Ann S. Graham Honored with Alene Valkanas State Arts Advocacy Award


Americans for the Arts presents our Annual Leadership Awards as part of the 2020 virtual convening of the Annual Convention and Public Art & Civic Design Conference. These awards recognize the achievements of individuals and organizations committed to enriching their communities through the arts.

Ann S. Graham brings a strong set of leadership skills to her work as the Executive Director of Texans for the Arts and she has demonstrated a deep passion for the arts and the role that they play in building and strengthening our communities.

Ms. Graham holds a Master’s Degree in Arts Administration and has an extensive career in arts management and organizational development, arts festival and event production, public art administration, and arts advocacy. She began her career in the arts in Boston serving as Production Coordinator for First Night, the New Year’s Celebration of the Arts, and concurrently as Executive Director of The New England Philharmonic, an award-winning community-based orchestra, with which she also played (cello). She was a co-founder of Reclamation Artists, a group of artists who occupied abandoned and overlooked urban sites with temporary public art works.

Upon moving to Texas in 1994, Ms. Graham served for six years on the City’s Art In Public Places Panel and concurrently involved herself in arts, neighborhood, and public school advocacy work.

She was the Co-Founder of First Night Austin, whose highly acclaimed inaugural event on December 31, 2005 set a new vision for creative possibilities in Austin.

Ms. Graham has been a long-time advocate in the civic arena and was instrumental in securing $1.25m in the 2012 City of Austin Bond election to support the work of a comprehensive restoration master plan for The Elisabet Ney Museum. Ms. Graham’s work on the City of Austin’s CreateAustin cultural master plan was pivotal in insuring that its recommendations were integrated into Austin’s comprehensive master plan, ImagineAustin. In addition, Ms. Graham currently serves on the Board of Preservation Austin.

Since 2013, Ms. Graham has served as Executive Director of Texans for the Arts (501c4) and Texans for the Arts Foundation (501c3), both organizations serving the mission of securing and growing the public investment in the arts and for ensuring the arts are a part of the civic dialogue. Working in close partnership with TFA/F’s statewide board, lobbyist, and associate director, Ms. Graham’s work has expanded the statewide discussion and impact of advocating for the arts and cultural sector. Under her leadership, Texans for the Arts secured the largest appropriation increase in the Texas 86th Legislative Session for the Texas Commission on the Arts in the history of the agency, and led the effort to pass legislation to improve municipal reporting requirements for the Texas municipal hotel occupancy tax, the largest source of arts funding in the state.

Ms. Graham would like to thank Americans for the Arts for providing staff support and the national framework for a state-wide advocacy network and she would like to acknowledge her State Arts Action Network peers, as truly instrumental to her work in the field.  

“My SAAN peers have shared their intelligence, camaraderie, gumption, grit, tenacity, vision and impatience for getting things done, and I would truly not be where I am today with Texans for the Arts but for their friendship, wisdom and support! Thank you all and thank you, Americans for the Arts.”





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