages, abilities, and experiences to apply. We are an equal opportunity employer. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ancestry, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, age, citizenship, marital or family status, disability, gender, gender identity or expression, pregnancy or caregiver status, veteran status, or any other legally protected status. We will ensure that individuals with disabilities are provided reasonable accommodations to participate in the job application and interview process, perform essential job functions, and receive equal benefits and privileges of employment.

A Note to Potential Candidates

Studies have shown that women, trans, non-binary folks, and BIPOC are less likely to apply for jobs unless they believe they meet every one of the qualifications as described in a job description. We are committed to building a diverse and inclusive organization, and we are most interested in finding the best candidate for the job. That candidate may be one who comes from a background less traditional to our field of work, and we welcome the opportunity for new insight into our work. If you feel resonance with this position description, we would strongly encourage you to apply, even if you don’t believe you meet every one of the qualifications described.