Executive Director

Ragdale is a nonprofit artists’ community located on the former Arts & Crafts country estate of architect Howard Van Doren Shaw and poet and playwright, Frances Wells Shaw.

Nearly 150 residencies, numerous fellowships, and a variety of themed residencies are now offered annually to creative professionals of all types, making Ragdale one of the largest interdisciplinary artists’ communities in the country. Ragdale residents represent a cross-section of ages, cultures, experiences, and mediums, for a diverse and vibrant community.

In each session, artists-in-residence enjoy uninterrupted time for work and creativity, a supportive environment, dynamic artist exchanges, 50 acres of idyllic prairie, a 7-acre historically significant campus, and a family-style dinner each evening.

Type of Employment
Full time
Type of Role
Leadership or Executive-level
Salary Level or Range
This is a remote position

Lake Forest, IL
United States

How to Apply

Nominations, inquiries, and applications may be directed in confidence to: ragdalesearch@gmail.com

Applications must include 1) a resume and 2) a cover letter that clearly articulates how the applicant’s talents meet the competencies articulated in the job description. All applications must be emailed to the email address above with only the applicant’s name in the Subject line. The review of applications will begin immediately and continue until the position is filled—as a result, interested parties are strongly encouraged to submit applications as soon as possible.

Application Closing Date
Description and Qualifications

Ragdale is seeking a dynamic, visionary, and skilled leader to serve as its Executive Director as the organization builds on its rich history and looks towards its 50th anniversary as one of our country’s preeminent artists residency programs. The Executive Director serves as Ragdale’s chief executive officer and is charged with working in tandem with a dedicated Board and experienced staff to increase Ragdale’s support of the creative community and in turn its impact on our cultural landscape.

Ragdale has recently completed a $6.5 million campaign to improve and expand its campus and adopted a comprehensive strategic plan that will serve as the organization’s roadmap over the next three years.

The stage has been set for Ragdale’s next Executive Director to creatively expand programming, affirm the organization’s commitment to DEAI, increase the organization’s national prominence, and enhance the organization’s financial position.


With staff and board support, the Executive Director is responsible for:

Mission Driven Leadership. The Executive Director drives implementation of the strategic plan, keeping all eyes on the big picture strategy, while delivering on its specific goals. This includes tracking and sharing progress and making mid-course corrections where needed. This strategic leadership also includes being opportunistic and remaining nimble and innovative. The Executive Director is responsible for ensuring a flow of information from the organization (e.g. print and electronic newsletters, social media, etc.) that keeps constituent groups up to date on progress and engaged in the work.

Asset Development. Working with the board and staff, the Executive Director is the primary steward of assets — including financial and partnerships. The Executive Director takes the lead in setting an asset development strategy, cultivating and maintaining donors, key allied partnering organizations, plus managing earned income opportunities. This senior position cultivates and structures opportunities to collaborate on projects that can be mutually beneficial to Ragdale and partner organizations. The Executive Director provides leadership locally and within professional organizations in the arts and humanities—making Ragdale visible to key audiences.

Human Resources. The rich combination of staff, board members, and volunteers are essential to creating a supportive and joyful environment for artists. The Executive Director provides strong and supportive guidance to the staff while ensuring a productive and collegial work environment. Similarly, the Executive Director builds and supports a governing board where each member has a satisfying experience contributing their time, talents and treasure.

Finances, Administration, and Property Management. The Executive Director, in coordination with the Finance Committee, holds the responsibility for proposing and managing annual budgets for the board’s consideration, ensuring the organization stays on budget, in addition to overseeing management of endowment funds. Administrative duties also include staying current on best practices with respect to artist retreats and residencies. The Ragdale campus, both buildings and grounds, requires the vigilant care and attention of the Executive Director, with the support of personnel in charge of the grounds and facilities.


Core Competencies:

A key set of competencies are needed to carry out the responsibilities noted above.

Successful candidates will have developed these skills over at least 8+ years of work in related fields. Competencies gained through experience and academic training are equally valued.

Creativity and Leadership. The next Executive Director of Ragdale must be a proven leader with strong personal and professional integrity, who demonstrates an enthusiastic commitment to the arts and artists. The Executive Director must be a creative and articulate ambassador with the natural ability to advocate for Ragdale’s vision. This leadership role necessitates a level of ease and comfort in public settings and the ability to identify and build upon strong existing relationships while developing new ideas and opportunities.

Development and Relationship Building. A proven track record of successful fundraising and long-term relationship building is essential. Successful candidates will be experienced with structuring and implementing effective fundraising and earned income strategies. This includes proven competency with facilitating a board’s efforts to cultivate a broad base of donors, beyond those who contributed to the recent capital campaign, who remain committed to financially supporting Ragdale’s mission. Experience with events that build a positive organizational profile, membership, and raise financial support is a plus.

Staff and Board Support. Significant staff management and cultivation experience is essential, with a record of recruiting, developing,, and nurturing talented staff at various levels. The Executive Director will also have the experience to maximize board leadership and leverage their competencies. Ideal candidates will have a demonstrated record of establishing positive, empowering, and collaborative cultures with the board and staff that are grounded in values of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Administration and Communications. An entrepreneurial, organized, focused and goal-oriented individual, coupled with a high level of initiative, creativity, and energy are ideal characteristics. A demonstrated track record in budgeting, cash flow management, and investment oversight is required. Property management experience is a plus. The position requires exceptional and confident communications skills (both written and verbal). Experience developing a communications plan and managing the public profile and voice of an organization through print, web-based communications, and social media is desired.