Sandra L. Gibson was born into a life of music. Her parents, both immigrants from the West Indies, insisted their children each play two instruments – one learned in celebration of culture at home, the other learned in Ohio’s public school system. Not only did Gibson go on to earn a degree in music education and instrumental music performance from Wittenberg University School of Music and a master’s degree in historical musicology from Northwestern University, she has taught music and continues to play the piano and sing. Gibson’s arts and culture training, teaching and practice over three decades have given her a unique understanding of partnership, creativity and collaboration.
Gibson’s professional experience began with her tenure as program representative for UCLA Extension’s Department of the Arts, where she oversaw 180-200 performing and integrated arts seminars and events annually and coordinated professional certificate programs in recording arts and sciences, film scoring and recording engineering. Gibson later joined the senior management team as head of West Coast operations at American Film Institute, where she also served as director for the Independent Filmmaker Program, an NEA re-granting program that established her as a leader and major fundraiser in the field. Gibson’s work as the executive director of the Public Corporation for the Arts, the Long Beach Arts Council in California, developed her gifts for working with diverse cultural communities, individual artists and patrons of arts and culture. Eventually, she was appointed chair of board of directors for the California Assembly of Local Arts Agencies, a statewide consortium of local arts councils, and as an officer of the National Association of Local Arts Agencies, where she again distinguished herself as a national arts advocate and visionary cultural leader. Gibson served on the steering committee that formed Americans for the Arts in 1995 and was the recruited for the position of executive vice president and COO at the newly formed organization in 1998. During that same time, she served on the steering committee for the Arts Education Partnership and as a board member of the Manchester Bidwell Corporation’s Denali Initiative to advance social entrepreneurship in the nonprofit sector. In 2000, she was appointed the fourth president and CEO of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, the leading service and advocacy organization for the presenting industry worldwide. In July 2011 Gibson became an independent consultant and serves as a Consulting Advisor to the DeVos Institute for Arts Leadership at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and as a consultant to the Smithsonian Institution as well as a board member of the National Center for Creative Aging, the Sphinx Organization and as Chair of the National Advisory Board for Smithsonian Folkways Records.
Gibson believes the arts are critical to personal, community and national well being, as well as one of the precious natural resources in an advanced democracy and in fostering global cultural exchanges. She has worked to raise dynamic conversations about the intrinsic value of art and art making, their contribution to a high-quality education, to economic livelihood and to a historic legacy woven intricately into the very fabric of American life.