Meet Levi Landis! Levi is an experienced nonprofit executive with over 14 years experience in management, fund development, administration, and education. Before joining GoggleWorks, he was the Director of Business Operations at The Center for Art in Wood, which has been recognized internationally by artists, collectors, scholars and the public as one of the most valuable resources in the field of wood art. Prior to his work in the visual arts, Levi was the Executive Director of the Philadelphia Folksong Society (PFS), which has brought folk music and art to the Greater Philadelphia area for over 50 years. The Philadelphia Folk Festival, the premier program of PFS, is the longest continuously running festival of its size and scope in the country.
Levi holds a Masters in Public Administration (MPA) from Villanova University. He is also the Founder and CEO of Floating Festivals, a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to producing high-quality festivals and cultural programs that celebrate and engage communities. He serves on the Board of Rock to the Future, which provides music education to thousands of students in Philadelphia’s underserved neighborhoods. Levi began his nonprofit career during his undergraduate studies, by founding Emmaus Inc., a community center in Gettysburg, PA, which housed performing and visual arts programs as well as a thrift store, 300-seat venue, staff housing, and a bowling alley. He is an established recording artist and touring musical performer who has continued to develop his previous education in music and visual arts- ceramics, graphic design, and illustration- as well as theatre, media, and audio production.
1) What are you up to now? Tell us a little bit about the Goggleworks Center for the Arts and what you do as the Executive Director.
The mission of the GoggleWorks Center for the Arts is to nurture the arts, foster creativity, promote education and enrich the community. Located in a former safety-goggles factory building, the GoggleWorks offers 140,000 square feet of dynamic space, making it the largest art center in the country. Spaces include: galleries and classrooms; dance and music studios; a darkroom and digital photography lab; a hot glass blowing facility; a warm and cold glass studio/classroom; a woodshop; ceramics studio; a 131-seat film theatre; a café; community meeting places; 34 artist studios; and offices for 26 local community arts and cultural organizations including the Berks Ballet, Berks Jazz Festival and the Berks Youth Chorus.
As executive director, I manage 15 employees on staff, along with roughly 200 teachers and artists and maintain day to day operations. Additionally, I evaluate current, and launch new, programs; recruit donors and sponsors; engage the community with outreach programs and communications; interface with and develop the board of directors; design and develop partnerships; and target business and community development opportunities. GoggleWorks is a massive community efforts with many stakeholders as well as high expectations from supporters and the community. As executive director, I am the point of contact for high-level decision making to advance the mission, improve visibility, and maintain sustainability.
2) How did your Villanova MPA degree help you get where you currently are in your career?
The Villanova MPA has hired expert professors with a firm grasp on concepts and practices that are applicable to nonprofit leaders. My matriculation gave me a firm foundation of knowledge in a variety of administrative roles as well as numerous networking opportunities—I have even engaged fellow students and professors for consultation and advice since graduation.
3) What advice do you have for current MPA students who are interested in working in the nonprofit sector?
Current and prospective students would be wise to schedule classes focused on areas essential to nonprofit administration including finance, nonprofit administration, fundraising, and so on. I enjoyed a great deal of professional development by seeking collaborative relationships with students and teachers, and taking advantage of nonprofit related activities and events.
4) Were there any particular courses or learning experiences during your time in the MPA program that stood out to you?
Some unique projects, such as Father Jacobs’ end of year project, integrated course concepts into the actual, literal work I was doing in my career. Professors like Drs. Wilson, Palus, Milltenberger, and Wheeland were particularly invested in my professional development, and I learned a great deal from work in their courses, from case studies, to research and literary review, to statistical analysis.