In 2019 Prescott Park Arts Festival (the Festival) celebrated its 45th season of presenting music, art, theater, and dance on 3.5 acres along the banks of the Piscataqua River in beautiful downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Founded in 1974, its mission is to provide financially accessible, multigenerational, high-quality family entertainment and educational events to a large and diverse audience. The Festival fulfills this mission and serves the community by providing quality diverse arts programming, accessible to all, without a fixed ticket cost. By presenting its music, dance, and theater programs without an admission fee, the Festival offers an opportunity for everyone, regardless of means, to experience the magic and beauty of live performance. For many people, especially children, the free festival events are their first opportunity to experience live performances.
The Festival presents more than 90 diverse arts events to nearly 250,000 people each season. Since its inception, the Festival has reached over 3.5 million people through more than 10,000 productions and presentations. Although there are no tickets, a gate donation is suggested. The Festival has increased the quantity and quality of its programming over its 45-year history while limiting the suggested gate donation to $5 to $10 depending on the type of event. Presented events include concert series, movies, theater, and other special events such as chili cook-offs, brew fests, ice cream socials, and chowder festivals.
The River House Restaurant Concert Series is held in Prescott Park throughout the summer season, showcasing top-notch, riveting performers from around the globe, including Band of Horses, Aaron Neville, Jenny Lewis, Phosphorescent, and Aimee Mann, among many others. The Festival also presents a range of movies on a giant screen with festival-grade sound, a high-definition projector, and delicious snacks to enjoy under the stars. The Festival’s signature musical performance has been produced and staged in the park every summer since 1974 and has included evening and matinee performances of Seussical, Mary Poppins, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, along with an array of additional productions. The season musical, which includes a large youth cast, provides a professional, high-caliber performance experience to many area youths. The Festival acts as a training ground to cultivate artistic talent and hone the technical skills that have launched many professional careers for alumni.
The Festival is governed by a 10-member board of directors, led by Chair John Tabor, and the current structure includes seven full-time staff members and more than 50 part-time and contract employees. The operating budget is approximately $1.5 million, evenly funded by admission donations, concessions, and sponsorships. The Festival recently received preliminary approval from the City to build a covered stage. It will undertake a capital campaign to achieve this important advancement to best serve its wonderful artists and multigenerational audiences.
Dividing New Hampshire and Maine, Portsmouth is a pristine coastal city of roughly 21,000 people. It has a historic past and cultural strength, regularly landing on various "best places to live" lists. In 2008 the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Portsmouth to its list of America's Dozen Distinctive Destinations, calling the city "one of the most culturally rich destinations in the country…with a stimulating mix of historic buildings, sidewalk cafés, great restaurants, art galleries, jazz clubs, and distinctive artisans' boutiques." National Geographic Traveler has also ranked Portsmouth as one of the globe's historic places—sixth in the United States and 26th in the world.
Filled with an array of historic homes and museums, Portsmouth boasts 400 years of history, culture, architecture, and scenic beauty, featuring a multitude of fascinating sites, activities, and events year-round. The region is noted for its many attractions and tax-free shopping opportunities. With hundreds of restaurants and a vibrant arts and cultural scene, Portsmouth is a foodie haven. Boasting several James Beard Award finalists, Portsmouth has one of the highest concentrations of restaurants per-capita in the nation.
Easily accessible, Portsmouth is located less than one hour south of Portland, Maine, and one hour north of Boston, with Logan International Airport providing service to and from major national and international cities. There is a diverse offering of housing opportunities ranging from downtown apartments to country homes. Portsmouth has a highly educated population and boasts six nearby colleges. An excellent city for families, Portsmouth is also a sought-after choice for highly educated executives, urban sophisticates, and single young professionals.
The Executive Director will be a dynamic and experienced professional with overall strategic, financial, and operational responsibility for the Festival’s programs, staff, and execution of its mission. Reporting to the board of directors, this individual will initially gain deep knowledge of core programs, operations, key stakeholders, and financial business model and then develop future plans for program growth and organizational expansion. While the summer season of park performances is the most intense period of the year, key roles and responsibilities will be year-round and entail active advance planning and visible community participation.
Roles and Responsibilities
Programmatic Direction and Community Engagement
Ensure ongoing programmatic excellence while leveraging the past artistic successes of the Festival.
Continue an ethos where multigenerational audiences, residents, and visitors value the Festival’s role in the community and region.
Engage in public and private dialogues with a wide array of community stakeholders in service of their aspirations.
Advance the Festival’s long-term artistic, educational, and community vision and collaborate with board members to achieve strategic and financial goals.
Embrace other programmatic direction and community engagement responsibilities, as appropriate.
Revenue Expansion and Campaign Preparation
Expand revenue generating and fundraising activities to support existing operations as well as a capital campaign for the new stage and endowment as envisioned in the 2019 strategic plan.
Deepen relationships with key sponsors, donors, and community members to advance short- and long-term capitalization needs.
Build productive relationships with the City Manager and other key City staff, including first responders, and ensure compliance with the City Lease Agreement.
Find new and creative ways to leverage the public/private partnership with the City.
Provide direction for all aspects of communication, including web and social media presence and broad public relations, with a goal of creating even stronger brand awareness of the Festival.
Embrace other revenue expansion and campaign preparation responsibilities, as appropriate.
Leadership, Governance, and Management
Build, lead, and mentor a strong team of staff members and contractors to support the Festival’s artistic and educational goals.
Serve as an ex-officio member of the board and develop strong relationships with board members, enlisting their support and engaging their professional and personal connections.
Oversee and implement necessary systems, financial controls, and processes that enhance operational effectiveness with the support of the board and staff.
Develop and deliver the annual operating plan and budget while ensuring the ongoing financial success and stability of the Festival.
Embrace other leadership, governance, and management responsibilities, as appropriate.
Traits and Characteristics
The Executive Director will be a resourceful community leader who deepens existing relationships and develops new relationships with a broad array of stakeholders. This individual will be open to new ideas to improve the audience experience in stunning surroundings and picturesque landscapes. Instinctive by nature, the Executive Director will value personal interaction, with an underlying urgency that provides motivation and direction. Versatile in their ability to adapt to numerous situations and multigenerational audiences, the Executive Director will lead with an egalitarian approach grounded in the delivery of practical results. When needed, the Executive Director will provide a can-do, hands-on approach to leadership during the fast-paced, deadline-driven season.
Other key competencies include:
Goal Orientation and Resiliency – The ingenuity to assess options and establish strategic goals while evaluating challenges, planning activities, and organizing priorities.
Leadership and Teamwork – The capacity to engage, lead, mentor, listen, and build relationships that advance collaborative networks and community participation.
Negotiation and Accountability – The dexterity to facilitate mutually beneficial agreements and adhere to professional accountability standards.
Self-Starting – The initiative to develop and test ideas, processes, and systems that raise public awareness and appreciation for the Festival and drive new revenue.
A bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience (preferably in arts administration, nonprofit management, social action, or similar creative fields) is required. A minimum of five years of experience in a senior management role, with preference for those who have led a successful capital campaign and generated new sources of earned and contributed revenues, is necessary. Past experience serving on or working with a board of directors is needed, along with a proven record of cultivating productive relationships with board members, donors, and key community stakeholders. Demonstrated success in professional, effective, and tactful communications, with superb written, verbal, and nonverbal skills in both one-on-one and group environments, is expected. The ideal candidate will be an excellent listener and team player.
Compensation and Benefits
The Festival provides competitive compensation and employee benefits that include health insurance, a 401(k) plan, and an extraordinary quality of life offered by the Portsmouth community.