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This article appears in the May 2011 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe, please visit

Smillie's Picks: Tectonic shifts

As you’ve heard, Allan Cowen is out as CEO of the Fund for the Arts. His late-April retirement may offer his numerous detractors cause for glee, but anybody who truly cares for the arts in Louisville can’t greet it with unalloyed joy. Yes, Cowen — in the notorious words of former Kentucky Center president Marlow Burt — can be “a prickly little (expletive),” but he has also been highly effective leading the nonprofit.

No doubt you are tired of hearing how the Fund for the Arts is, per capita, the most successful such group in the nation and has continued to raise millions as the economy has tanked.  Much (though not all) of this was due to Cowen’s dogged belief in the value of the arts, his tireless courting of the business community, his vision for revolutionary employee-workplace fund-raising campaigns and his skill in hiring bright people to do his bidding.  I think it is a tragic irony of nearly Greek proportion that the very take-no-prisoners tenacity that accounted for his success has also occasioned his downfall. 

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Didn't I tell you? I run this place! Not much goes on here without me knowing...I'm always watching.

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