CO-FOUNDER & PRESIDENT
The Center for Cultural Power
There came a point where I thought i had reached my max for how far I could grow my organization, and part of that is because there aren’t that many models of artists who are also working to lead by growing effective organizations. In that way, working with James helped me understand - in a very practical way -how to build a support team of not just peers but people who know so much more than me. Working with James to build an executive team that could take me to the next level and be bold about it, and not to be limited to what I thought was feasible but to dream big and to have strategy to match that - that was so important. To be bold when I ask for money and ask for support, to have a clear ambition and plan to build a team for a mid to large size organization that would be on a trajectory to have real impact. James coached me and supported me and actually led to my organization doubling in size in 2021.
When I wanted to create a national youth engagement strategy for the Apollo Theater and really investigate the relationship between art and social action among young people, there was no one I wanted to reach out to more than James Kass. James helped me develop a vision, design the program and make it operational, in addition to helping us identify resources and partners to bring it to fruition. He has been a critical part of launching it off the ground. Now we have a program that the entire organization is excited about that's deeply rooted in the values of the Apollo, and that will be an important part of our future.
AUTHOR & CULTURAL STRATEGIST
Senior Advisor, Race Forward
James Kass has been one of the most visionary and transformative builders I have ever had a chance to work with. His principled, nuanced, and effective approach to grow communities, organizations, and change-leaders is exactly what we need to advance justice across the arts and culture sector.
CREATIVE PRODUCER & DIRECTOR
Ignite/Arts Dallas at SMU Meadows School of the Arts
James Kass is one of the most insightful and strategic thinkers I know. His ability to listen deeply, decipher and decode group think and distill critical and key pieces of information to the benefit of the whole is rare and far between. Plus, he has a great sense of humor and we all need a little laughter in the work we do everyday around social justice and racial equity.
The Redford Center
When I started working with James to develop The Redford Center’s capacity to scale our efforts and impact to meet the urgency of the environmental crises, I had clarity of vision and much less clarity about how to get there—what to do first, how to shift my leadership, and attract the resources required. Having James as my thought partner in this moment was the catalyst. He embraced the ambition of the vision with an infectious confidence. He supported me and the team all along the way. And he often contributed new approaches and ideas. In 2020 we set a goal to raise $25M. In 2021 we doubled the size of our staff. As we enter 2022, we are rounding the corner on raising $10M with an incredible, expanded team in place. I feel indebted to James for his support and partnership.
PRINCIPAL & CEO
Bright Research Group
James Kass is a dynamic, effective and creative organizational and leadership coach. I have had the pleasure of working with him over the past several months as our organization navigated the pandemic, growth, and many transitions. James brings a wealth of understanding and experience of the non-profit and social impact spaces to his work and deep insights about what structures an organization needs to have in place in order to achieve impact. He facilitated an excellent team meeting about our theory of change, which helped to crystallize organizational direction. James keeps it real, brings energy and optimism, and offers concrete ideas and solutions.
FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
James Kass has been one of the most generous thought leaders, partners and strategists that I have had the privilege of working with. He has a depth of lived experience and doesn’t hesitate to draw upon it or share when needed. His deft use of inquiry and guided conversation are both representatives of the level of care taken to understand the subject matter and his ability, as a strategic thinker, to foster the expansion of ideas and projects. If you’re interested in the greatest potential or highest impact, James will work to get you there.
MARC BAMUTHI JOSEPH
VICE PRESIDENT AND ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF SOCIAL IMPACT
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
I’ve known James Kass for 25 years and his work has launched an exponential number of voices into creative and cultural leadership. He is thoughtful and multi-layered in his approach, and incisive and highly collaborative in his practice. His compassionate listening doesn’t betray his impassioned voice as he guides individuals and organizations with wit and diligence towards an equitable future
Arts in a Changing America
James’ strategic thinking has been an accelerant to the change we see happening across the arts field today. His ability to both vision expansively and work pragmatically is grounded in his experience across cultural communities.
PUBLISHER & CEO
City Light Publisher & Bookseller
James Kass is a gem. A supportive listener who has helped us to clarify and identify our goals, he generously offers up the full benefit of his years of experience, his knowledge and connections. His enthusiasm is grounded in real world achievements that serve to inspire and guide the process of change and growth. And, best of all, he’s fun to work with!
MICHELLE "MUSH" LEE
James Kass likes to provoke, but always only to push the status quo. Whether it’s human connection, organizational development, cultural activism, or locating the joys in strategic planning, James Kass’ ability to help leaders and whole teams clarify their value, purpose and power in the world is inestimable. In each learning moment I’ve shared with James, he has consistently been two things: visionary, and profoundly kind. Yes, James is a seasoned strategist, a storehouse of expertise with decades of passionate activism and a stellar C.V., but the most meaningful experiences have been those where I get to share in James’ lifelong commitment to busting down barriers for countless BIPOC leaders, artists and activists of diasporas
PAULA SMITH ARRIGONI
James Kass is a master at creating big audacious goals to address critical issues of our time, and at deploying his expertise as a practitioner and community builder to actually get them done.
BERNICE JULIE SHAW
Center for Story-based Strategy
Working with James feels like you’re training for the strategy olympics. Do you have what it takes to solve the real stuff humanity needs? Some days you might question it. But discovering your potential and how you will get there, is where the winning happens.
Ghetto Film School Los Angeles
James has served as a trusted advisor, strategist, and consultant for virtually every organization I have worked with. His grasp on the philanthropic landscape, combined with his unrivaled instincts, and his ability to communicate a robust vision have been invaluable in my professional life. All of these things are secondary to James' empathy as a leader and facilitator, and his passion for developing a thriving field of emergent leadership.