Gerd Wuestemann is the new president and CEO of Scottsdale Arts after receiving a unanimous vote from the board due to his nearly 40 years of experience in the arts.
Scottsdale Arts oversees the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Arts, the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Scottsdale Public Art and Arts Education and Outreach programs. The nationally recognized non-profit works with an annual operating budget of $11.5 million.
Wuestemann stood out in part for his recent work in Louisiana, where he built an arts organization from the ground up. He also has a doctorate of musical arts from the University of Arizona, a masters of musical arts from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and a masters from a music school in Frankfurt, Germany. Wuestemann succeeded Mike Miller as president and CEO when he officially took the job on March 19.
“Last year was the first year where I felt like I hit my ceiling in my last job,” Wuestemann says. “I’m someone who likes to change things and build things. I built a multidisciplinary organization in Louisiana, meaning that these individual pieces of visual arts, performing arts, public art and education came together there as well. When this came across my desk, I thought this might just be the perfect fit for me.”
Picking up a guitar at the age of five, Wuestemann was a prodigy performer before accidents left him unable to play. He has spent most of his adult life living in the U.S. and making differences in the arts community.
“Scottsdale has a very lustrous history as a leader in the arts, not only in the Valley and Arizona but nationally,” Wuestemann says. “I think we’ve lost our luster a little bit over the years. We haven’t self-invested enough. I think my organization has done great things, but we’ve also struggled with some leadership challenges. I hope that I can bring solid leadership back to the organization, open some pathways.”
Being “stewards of the cultural aspects” in the city is a job that Wuestemann says he takes seriously. He says the mission is to become the central hub for all things arts and culture in Scottsdale.
“We should support other arts organizations,” the art connoisseur says. “We should play a role in building partnerships across the community and really change the community for the better.”
TED SIMONS: SCOTTSDALE ARTS IS A NATIONALLY RECOGNIZED NON-PROFIT THAT OVERSEES SEVERAL ORGANIZATIONS IN THE VALLEY. THEY RECENTLY NAMED A NEW PRESIDENT AND CEO. HE IS HE JOINS US RIGHT HERE ON ARIZONA HORIZON. GOOD TO HAVE YOU HERE.
GERD WUESTEMANN: THANKS TED. GOOD TO BE HERE.
TED SIMONS: GIVE ME A BETTER DEFINTION OF SCOTTSDALE ARTS. WHAT IS SCOTTSDALE ARTS?
GERD WUESTEMANN: IT'S A CONGLOMERATE OF FOUR DISTINCT CANDIDATES. FIRST THERE'S SMALL ART, AND THEN THE CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ART, AND THE PUBLIC ART ARM WHICH MANAGES 150 OR SO SCULPTORS AND INSTALLS A TOTAL OF ABOUT $7.5 MILLION IN THE NEXT FEW YEARS, AND OUR NEWEST BRANCH THAT WE HAVE EMBRACED IS EDUCATION -- ARTS EDUCATION OUTREACH, WE DO CREATIVE PROCESS, AND ALSO WORK WITH ABOUT 40,000 KIDS IN SCOTTSDALE.
TED SIMONS: NOT ONLY FOR KIDS, THOUGH, RIGHT?
GERD WUESTEMANN: ADULT EDUCATION, CREATIVE AGING, ALL OF THOSE THINGS ARE IMPORTANT US TO. REACHING OUT TO THOSE WHO WANT TO ENGAGE IN ARTISTIC EXPRESSION.
TED SIMONS: WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT PUBLIC ART IN SCOTTSDALE, WHAT – DO YOU JUST DECIDE WE'RE GOING TO PUT A HORSE OVER THERE? DO YOU HAVE TO GO THROUGH A COMMITTEE? HOW DOES THAT WORK?
GERD WUESTEMANN: IT'S A FAIRLY ELABORATE PROCESS, AND IT IS A PROCESS THAT MAKES SURE IT'S [INAUDIBLE] FOR EVERYBODY INVOLVED. THERE IS AN EXPERT PANEL THAT DISCUSSES AND ADMINISTERS WHAT WE PUT INTO BEING, BUT ALSO THE COMMUNITY HAS TALKS ABOUT WHAT THEY WOULD LIKE TO SEE IN THEIR PARTICULAR NEIGHBORHOODS. IT'S A VISIONARY PROGRAM, WHERE BOTH PUBLIC AND PRIVATE ENTITIES COMMIT A PERCENTAGE OF THE CONSTRUCTION COSTS TO INSTALL PUBLIC ARTWORK, WHICH IS REALLY WONDERFUL.
TED SIMONS: IT SOUNDS LIKE A GREAT IDEA. PRESIDENT AND CEO. YOU TOOK THIS JOB. WHY DID YOU TAKE THIS JOB?
GERD WUESTEMANN: I HAD THE GOOD FORTUNATE TO BUILD A FANTASTIC ARTS PROGRAM IN LOUISIANA. IT WAS ONE OF THE GREATEST PRIVILEGES I HAVE EVER HAD. I WAS A PRODIGY PERFORMER, I HAD AN ACCIDENT, COULDN'T PLAY, LONG STORY SHORT, I ENDED UP SPENDING THE LAST HALF OF MY LIFE HERE IN THE U.S., AND FEEL VERY MUCH AT HOME, AND FELT VERY MUCH A PART OF MY LAST COMMUNITY, AND HOPE TO DO THE SAME HERE. I FELT I HIT THE CEILING IN MY LAST JOB. AND I LIKE TO CHANGE AND BUILD THINGS. I BUILT A MULTI-DISCIPLINARY ORGANIZATION IN LOUISIANA, MEANING THESE INDIVIDUAL PIECES OF ART CAME TOGETHER THERE AS WELL, SO I WAS LOOKING FOR SOMETHING WHEN THIS CAME ACROSS MY DESK, I THOUGHT THIS MIGHT JUST BE THE PERFECT FIT FOR ME.
TED SIMONS: SO YOU HEARD ABOUT THIS JOB OPENING, AND WHAT DID YOU THINK YOU COULD DO?
GERD WUESTEMANN: THIS ORGANIZATION, I THINK, HAS DONE EXTRAORDINARY THINGS OVER THE YEARS. SCOTTSDALE HAS A HISTORY OF LEADERS THERE THE ARTS, NATIONALLY. AND I BELIEVE WE HAVE LOST OUR LUSTER A BIT IN THE RECENT YEARS, WE HAVE NOT INVESTED ENOUGH. AND MY ORGANIZATION HAS DONE GREAT THINGS, BUT WE HAVE ALSO STRUGGLED WITH LEADERSHIP CHALLENGES. I HOPE I CAN BRING SOLID LEADERSHIP BACK, AND WE WANT TO BE THE STEWARDS OF THE CULTURAL ASSETS. I TAKE THAT VERY SERIOUSLY. TO GET DEEPER, TO BE ABLE TO CONNECT VISUAL ARTS PUBLIC ART AND PERFORMING ARTS AND EDUCATION AROUND ONE OBJECT AND EXPLORE THAT IN MORE DEPTH, BUT ALSO WE SHOULD BE THE CENTRAL HEART OF ALL THINGS CULTURE. WE SHOULD PLAY A ROLL IN BUILDING PARTNERSHIPS ACROSS THE COMMUNITY. AND MAYBE CHANGE OUR COMMUNITY FOR THE BETTER.
TED SIMONS: SCOTTSDALE IS VERY WELL-KNOWN IN TERMS OF ART. ART IN GENERAL. HOW DO YOU COMBINE -- HOW DO YOU BALANCE THE COMMERCIAL INTERESTS, AND THERE ARE STRONG COMMERCIAL INTERESTS IN SCOTTSDALE, WITH THE ARTISTIC INTERESTS, THE FOLKS THAT DON'T CARE THAT MUCH ABOUT MONEY, AND THE BUSINESS FOLKS WHO CARE VERY MUCH ABOUT MONEY. HOW DO YOU BALANCE?
GERD WUESTEMANN: AT SOME POINT I BUILT A COUPLE OF COMPANIES, AND I REALLY VALUE BUSINESS AS AN INTHINGAL PART OF WHAT WE DO IN THE ARTS. I THINK BOTH OF THOSE THINGS, ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND INNOVATIONAL CREATIVITY ARE TWO SIDES OF THE SAME COIN. MATTER OF FACT ONE OF THE THINGS THAT WE ARE PURSUING RIGHT NOW IS BETTER RELATIONSHIPS WITH THE COMMUNITY, AND COMBINE IT INTO ONE THING. I THINK IT MAKES US ALL MORE POWERFUL.
TED SIMONS: WITH THAT IN MIND, YOU ARE THE PRESIDENT AND CEO – WHAT DOES THE PRESIDENT AND CEO DO?
GERD WUESTEMANN: YOU KNOW, MY WIFE CALLS ME PRESIDENT AND I'M NOT SURE HOW SHE MEANS IT. I THINK I DO. AND THEN SHE TELLS ME TO TAKE OUT THE TRASH. BUT AS CEO, I'M RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL LEVELS OF EXECUTION AND VISION-BUILDING.THE PRESIDENCY ROLE REALLY REFERS BACK TO THAT I HAVE A BOARD OF TRUSTEES TO ANSWER TO, AND WE ALL MAKE UP A LEVEL – A BODY OF CONTROL, BUT ALSO A BODY OF INSPIRATION TO US. SO I THINK MY ROLE MAINLY IS, I HAVE THREE OR FOUR MAIN JOBS. DEVELOPMENT, MAKE SURE WE ARE WELL FUNDED AND ARE FINANCIALLY STABLE. MAKE SURE OUR VISION IS SERVED AND CREATED. WE JUST EMBARKED ON A NEW STRATEGIC PLAN THAT IS ABOUT TO WRAP UP. FOR THE NEXT FIVE YEARS THERE WILL BE A ROAD MAP FOR US. IT WILL BE VERY MUCH AN ACTION PLAN. SO WE'LL REVISIT EVERY SIX MONTHS AND COMPARE IF THE WORLD STILL HOLDS UP TO WHAT WE ENVISION. SO MAKE SURE OUR STRATEGIC PLAN IS SERVED, AND BEING A COMMUNITY CONNECTOR. AND ALSO ON THE POLITICAL LANDSCAPE THERE ARE A LOT OF THINGS THAT ARE OUT OF OUR CONTROL, AND AFFECT HOW WE CAN GROW AND REESTABLISH SCOTTSDALE AS A BEACON OF ART CULTURE.
TED SIMONS: YOU MENTIONED YOU WERE AN ARTIST EARLY ON, AND IT SOUNDS TO ME YOU ARE RELATIVELY ACCOMPLISHED. DO YOU STILL PLAY? DO YOU STILL PERFORM? DOES THE ARTISTIC SIDE STILL TUG AT YOU?
GERD WUESTEMANN: IT TUGS AT ME ALL THE TIME, BUT I FEEL THROUGH MY WORK, I GET TO CONTRIBUTE TO AN ENTIRE COMMUNITY THROUGH ARTISTIC WORK. OUR MISSION IS TO BRING GREAT ARTISTIC EXPRESSION AND EXPERIENCES TO OUR COMMUNITY. THAT IS EXTRAORDINARILY FULFILLING TO ME. AND DO I STILL PALY ABSOLUTELY I PRACTICE EVERY DAY. I TRY TO MAKE A RECORD EVERY COUPLE OF YEARS, AND TRY TO PLAY AN OCCASIONALLY CONCERT.
TED SIMONS: IT'S REALLY INTERESTING TO HEAR YOU SPEAK, BECAUSE IT SOUNDS LIKE THIS REALLY FULFILLS YOU, REWARDS YOU, BEING ON THAT ADMINISTRATIVE SIDE.
GERD WUESTEMANN: ABSOLUTELY. I DON'T THINK OF MYSELF AS AN ADMINISTRATOR AS MUCH AS AN ART ENTREPRENEUR. I HAVE A THREE-YEAR VISION, FIVE-YEAR VISION, TEN-YEAR VISION, THAT IS VERY AMBITIOUS, CERTAINLY, AND IT'S EXTRAORDINARILY FULFILLING, BECAUSE YOU CAN SEE WHEN YOU WALK INTO A PERFORMANCE AND SEE YOUR AUDIENCES RESPONSE TO WHAT JUST HAPPENED, AND YOU HAD A LITTLE PART IN MAKING THAT AN REALITY, THAT'S AN EXTRORDANAIRE THING.
TED SIMONS: WELCOME TO SCOTTSDALE. THANKS FOR JOINING US.
GERD WUESTEMANN: MY PLEASURE.
Gerd Wuestemann: President, CEO, Scottsdale Arts