The Smith Leadership Symposium is an annual event that serves any staff, trustee, volunteer, philanthropist, artist, or other professionals connected with arts and culture. This signature event ranges in topics from cultural arts leadership to audience engagement to integrating innovative technology. Every year the symposium introduces new themes and trends in arts and culture, some cultivated from within Balboa Park, and others occurring nationally.

These symposiums give our attendees an opportunity to explore new ways of thinking about the business of arts, science, and cultural institutions while inspiring and advancing our cultural community’s ability to serve the public and to create dynamic visitor experiences.

BobSmithThe Symposium is named in memory of Robert “Bob” Smith, a San Diego civic and business leader. Mr. Smith’s service to Balboa Park began when he was a young newsboy, selling daily papers at the California-Pacific International Exposition in 1935. In later years he provided strategic planning consulting for many Park institutions including: the San Diego Natural History Museum, Zoological Society of San Diego and the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership.

2020 Smith Leadership Symposium

Leading From Where You Stand: An Exploration of Your Leadership Journey
February 26, 2020
Everyone is a leader, no matter what your job title or area of responsibility.  Join your arts, science, and culture colleagues for a day of exploration of your role as a leader, wherever you stand in your organization.  The 2020 Smith Leadership Symposium will provide all participants with a day of learning, growth, reflection, and support.  Click here to register to attend this year’s Symposium

2017 Smith Leadership Symposium

Social Responsibility and Civic Engagement
September 6, 2017
The 2017 Smith Leadership Symposium explored the connection between social responsibility and civic engagement. Attendees were challenged to consider their organization’s social responsibility to the arts, culture, and science community, as well as, the community at large, and solutions for their respected organizations to be more civically engaged. This Symposium focused on how individuals can be advocates for not only themselves, but for organizations as a whole through civil discourse and inclusive programming.

2016 Smith Leadership Symposium

Meaningful Community Engagement

September 14, 2016

The 2016 Smith Leadership Symposium focused on the role art, culture, and science organizations play in their communities along with understanding what it means to have “meaningful engagement”. Organizations are learning that to truly engage a community means to include them in the partnership and process wholeheartedly, to be thoughtful and deliberate with messaging, along with focusing on the needs of the people they are serving. Meaningful and impactful engagement happens beyond the walls of institutions and in the epicenter of a community. This Symposium taught ways to engage your local organizations and communities, find collaborative partnerships, and build stronger, more meaningful relationships.

Featured speakers from:
• Portland Art Museum
• Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience
• VH1 Save the Music Foundation
• Chula Vista Elementary School District
• Museum of Broken Relationships, LA
• Museum Hack

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View the presentations

2015 Smith Leadership Symposium

Relationships & Experience: Making 21st Century Cultural Organizations Matter
April 20, 2015
As cultural participation changes, the role and services of arts, science, and cultural institutions must as well to remain relevant in the 21st century. The 2015 Smith Leadership Symposium will explore the role of museums, collaborative organizational structures and staff training models, digital strategy, and technology trends. Marsha Semmel – Senior Advisor to the Noyce Leadership Institute and formerly of the Institute of Museum and Library Services – will kick off the day, followed by an in-depth look at the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s guest experience restructuring with David Rosenberg. The afternoon will focus on digital strategy with digital strategist Mike Edson and dive into the upcoming 2015 Horizon Report produced by the New Media Consortium with the Balboa Park Online Collaborative’s Nik Honeysett. The program will conclude with a final panel convening our dynamic speakers for a final look at the themes of the conference to synthesize the day’s rich discussion.
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2012 Smith Leadership Symposium

Organization Innovation and the Engagement Equation
September 7, 2012
Times are changing and the business models for arts, science, and cultural institutions must too.The 2012 Smith Leadership Symposium will inspire new ways of thinking about the business of arts, science, and cultural institutions. Chip Conley – Hotelier, best-selling author, and frequent TED Talk speaker – will kick off the day, followed by case studies of cultural institutions in organizational change, and breakout sessions that allow for deeper exploration of conference themes. At the end we’ll reconvene for a final panel on changing business models and philanthropy, and synthesize the day’s rich discussion.
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2010 Smith Leadership Symposium

Motivations, Interactions, and Impact: Understanding Audience Experience
November 8, 2010
Featuring thought leaders in audience experience, Salvador Acevedo, Principal and President of Contemporánea, Dr. John Falk, founder of Learning Innovation and Sea Grant Professor in Free-Choice Learning at Oregon Sate University, and Nina Simon, Principal of Museum 2.0, the Symposium will focus on what motivates arts participants/visitors, how they benefit, what the implications are for an increasingly diverse society. In addition, we will debut groundbreaking research conducted in Balboa Park by Dr. Marianna Adams, Principal of Audience Focus, Inc., which as a national first, includes 12 Park museums collaborative efforts on development and implementation of a large-scale audience research study.
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2009 Robert F. Smith, Jr. Cultural Arts Leadership Symposium

The Opportunities and Challenges of Cultural Institutions in the 21st Century
February 13, 2009
This Symposium will feature Ford W. Bell, DVM, President and CEO of the American Association of Museums. He holds an impressive record of scholarship, community engagement, proven leadership and a passion for championing museums as places of lifelong learning and enjoyment. Bell has more than 30 years of experience as a nonprofit executive, board chair, donor, trustee, educator and scientist.
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2007 Robert F. Smith, Jr. Museum Management Symposium

21st Century Leadership for Nonprofit Organizations
November 19, 2007
The first Symposiun will feature Ken Blanchard, co-founder and Chief Spiritual Officer of The Ken Blanchard Companies®, an international management training and consulting firm headquartered in San Diego. Dr. Blanchard is also an accomplished author whose titles include: The One Minute Manager®, Gung Ho!®, Big Bucks!, and High Five! His latest book, Leading at a Higher Level: Blanchard on Leadership and Creating High Performing Organizations, is the culmination of more than twenty-five years of breakthrough leadership insights.
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