Workhorse Collaborative to lead Arts Council’s strategic plan

The Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council is thrilled to announce the selection of Workhorse Collaborative as the lead consultant for the nonprofit’s ambitious in-depth strategic planning process and shared services exploration.

Workhorse, a Pittsburgh-based boutique consulting firm specializing in supporting arts organizations and nonprofits, is led by partners Jackie Baker, who will serve as the project’s Strategic Planning Lead, and Emily Willson, who will serve as the project’s Market Research and Communications Plan Lead. Workhorse will work on the strategic plan in partnership with Shannon Parris, founder and principal consultant of Shannon Parris Consulting, a Pittsburgh-based equity-first management consulting firm focused on supporting nonprofit leaders and entrepreneurs.

A white woman with shoulder-length straight pink hair, wearing a white button-down shirt and a black blazer, sits in a chair beside a white woman with long straight brown hair, jeans, and a dark green long-sleeved shirt
Emily Willson and Jackie Baker of Workhorse Collaborative // Photo by Lauren Morrison Photography

“As the saying goes, there is no time like the present,” says Arts Council CEO Patrick Fisher. “75 percent of our team is new to the organization since 2023. Building upon the work of those who came before us, we have the opportunity to evolve the Arts Council to be an organization that responds to the needs of our local arts ecosystem, while also supporting and positioning the ecosystem to be both globally recognized and competitive. The staff and Board of the Arts Council are excited to work with both Workhorse Collaborative and Shannon Parris Consulting to generate a plan for our next steps that is rooted in strategy and action.”

Workhorse will work with the Arts Council’s Strategic Planning Task Force, composed of staff and select Board members, to develop and facilitate a process for strategic planning ultimately resulting in a written strategic plan for the next 3-5 years.

“With more than 25 years of combined experience working in Pittsburgh’s vibrant arts and culture scene, we have personally witnessed the impact of the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council’s programming, network, and leadership. Many of our clients also rely on the Arts Council’s services to carry out their work and to grow as arts professionals,” says the team at Workhorse Collaborative. “The Arts Council is a unique and significant asset to our area, and we’re looking forward to examining what’s next that will excite the community, sustain the organization, and continue to deepen the Arts Council’s impact on the region.”

A smiling Asian woman with long straight black hair and a long-sleeved blue shirt stands with her arms crossed
Shannon Parris of Shannon Parris Consulting // Photo by Emmai Alaquiva

Founded in 2005 after the merger of ProArts and the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Alliance, the Arts Council is the Local Arts Agency serving Southwestern Pennsylvania, with a primary presence in Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh. Guided by new leadership following CEO Patrick Fisher joining the organization in June 2023, the Arts Council is working diligently to evolve its policies and systems to improve internal processes and better define its programs and areas of impact, to ensure maximum relevance and benefit to its community stakeholders and beneficiaries.

“I am eager to collaborate with Workhorse Collaborative again. Our past work together has highlighted our shared values in delivering customized, context-driven solutions to our clients, aiding them in tangibly increasing their capacity, and elevating their culture,” says Parris, who will serve as the project’s Shared Services Lead. “As the Arts Council explores a practical shared service model as part of its upcoming strategic priorities, I look forward to contributing my expertise in capacity and resource assessment, guiding change agendas, and facilitating equitable stakeholder engagement.”

The culture of the Arts Council has long been one of support and reflection of the needs of the diverse constituents in the region’s arts and culture community, and the implementation of both a new organizational strategic plan and shared services plan will also seek to ensure that equitable access is foremost.

“The Pittsburgh region's network of artists is very diverse,” says Dr. Veronica Morgan-Lee, Board Chair of the Arts Council. “The selection of Workhorse to lead the strategic planning process and shared services analysis will provide expanded and new opportunities for independent artists and arts organizations to define the gaps in services that are essential to equity, accessibility, and sustainability.”

The strategic planning process and shared services exploration is expected to continue through May 2024.



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