Leadership in the Arts

Joan Israelite Receives Missouri Arts Council’s Leadership in the Arts Award for 2023

Joan Israelite

The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts is thrilled to announce that Joan Israelite has received the 2023 Leadership in the Arts award from the Missouri Arts Council, the state’s highest honor in the arts.

Israelite has been a tireless force since the mid-’80s for creating policy, raising funds and growing arts organizations. She was the founding CEO of ArtsKC and a nine-year board member for the Missouri Arts Council and the National Council on the Arts, an organization that advises the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts on agency policies and programs.

For the Kauffman Center, Israelite has been involved since the beginning in 2008. When the dream of a new, state-of-the-art Kansas City performing arts center was born, she and the capital campaign committee worked strategically to raise $366 million to construct the building and create an endowment. As a key fundraiser, Israelite reached out to prospects at all levels and backgrounds. She gave countless hardhat tours and developed innovative fundraising programs, such as the seat plaque and Children’s Wall campaigns. She was a key architect of the Open Doors program, which reduces barriers to attending performances at the Kauffman Center.

Still a member of the Kauffman Center team, Israelite brings her high energy and inventiveness to the Kauffman Center as a development consultant, raising funds for annual operations and the endowment.

Kansas City’s — and the region’s — most prominent and influential arts administrators, advocates and elected officials routinely contact Israelite, seeking guidance regarding arts programming, education, fundraising and issues related to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility. In addition, she has met with more than 50 young women seeking career advice and has advocated for the inclusion of women in leadership positions in the arts and nonprofit organizations.

Joan Israelite’s ability to lead, build consensus and nurture relationships has earned her the unofficial title, Joan of Arts. She has left an indelible mark in the arts community.

Earlier this fall, Joan and Steve Israelite were also honored with the 2022 Heartland Humanitarians of the Year from the Truman Heartland Community Foundation.

Learn more about the 2023 Missouri Arts Awards.