Sundance Institute announces chief executive officer to step down

Sundance Institute CEO Keri Putnam. Photo Courtesy: Sundance Institute

LOS ANGELES, California, March 25, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Sundance Institute CEO Keri Putnam has informed staff and the board of trustees that she will be stepping down later this year after more than ten years with the organization.

“Under her leadership, the renowned media and arts non-profit has seen a decade of extraordinary growth and impact,” said a news release from the institute. “The organization is uniquely positioned as a leading global advocate for independent artists, diversity in media, freedom of expression, and the critical role of arts in shaping society. Board of trustees Chair Pat Mitchell and Vice-Chair Ebs Burnough will co-chair a search committee to identify Sundance Institute’s next chief executive.”

Putnam has led the institute through an era of significant change in the media landscape, the news release said

“At the same time, she has been instrumental in establishing the Sundance Film Festival as a thriving global market and investing in the Sundance artist development programs as a vital home for new independent creators working across disciplines,” the news release added. “Putnam also spearheaded the launch of new programs to support artists seeking production, financing and distribution, including Sundance Catalyst, which raised $40 million in equity and grant investment over the past eight years for a wide array of independent projects.”

Throughout her tenure, Putnam and her team have prioritized the institute’s longstanding commitment to historically underrepresented voices by expanding and establishing programs for artists of color and artists with disabilities, the news release said. In addition, they launched a fellowship to diversify critics covering the festival. Putnam also commissioned research on issues of equity and inclusion in media, including a 2012 partnership with Stacy Smith and Women in Film to study the barriers facing female-identifying artists, based on Sundance Institute’s extensive applicant and acceptance data. The learnings led to the launch of the Women at Sundance program, helped Sundance achieve gender parity in its programs, and became the basis for ReFrame, an industry-wide advocacy group for women in media co-founded by Putnam.

“Putnam also oversaw the expansion of Sundance Institute’s global footprint, bringing Sundance to artists and audiences beyond Utah with festivals in London and Hong Kong and lab programs not only in cities across the U.S. but in Mexico, East Africa, the Middle East and beyond,” the news release said. “Recognizing an opportunity to connect and serve an even larger community of independent artists around the world, in 2018 the institute launched Sundance Co//ab, a digital platform offering courses, classes, and community events. By 2020, the platform was home to one million users from over 150 countries.”

Most recently, the institute built an new digital platform to deliver the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. The reimagined festival reached people from all 50 states and 120 countries, the largest audience in Sundance history.

“As a fierce supporter of independent creators, Keri has been instrumental in seeing the institute through a decade of transformation, while keeping a laser-focus on Sundance’s mission of preserving, discovering, incubating and encouraging independent artistry in all forms,” said founder and president of Sundance Institute Robert Redford. “We cannot overstate her impact, and we thank Keri for her invaluable service in support of independent artists.”

Putnam said: “After an incredibly rewarding decade, and following the success of our first-ever online festival, I have decided it’s the right time for me to step down as CEO of Sundance Institute. Leading Sundance through this volatile era in media together with such an impassioned team has been one of my greatest joys.

“The remarkable growth of our community of artists, audiences and partners over the last ten years is a testament to the vitality and urgency of the independent storytelling Sundance supports. The institute stands today as an innovative and resilient organization at the intersection of arts and media, supporting more artists and reaching a bigger audience than ever before. I look forward to exploring new challenges and opportunities in my next chapter, and can’t wait to see the extraordinary Sundance team break new ground in the years ahead while maintaining their renegade, independent spirit.”


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