Tom West’s career in arts management spans for more than 20 years including leadership roles at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Segerstrom Center for the Arts and American Film Institute. In addition to leading fundraising efforts for large and complex cultural institutions, he has a track record in strategic planning, board leadership development, revenue growth, donor and audience relations, and team building.
An actor and theatre director by training, West received a Master of Arts in arts administration from American University and began his career in arts management at the Kennedy Center in 1997. From 1997-2008, West assumed multiple positions of increasing responsibility at the Kennedy Center, ultimately serving as the Vice President of Development, overseeing all fundraising programs for the National Symphony Orchestra and the Suzanne Farrell Ballet, where he led the effort to fund a remount of Balanchine’s Don Quixote. West also spearheaded fundraising for major programs, including the landmark Sondheim Celebration; Tennessee Williams Festival; Festival of China; presentations of the Bolshoi Ballet and Opera; and Oscar Hammerstein II’s Carmen Jones conducted by Placido Domingo, starring Vanessa Williams with the Harlem Boys Choir as a part of the Catherine B. Reynolds Series for Artistic Excellence and the Kennedy Center Honors. West was also charged with funding for the Kennedy Center’s national arts education programs that reached millions of young people annually across the United States.
In 2007, West moved to California to serve as the Vice President of Development for the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, one of Southern California’s leading performing arts presenters. He worked closely with the Center’s Board to overhaul the annual fund structure, complete a capital campaign for building of the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall and launch a new series of innovative performance programs titled Off Center.
From 2010-2021, West served as the Chief Advancement Officer for the American Film Institute in Los Angeles, California. He oversaw all aspects of philanthropy, membership programs, corporate sponsorship and special events, as well as championed the development of new programs to provide bridges to the film industry for under-represented storytellers in Hollywood. During his tenure, West served on AFI’s senior leadership team, shaping organizational strategy for the Institute’s filmmaker training programs, working with major studios developing on targeted diversity initiatives, festival and exhibition fundraising and brand visibility, as well as its strategy for weathering the COVID-19 pandemic. He also oversaw the fundraising for the annual AFI Life Achievement Award, America’s highest honor for a career in film.
West established the AFI National Council in 2011, a community of philanthropists from across the United States who serve as champions for excellence in the art of film and opportunities for the next generation of great storytellers. During his tenure AFI’s national membership tripled, annual scholarship support for Fellows attending the AFI Conservatory grew five-fold and the endowment for scholarships grew from approximately $1.5M to nearly $15M, including seven-figure gifts from Kirk Douglas, George Lucas and Jerry Perenchio.