Executive Director, Public Affairs

Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago shares its singular collections with our city and the world. We collect, care for, and interpret works of art across time, cultures, geographies, and identities, centering the vision of artists and makers. We recognize that all art is made in a particular context, demanding continual, dynamic reconsideration in the present. We are a place of gathering; we foster the exchange of ideas and inspire an expansive, inclusive understanding of human creativity.


Position Details

Executive Director, Public Affairs
Chicago Illinois
Chicago, IL

Position Summary:

Part of the External Affairs division, the Marketing and Communications department is responsible for generating attendance and engagement through the development and implementation of a fully integrated marketing, public affairs, communications, and partnership plan, as well as strategic oversight of the museum’s brand.

The Public Affairs team is specifically focused on developing and executing the museum’s media strategy, which generates positive awareness of the museum, maximizes earned media opportunities, oversees crisis communications, and elevates the museum’s brand.

About the Position:

The Executive Director leads a team that develops and implements the museum’s overarching public messaging strategy. The ED serves as the museum’s primary spokesperson with the media, leads crisis communications, and supports the promotion of museum exhibitions, collection, and programming. This role also works closely with the museum director and the museum’s leadership team to further the institutional vision and narrative. The ED collaborates with the Vice President, Marketing and Communications and other colleagues to develop and maintain a consistent institutional brand and voice across external channels.


Strategy: Own the public messaging strategy for the museum, developing and implementing a comprehensive, strategic, and results-driven framework for media outreach. Support museum leadership by creating and advancing top-line narratives, finding opportunities for thought leadership, and providing best-practice communications and public relations guidance.

Public Relations: Serve as the museum’s primary public spokesperson. Develop and maintain relationships with the media, including local, national, and international outlets, editors, and writers. Oversee all media inquiries, press plans, interview requests, media and publicity photo shoot and filming proposals, and media activities at the museum. Develop and track metrics for evaluation. Write for the President and Director, Board Chair, and senior leadership as appropriate.Manage relationships with external contractors. Provide expert coaching and briefing to leaders and colleagues for strategic media engagement.

Crisis Communications: Lead the crisis communications strategy for the museum. Develop and implement plans within short timeframes, overseeing proactive and reactive communications to both internal and external stakeholders. Provide senior level counsel to museum leadership.

Leadership: Assemble and nurture a professional Public Affairs team. Proactively recruit, hire, train, supervise, and coach members of the team to develop subject matter expertise across the opportunity areas for the museum. Work creatively to ensure appropriate staffing levels for all projects. Thoughtfully evaluate, design, and implement professional development plans for staff to demonstrate growth and improvement.


  • Bachelor’s degree or commensurate experience required 
  • Ten years’ experience with increased responsibility over time in communications or public relations in a complex and fast-paced environment 
  • Demonstrated effectiveness in strategic communications, public relations and media , and crisis management 
  • Exceptional interpersonal, verbal (including public speaking), and written communication skills 
  • Ability to multitask, problem solve, and work on tight deadlines 
  • Desire to work in a mission-driven organization committed to equity, inclusion, and anti-racism.

The successful candidate should:

  • Have a high level of integrity and discretion 
  • Be proactive, organized, results-oriented, and a strategic thinker with an enthusiasm for learning new things 
  • Have a demonstrated interest in the visual arts and mission-oriented work

We offer a competitive, comprehensive benefits package:

  • 5+ weeks of paid time off 
  • Paid holidays (up to 14 days) 
  • Medical, dental, and vision insurance 
  • Generous parental, caregiver, and medical leave benefits 
  • Competitive retirement plan (up to 9% matching contribution) 
  • Tuition remission and Tuition Exchange Program 
  • Great employee discounts 
  • Complimentary general admission to participating cultural institutions

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