Congratulations and Farewell to Deputy Director of Learning and Engagement Heather Ikemire!

Photo of Heather on stage at the Conference for Community Arts Education, with a sign on the podium with the Guild logo that says "80 Years"   Photo of Heather smiling and posing with colleagues at the conference, including CEO at the time, Jonathan Herman, and Guild staff member Claire Wilmoth  

May 26, 2022

Today we share the bittersweet news that after over 15 years of service, Heather Ikemire will be leaving the National Guild to pursue the next chapter of her arts education career as Deputy Director of Lifetime Arts, a national leader in creative aging (and beloved partner organization of the Guild). Heather’s last day at the Guild will be June 1st. 

During her Guild tenure, Heather worked collaboratively with Guild staff, board, and practitioners across the country to responsively and equitably reimagine Guild programs and practices to build the future of community arts education. Heather shares: “For me, the integration of creativity, knowledge-sharing, and relationship-building is at the heart of imagining and developing a more just and sustainable future.” 

Wearing many hats over the years, Heather has led in the areas of programs, communications, research and publications, and membership, and has served in her current role as Deputy Director of Learning and Engagement (formerly titled Chief Program Officer) since 2014. In her prior role as Director of Communications, Heather successfully led the Guild through a name change and rebrand that resulted in an increase of new memberships by 88%. She also worked alongside the board and staff to develop the Guild’s first-ever organizational values.

Over the years, Heather has played a crucial role in organizing and sustaining broad-based coalitions to advance the field of community arts education and raise its visibility and impact—particularly in the areas of teaching artistry, creative aging, and creative youth development. Heather led the Guild’s role as a backbone organization of the Creative Youth Development National Partnership and the creation of the CYD National Action Blueprint, developed in concert with more than 650 stakeholders. She also led the Guild's large-scale, multi-year investment in Catalyzing Creative Aging, which has contributed to a 37% increase in Guild member organizations serving older adults during just the past few years. 

Gif of a crowd of colleagues standing in front of a colorful wall and moving into funny poses.   Photo of Heather smiling and posing with Director of Learning & Leadership Development at the time, James C. Horton

Heather helped to reduce barriers to participation in Guild membership and make changes to programming, which resulted in the Guild’s national network becoming broader and more diverse. We particularly saw growth in engagement with program staff, teaching artists, young creatives, and BIPOC leaders, as well as more diverse types of community arts education organizations and programs. During Heather’s tenure, the Guild integrated racial equity as a focus throughout all of its programming, and shifted policies and processes related to program applications, registration, and design in order to increase equity and accessibility for independent artists and practitioners, small-budget organizations, BIPOC leaders, youth, and people with disabilities.

The Guild primarily served executive leaders at the time when Heather first joined staff, and she led efforts to amplify the critical role of leadership at all levels (e.g. teaching artists, program staff, youth, etc.). Heather developed the programmatic vision for the Guild’s comprehensive Leadership Campaign (2017–2020) which raised $3 million to support leadership development work through this lens. In 2015, Heather led the Guild’s transition to becoming a “network of networks” with the introduction of its Member Networks structure (currently on pause). Member networks aligned to the Guild’s key initiatives (e.g., Arts in Education, Creative Aging, Creative Youth Development) and also provided affinity groups (e.g. for leaders of color; for similar organizational types).

Heather has made significant contributions towards building a strong internal team and an adaptive organization. From Summer 2020 to December 2021, she was an integral part of the Guild’s Interim Management Team (IMT) as the organization searched for its new Executive Director. Alongside Ashley Hare and Adam Johnston, the IMT built a strong, human-centered, and adaptive team and work culture able to nimbly respond to the incredible challenges of a global pandemic, while continuing to ask difficult questions and build a foundation for the Guild’s next chapter. 

“As I transition out of my role with the Guild, I do so with tremendous gratitude to the National Guild community,” says Heather. “Throughout the years, I’ve heard many Guild members and conference-goers refer to the Guild as their ‘home,’ and it has been my home too. The staff and our collaborators across the country have felt like family. I’m so proud of the many things we’ve accomplished together, and very excited for Quanice Floyd’s leadership and the work underway to collectively reimagine a Guild that fully aligns all that we do, internally and externally, to our core values and racial equity principles and policies. I will forever be a champion of the Guild and our field, and look forward to being an active participant in Guild programming for many years to come.” 

Heather has been a fierce advocate for creative aging, and we are so excited to see her continue to build on this at Lifetime Arts. We thank her for all she has contributed to this organization, and wish her all the best in this next step of her journey!

Photo of Guild staff (left to right) Rangsey Keo, Jenina Podulka, Heather Ikemire, and Ivy Young smiling and standing in front of the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center

Published: May 26, 2022