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Sundance Institute CEO Keri Putnam to Step Down

Putnam has been with the arts non-profit for over 10 years and will remain in the role through the end of the fiscal year

Keri Putnam, CEO of the Sundance Institute, will step down from her role later this year after more than 10 years with the arts non-profit.

Putnam this week informed staff and the Board of Trustees of her decision. She will remain in the role through the end of the fiscal year. Board of Trustees chair Pat Mitchell and vice-chair Ebs Burnough will co-chair a search committee to find Putnam’s replacement.

Under Putnam’s leadership, Sundance hosted its first ever virtual festival earlier this year, and she also led the non-profit in growth as well as 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 variety of independent projects.

“After an incredibly rewarding decade, and following the success of our first-ever online Festival, I have decided it’s the right time for me to step down as CEO of Sundance Institute. Leading Sundance through this volatile era in media together with such an impassioned team has been one of my greatest joys,” Putnam said in a statement.

She continued: “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. 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. 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.”

Putnam and her team have made a commitment to expanding opportunities for underrepresented voices and establishing programs for artists of color and those with disabilities. This year’s festival hit gender parity among its film slate, and Sundance Institute also launched a fellowship to diversify film critics who cover the film festival.

In 2012, Putnam partnered with Dr. Stacy Smith and Women in Film and commissioned research on the barriers facing female-identifying artists that looked at the Institute’s extensive applicant and acceptance data. The findings of the study led to the launch of the Women at Sundance program, which helped the festival reach its gender parity goals and became the basis for ReFrame, an industry-wide advocacy group for women in media that was 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.

This year’s Sundance was also the most attended in the festival’s history, reaching people in all 50 states and 120 countries and over 600,000 audience views.

“As a fierce supporter of independent creators, 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,” founder and president of Sundance Institute Robert Redford said in a statement. “We cannot overstate her impact, and we thank Keri for her invaluable service in support of independent artists.”

“Under Keri’s leadership, Sundance forged new partnerships across the industry and beyond,” board chair Pat Mitchell said in a statement. “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.”