Headshot of Alex Sarian

President and CEO, Arts Commons

The audacity of relevance


16 min

“The more the world pushes us to isolate and divide, the greater the urgency to deliver collective experiences.” 

When we're alone, or with people who think like us, we're living in an echo chamber of our own biases. The moment that someone has an emotional response different from our own, our brains start firing in new ways. We’re enabled to build empathy and, in turn, a healthier society. 

Alex Sarian, President & CEO of Arts Commons, shares how his team examined relevancy to reach parts of Calgary previously unmet by his venue. Investigating what culture means for these residents, Arts Commons launched an outdoor concert series to foster community, boost relevancy and increase arts access.


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Alex Sarian presented this talk live as part of Tessitura’s Innovator Series at the Tessitura Learning & Community Conference in August 2023.

Headshot of Alex Sarian

Alex Sarian

President and CEO
Arts Commons

Alex Sarian is the President & CEO of Arts Commons, the largest arts centre in Western Canada.

Appointed in January 2020, Alex became one of the youngest CEOs to oversee a major performing arts centre in North America, including its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the $600 million Arts Commons Transformation project--the largest cultural infrastructure project in Canada, scheduled to break ground in downtown Calgary in 2024. Prior to his current appointment, he spent seven years at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, where he served as the senior executive responsible for the organization's portfolio of regranting initiatives, global consulting, community engagement, arts education, and artistic programming for young audiences and families. As a recognized authority on the civic role of arts institutions, Alex has worked with artists and organizations in 15 countries spanning five continents; taught at New York University, Pace University, and City College of New York; and served on governing and advisory committees for SXSW, Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires, and the Varkey Foundation's Global Teacher Prize. He received undergraduate and graduate degrees from New York University, is a graduate of the CommunityShift program at Western University's Ivey School of Business, and was an inaugural graduate of the Impact Program for Arts Leaders at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business.


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