Sundance Institute CEO plans to step down after 10 years leading the nonprofit
Putnam helped establish film programs for underrepresented voices
Sundance Institute CEO Keri Putnam informed staff and the organization’s board of trustees that she will be stepping down later this year after more than 10 years with the organization.
“After an incredibly rewarding decade, and following the success of our first-ever online (Sundance Film) Festival, I have decided it’s the right time for me to step down as CEO of Sundance Institute,” Putnam said in a press release. “Leading Sundance through this volatile era in media together with such an impassioned team has been one of my greatest joys. 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.”
Sundance Institute Founder and President Robert Redford called Putnam “a fierce supporter of independent creators” in the press release.
“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,” he said. “We cannot overstate her impact, and we thank Keri for her invaluable service in support of independent artists.”
Under Putnam’s leadership, the media and arts nonprofit has seen a decade of growth.
Board of Trustees Chair Pat Mitchell and Vice-Chair Ebs Burnough will lead a search committee to identify Putnam’s replacement.
Putnam has led the institute through an era of significant change in the media landscape. At the same time, she helped establish the Sundance Film Festival as a thriving global market and invested in the Sundance artist development programs for new independent creators working across disciplines.
She 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 as CEO, Putnam and her team have prioritized underrepresented voices by expanding and establishing programs for artists of color and artists with disabilities. In addition, the institute 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 Dr. 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.
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.
“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,” Putnam said. “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.”
Most recently, the institute built a 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.
“Under Keri’s leadership, Sundance forged new partnerships across the industry and beyond,” said Mitchell. “She helped build a diverse, world-class team, and invested in leadership at all levels, from staff to the board. As a result, the Institute is stronger than ever, and poised to leverage this exciting moment to continue its invaluable work on behalf of independent artists in the US and around the world. We are grateful that Keri will be staying on in her role through the end of our fiscal year.”
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