In an announcement Friday, Mid-America Arts Alliance board chair Ed Clifford said Stein is "the right person to lead our team as the arts world faces challenges securing federal funding for the cultural organizations we support in six states."
The non-profit organization works with arts agencies in Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas, distributing federal and state grants, helping artists with professional development, and managing touring exhibits presented by the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
"The original concept was that of a collective – one state couldn’t accomplish as much as multiple states working together to achieve a common goal," Stein says, noting that Mid-America was the first regional arts organization in the United States and is now in its 45th year.
"That’s what we’re focusing back in on: strengthening our partnerships with state agencies in the region. Working together is how we’re going to get through this moment, when not just federal funding but also state funding, especially in our region, is generally on the decline."
Since January of this year, Stein says, he and others have been pressing lawmakers to preserve federal funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute for Museum and Library Services, and will continue that push as the Senate Appropriations Committee considers the federal budget in the next three months.
Stein says he sees widespread support for federal arts funding, which gives him hope.
"It’s bipartisan," he notes. "We’re seeing it from senators who play an influential role in the appropriations process who may not be public in their support, but are working very hard behind the scenes to keep those agencies funded."
Stein says he's also been "delighted" to find strong support for Mid-America Arts Alliance regardless of who was leading the organization.
"What I’m finding consistently among funders and stakeholders is a belief in our mission and the impact of our work — our ability to reach underserved constituents and rural areas not just through our own programs but through national programs as well."
Stein has been with the organization for four years, serving as chief operator officer before taking over as interim CEO. Before joining the Mid-America Arts Alliance, he was deputy director and COO of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.
C.J. Janovy is an arts reporter for KCUR 89.3. You can find her on Twitter, @cjjanovy.