Shelley Cohn's name is virtually synonymous with the arts in our State. During her years as Executive Director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts she brought energy, creativity and a vision that the arts should be seen as having a powerful impact both culturally and economically upon their communities. Shelley has been a tireless advocate for artists and arts organizations throughout this State and many others.
So influential has she been that she even has an award named after her! The Shelley is presented annually at the Governor’s Arts Awards banquet “to an individual who has advanced Arizona’s arts and culture sector through strategic and innovative work to create or support public policy beneficial to the arts in Arizona.”
One of her most lasting contributions while leader of the arts agency was the creation of the Arts Trust fund. This fund was established as a partnership between business leaders, local arts leaders and elected officials. Derived from the Corporation Commission filing fees, the Arts Trust Fund still serves as the chief funding source for the Arts Commission--30 years after its creation. It is little wonder many of Shelley’s innovations in the arts and public policy have served as models and implemented nationally.
Shelley Cohn’s leadership and administrative prowess can be seen in her service as Chair for many boards of directors, including the Arizona Community Foundation, the Desert Botanical Garden and Childsplay; she serves as Chair of Hillel at ASU’s Life & Legacy giving program.
Shelley Cohn was raised in New Mexico and Texas, but has called Arizona home for more than 40 years. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Washington University in St. Louis and an MA from ASU. She completed the prestigious Program for Senior Executives in State & Local Government at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She has taught classes at ASU in arts entrepreneurship and arts and public policy.
An entrepreneur herself, Shelley consults throughout the country on the arts and culture programs, including the Flinn Foundation, Washington State Arts Council, the Minnesota Arts Board and the South Carolina Arts Council.
A colleague of hers summed up Shelly in 3 words: extraordinary, indefatigable, peerless!