California Arts Council

State of California

Press Release Detail

September 20, 2016Caitlin Fitzwater

Craig Watson Elected to Board of Directors of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies

California Arts Council director to serve on national state arts leadership board

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA) today announced the election of three new members to its board of directors, including Craig Watson, Director of the California Arts Council. As part of a rigorous national nomination process, state arts agencies elected these exemplary leaders at the NASAA Assembly 2016 conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Each will serve a three-year term.

Craig Watson PhotoThe National Assembly of State Arts Agencies is the nonpartisan, nonprofit membership organization that unites, represents and serves the nation's state and jurisdictional arts agencies. Founded in 1968, NASAA represents their individual and collective interests, empowers their work through knowledge, and advances the arts as an essential public benefit. To learn more about NASAA and state arts agencies, visit

Craig Watson has been director of the California Arts Council since 2011. Previously he was the executive director of the Arts Council for Long Beach, where he oversaw the expansion of the agency into the community, including the largest local celebration for Arts and Humanities Month in the nation and a highly regarded commitment to creative place making. After graduating with a studio art major from Occidental College in Los Angeles, Watson started his career in the arts helping to install Christo's Running Fence project in Sonoma County. This led to a series of roles at local arts agencies and arts services organizations, and later he built a career in the telecommunications industry before returning to lead the Arts Council for Long Beach. He held senior executive positions in the telecommunications field in Rhode Island, New York and California. His earlier career in the arts included positions with the Sonoma County Arts Council and Rural Arts Services in Northern California, as well as a fellowship at the National Endowment for the Arts, participation in the Coro Foundation's Arts Management program and a codirecting position at Santa Barbara Arts Services. During his tenure at the California Arts Council, Watson has overseen the doubling of the California Arts Council's budget, the restart of a significant commitment to Arts in Corrections programming, the expansion of a statewide arts education coalition (CREATE CA), and international diplomacy as part of Governor Jerry Brown's commitment to expanded cultural exchange and commerce between California and China.

Theresa Colvin, Executive Director, Maryland State Arts Council and Amber Sharples, Executive Director, Oklahoma Arts Council were also elected to the NASAA board of directors.

"I'm thrilled to join some of my esteemed national colleagues as a member of the NASAA board," Watson said. "NASAA is an outstanding organization, serving the needs of all our country's state arts agencies through their tireless advocacy, research, and field building. Our state greatly benefits from the California Arts Council's partnership with NASAA. I look forward to further expanding on this partnership in my new role as a board member."

"We are delighted to welcome Theresa, Amber and Craig to the NASAA board," said NASAA Chief Executive Officer Pam Breaux. "These experienced leaders bring with them keen policy acumen, dedication to serving the public and a genuine passion for the arts. We are excited to work with this new team and we welcome their expertise and guidance."

"The NASAA 2017 board continues to be representative of an exceptionally strong and committed membership," said NASAA President Gary Gibbs. "I am eager to work with these outstanding leaders in coming months as we guide NASAA's new strategic plan and reinforce its devotion to member service and support."

For more information on NASAA's board members, visit NASAA 2017 Board of Directors.

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The mission of the California Arts Council, a state agency, is to advance California through the arts and creativity. The Council is committed to building public will and resources for the arts; fostering accessible arts initiatives that reflect contributions from all of California's diverse populations; serving as a thought leader and champion for the arts; and providing effective and relevant programs and services.

Members of the California Arts Council include: Chair Donn K. Harris, Vice Chair Nashormeh Lindo, Larry Baza, Phoebe Beasley, Christopher Coppola, Juan Devis, Kathleen Gallegos, Jaime Galli, Louise McGuinness, Steven Oliver, and Rosalind Wyman. Learn more at


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