Regional Arts Commission Appoints Vanessa Cooksey as President and CEO

October 8, 2020

Regional Arts Commission Appoints Vanessa Cooksey as President and CEO

Highly respected civic leader brings significant cross-sector experience to execute RAC’s five-year strategic plan and enhance its impact within the St. Louis arts sector

ST. LOUIS (Oct. 8, 2020) – The Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis (RAC), the largest public funder of the arts in the region, announced today the appointment of Vanessa Cooksey as President and CEO of the organization, effective November 2.

Cooksey brings to RAC more than 25 years of business and civic experience as a creative communicator and future-focused strategist with marketing, communications and philanthropy leadership positions across a variety of government, non-profit and for-profit organizations. Recognized with more than 50 industry and community awards, her previous experience includes roles with Wells Fargo, Anheuser-Busch Inbev, The City of Atlanta Mayor’s Office, and Cartoon Network.

In her most recent position at Washington University in St. Louis, Cooksey was responsible for developing professional and continuing education outreach programs for University College.

“Vanessa has a reputation as a strategic grantmaker, team builder and widely respected leader throughout our community,” said Mont Levy, Chairman of RAC’s Board of Commissioners. “Vanessa was our unanimous choice. She brings her high-energy personality with the skills RAC needs to build partnerships, facilitate collaboration, and be an effective convener. During this unprecedented time of pandemics, we are confident she is the right leader when the urgency of social justice also demands RAC’s unwavering efforts to address diversity, equity and inclusion in our community.”

Cooksey will succeed Celia Hosler, who served as the interim executive director, and will be responsible for the day-to-day operations and leading RAC’s strategy as the organization continues to execute its five-year strategic plan released earlier this year.

“I’m excited to bring all of my professional expertise, experience and networks as well as my life-long love of the arts to an organization that envisions a full creative life for every St. Louisan. I look forward to partnering with all of RAC’s stakeholders to overcome the present challenges facing the arts and culture community,” said Cooksey. “RAC has a very important role to play in building the capacity of our artists and arts organizations to support St. Louis’ long-term recovery and sustainability.”

With the assistance of Isaacson Miller, a national executive search firm, RAC’s search committee was led by RAC Vice Chair of the board of commissioners, Cheryl D.S. Walker, with assistance from other board members including Rosalind Johnson, Vin Ko, Cynthia Kohlbry, Mont Levy, Andrea Purnell and John Russell. The title change from executive director to President and CEO was determined during the search process to strengthen the pool of candidates and organizational benefits. Throughout the interview process, RAC focused on finding a skilled leader who has proven management experience and one that could make a direct impact during this critical point in history.

Cooksey earned her bachelor’s degree in Radio-Television-Film from the University of Texas at Austin and a master’s degree in Business Administration from Webster University. She currently serves on the board of directors for several local and national nonprofit organizations including the SIFMA Foundation for Investor Education, Harris Stowe State University and The Deaconess Foundation.

Cooksey was the recipient of the 2016 Eisenhower Fellowship and studied in Japan and Rwanda and was named the 2018 St. Louis American Corporate Executive of the Year.

For more information about RAC, visit
About the Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis
The Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis (RAC) supports artists and arts organizations through grantmaking, strategic initiatives and other programs that build capacity, improve quality and advance diversity, equity and inclusion within the region’s arts and culture sector. Celebrating its 35th anniversary in 2020, RAC has been pivotal in nurturing the vibrant art scene throughout St. Louis, awarding more than 7,000 grants totaling over $100 million since its inception in 1985. Directed by a board of 15 commissioners appointed by the chief executives of St. Louis City and St. Louis County, RAC prioritizes quality in its support of nonprofit arts and cultural organizations, individual artists, and programs and promotes partnerships that strengthen the sector and drive progress throughout the region. Visit for more information, or follow us on Facebook at Regional Arts Commission or Twitter @RACStLouis.