Ben Cameron | Webster University
Ben Cameron | Webster University

Ben Cameron

March 4, 2013

Webster University and the Office of Corporate Partnerships on March 4, 2013 welcomed Ben Cameron, Program Director for the Arts, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF), as the Global Leaders in Residence in the Leigh Gerdine College of Fine Arts.


Previously, Ben Cameron served as the Executive Director of Theatre Communications Group (TCG) in New York City, the national service organization for the American nonprofit professional theater.  During his tenure, TCG opened its website and an array of electronic services; increased its membership base by over 45%; significantly expanded its research activities, including both cross-discipline and cross-sector efforts; participated in the first National Performing Arts Convention and in the Performing Arts Research Coalition; instigated a set of programs targeted at Board training and development; launched a variety of human resource programs; convened the first national gathering since 1974 of the for-profit and not-for-profit theatre sectors; opened a division dedicated to international exchange; launched a national pilot program for audience development (Free Night of Theatre) and increased its annual grants-giving budget by more than 300%.  In 2005, TCG was awarded a Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre, acknowledging its work.

In 2006, Ben Cameron assumed his current position as Program Director for the Arts at the Doris Duke CharitableFoundation (DDCF) in New York, NY.  In that capacity, he supervises a $13.125 million grants program focusing on organizations and artists in the theatre, contemporary dance, jazz and presenting fields. During his tenure, the Program has adopted a new three-tiered strategy focused on artistic creation, organizational innovation and national sector building; launched major new initiatives, including the $15 million Leading for the Future initiative in partnership with the Nonprofit Finance Fund, the EMC Innovations Lab for the Performing Arts, the Fund for National Projects and audience development initiatives for the jazz and dance fields in cooperation with the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation and Dance/USA respectively; significantly reconceived its application and grantmaking processes; articulated core grantmaking values; and, in response to the financial downturn of 2008, worked with the DDCF Board to create both a new hybrid grants structure, combining project and general operating support funds, and new opportunities for grantees to repurpose prior endowment grants for specific strategic uses.  In 2011, the Board allocated an additional $50 million to the Arts Program above the annual arts budget for a new program primarily designed to serve artists.

Before coming to TCG, Mr. Cameron had joined the Dayton Hudson Foundation (the former corporate foundation of the now-named Target Corporation) in Minneapolis in 1993, serving as Senior Program Officer; subsequently, he joined Target Stores corporate headquarters as Manager of Community Relations, where he supervised a $51 million national giving program, embracing grant giving, cause marketing programs and volunteerism. From 1988-92, he worked at the National Endowment for the Arts, where he served as Director of the Theater Program from 1990-92, frequently representing the theater community at various speaking engagements and conferences. He represented the NEA at a meeting of Soviet theater managers in Omsk, Siberia, later returning and traveling extensively throughout the former Soviet Union as the evaluator of the theater managers program sponsored by Arts International and the Ford Foundation. More recently, he has keynoted or addressed major convenings of arts communities internationally, including those in Dublin, Ireland; Sydney, Australia; Vancouver, Canada; Zwolle, Netherlands; London, England; Edinburgh, Scotland; Montreal, Canada, and most recently Calgary, Canada as part of its inaugural TEDX convening, among others, as well as participating twice in the Salzburg Seminar programs in Salzburg, Austria.

In 2011, he gave the closing keynote for the annual Americans for the Arts conference.  He has also given keynote addresses for the conference of family foundations sponsored by the Council on Foundations in San Diego, CA,  the League of American Orchestras, Opera America, Chorus America, Dance USA, Americans for the Arts, ASSITEJ, and numerous local arts councils and arts communities, including those in Seattle, San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, New York, Phoenix, Minneapolis, and Philadelphia, among others.  He has spoken frequently at national and regional conferences of TCG and LORT, among others, on topics including values, diversity, arts ecologies and the future of the arts. In 2005, he was interviewed in a special two-hour session as a national innovator in the arts as part of the annual Americans for the Arts conference. 

His prior professional experience includes work as the Associate Artistic Director of the Indiana Repertory Theater (1981-84), Literary Manager of PlayMakers Repertory Company (1984-86), and a variety of free-lance directorial and dramaturgical assignments at such theaters as Yale Repertory Theater and Center Stage in Baltimore, MD.  He has taught at the Yale School of Drama, Yale College, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Columbia University and Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA; he currently teaches as a guest lecturer at the Yale School of Drama.  He has published various articles on theater, including a monthly editorial column in American Theatre magazine during his tenure as Executive Director of TCG.

Mr. Cameron graduated from the Yale School of Drama in 1981 with an MFA in Dramaturgy and was the first recipient of the Kenneth Tynan Prize.  He is a grant recipient from the National Endowment for the Humanities for summer study and a former John Motley Morehead scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he received a B.A.. in 1975. He was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from DePaul University in Chicago in June 2001, an honorary M.F.A. in Acting from American Conservatory Theatre in May 2003, and an honorary doctorate from Goucher College in August, 2010.  He was given the PlayMakers Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2004, the John Haber Award for Service to the Arts from the New York chapter of the UNC Alumni Association in 2005 and the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 2007. In 2010, he was appointed to the Chancellor's Innovation Circle at UNC, a group charged with making recommendations for the future of the University.  In 2011, he was made a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters by the government of France and in 2012 received the Sidney Yates Award for Advocacy from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters.

Mr. Cameron served for six years as a member of the Tony Awards Nominating Committee and is a member of the New York Theatre District Subcommittee as appointed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  He has served on the boards of Theatre Communications Group, the American Arts Alliance (where he served as Secretary), Grantmakers in the Arts, the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council in the Minneapolis-St. Paul, the former national Arts and Business Council (where he was vice-president), Theatre Development Fund (TDF), National Arts Strategies (NAS), the Helen Bonfils Foundation and the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.  He has also served on the Race and Diversity Task Force and the Communications Committee for the Minnesota Council on Foundations; the Steering and Selection Committees for Leadership Minneapolis, a program of the Chamber of Commerce; the steering committee for the Gay and Lesbian Network for Target Stores; and the Arts Over AIDS Steering Committee for the Minnesota AIDS Pledgewalk.  In the Twin Cities, he participated in the Institute for Renewing Community Leadership, served as a mentor in a program for gay and lesbian youth at District 202 in Minneapolis, and rode twice from Minneapolis to Chicago in the bicycle ride that raised $10 million for AIDS agencies in those two cities.

He has served as a site reporter for the NEA, the Cleveland Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trust; on the selection committee for the Young Playwrights Festival in New York; on advisory think tank panels for the Mellon, Ford and Lila Wallace Readers Digest Foundations; on state arts panels for the agencies of Maryland, North Dakota, Virginia, and Indiana, and on funding panels for the Jerome, Joyce, Andrew W. Mellon, Doris Duke, Rockefeller, Ford, Heinz, Wallace, Cleveland and AT&T Foundations, the NEA, Arts Link, Arts Midwest, the Minnesota AIDS Project, the Sally Ordway Irvine Awards Council and the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council. He has spoken about theatre on three separate voyages as an Oxford Lecturer aboard the Queen Mary 2 and as a Cunard lecturer aboard the Queen Victoria, and has been heard during 15 different seasons as a panelist for the opera quiz feature on the Saturday afternoon Live from the Metropolitan radio broadcasts from New York.

Click HERE to view a video of Ben Cameron speaking at Webster University.