About Sarah Lutman

I have spent the past 30 years as a manager in a variety of cultural and media organizations and philanthropic foundations.   I have enjoyed the creative challenge of changing jobs and being able to participate in the cultural sector from many vantage points.  I enjoy meeting people and making things happen and I am gratified when I am able to help creative individuals reach and connect with an audience.

I tried to be a professional bassoonist but was in more demand for organizing concerts and people than I was as a player.  Then one thing led to another.  In the Bay Area I led a community music center that had classical and jazz performing and training programs.  It was funded almost entirely by CETA for those of you old enough to remember that federal jobs program.  After that I was executive director of Pro Arts, a multi-service cultural organization in the heart of downtown Oakland that organized exhibits, readings, and concerts and that employed dozens of artists in community centers like schools and youth centers.  We were among the first in the US to organize and promote artists’ open studio events.  It’s exciting to see that East Bay Artists’ Open Studios is still alive and kicking — more than 50,000 people attended last year.  I still have the original posters from Open Studios #1 in my memory box, and I see they are still using the logo we developed.

From there I became the Executive Director of the Fleishhacker Foundation in San Francisco.  I worked there for seven years, founding the Eureka Fellowships program (first of its kind in California) and helping to provide early support to many small, vibrant cultural organizations in the Bay Area.  While there, Grantmakers in the Arts was formed as an affinity group of the Council on Foundations and I joined the Board.  First with Wendy Bennett and then with Anne Focke I worked for many years as co-editor of the Grantmakers in the Arts Reader, which has become important reading in the field.

In early 1990 I was recruited to the Twin Cities to become a program officer at The Bush Foundation, which at the time had a robust cultural grantmaking program and one of the largest artists’ fellowship programs in the United States.  Among the projects I worked on at Bush was diversifying the cultural funding programs to include grantmaking aimed to strengthen the energetic cohort of smaller-budget  but nonetheless important cultural organizations in the Twin Cities and in the Dakotas. With Anne Focke’s leadership a few of us also spent a couple of years during this time trying to launch Artswire, an early attempt to aggregate the nonprofit cultural sector on-line (this was before Graphical User Interfaces — we were pioneers!).

Minnesota Public Radio recruited me in 1999 and I had a happy home there for 9 years.  My first assignment was helping to launch KPCC, or Southern California Public Radio, which is now Los Angeles’ leading public radio news station.  Later I was the lead staff in launching The Current, a wonderful new station for Minnesota, if I do say so myself.  I also was Executive Producer of two Peabody Award winning series, American Mavericks and The MTT Files, both created in conjunction with Producer Tom Voegli and with the San Francisco Symphony and its imaginative Music Director, Michael Tilson Thomas.  My experiences at MPR included leadership of both its large news operation and the cultural programming group for my final three years of employment there, as SVP Content and Media. We did a lot of good work there transforming our public radio organization into a public media organization and incorporating digital distribution and audience interaction into our content development work.  We also were able to move the production of Performance Today and SymphonyCast from their former home at National Public Radio to St Paul to become part of our production portfolio.

From 2009 – 20012 I served as President and Managing Director of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.  The SPCO, now in its 52nd season, is the nation’s only full-time professional chamber orchestra and is widely regarded as one of the finest chamber orchestras in the world.  In collaboration with five artistic partners – Roberto Abbado, Edo de Waart, Dawn Upshaw, Christian Zacharias and Thomas Zehetmair – the SPCO’s 34 virtuoso musicians present more than 130 concerts and educational programs each year, and are regularly heard on public radio stations in the U.S. and abroad.  The SPCO has released 67 recordings, commissioned 127 new works, and performed the world premiere of 49 additional compositions. The SPCO has earned the distinction of 15 ASCAP awards for adventurous programming.

In 2012 I left the SPCO to launch an independent business, Lutman & Associates. We work with cultural, public media, and philanthropic organizations across the US, focusing on strategy, planning, program development, and now working to start some projects in the Twin Cities. You can read more about what we’re doing, including client and project information, on the Lutman & Associates website.

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