Nolen V. Bivens

President and CEO

Team: Executive Office

Nolen V. Bivens joined Americans for the Arts in 2021 as president and CEO and has supported and advocated for the arts as a national asset for much of his life. A retired U.S. Army Brigadier General with 32 years of service as an Infantry officer, Nolen is a passionate advocate for the benefits of the arts to service members and Veterans suffering the invisible wounds of war and the role the community plays in transcending trauma. He has advised numerous arts groups as well as federal, state, and local arts agencies, utilizing his unique understanding of operational perspectives of commanders, enlisted noncommissioned officers, and Veterans and family members, to promote connections, advance equitable and collaborative partnerships, and help develop new arts programming for military and veteran communities.

Bivens has testified before the U.S. Congress and State Legislatures and advised creative endeavors such as Healing Wars theatrical dance production and PBS’s Crafts in America— “Service” episode. He has been a guest speaker for national, regional, state, and local conferences such as Independent Sector, Mid-America Arts Alliance, and the New England Foundation for the Arts as well as Americans for the Arts’ National Arts Policy Roundtable and Aspen Seminar for Leadership in the Arts. He has been a contributing writer for the Smithsonian Institution, HuffPost, and American for the Arts’ social media.

In 2010 during the Haiti earthquake, Bivens was instrumental in the Smithsonian Institution’s early access into the country for its Haiti Cultural Recovery Project and its mobilizing of military support of that effort. In 2010, he also joined the board of Americans for the Arts, serving through 2015.

As chair of the National Leadership Advisory Council for the National Initiative for Arts & Health Across the Military (NIAHM) since 2011, Bivens has led the development of the initiative, now coordinated by Americans for the Arts, bringing together a coalition of military, veteran, health, and arts agencies and partners to advance the health and well-being of service members, Veterans, their families, and caregivers. Through advancing the National Initiative, he has modeled his belief in the power of building a network of networks to enact change, facilitating seven national summits and two high level leadership roundtables that resulted in the publication of two white papers outlining recommendations in policy, research, and practice.

Bivens is a staunch believer that the arts’ greatest impact is at the community level. From 2016 through 2019, he served as the senior military community engagement advisor during expansion of the Creative Forces®: NEA Military Healing Arts Network. An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts, in partnership with the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, and state and local arts agencies, Creative Forces is managed in partnership with Americans for the Arts and the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine. In this pioneering work, Bivens advised some 12 separate state arts agencies’ directors and staffs regarding a model for community level implementation, including the eight states plus the District of Columbia where the Creative Forces military clinical sites were located.

During the course of his distinguished military career, Bivens has held leadership and staff positions from company through Army and Joint Chiefs of Staff Pentagon and U.S. Combatant and Special Operations Command levels. Following his retirement from the service, he has VP level executive leadership experience delivering successful results for public, private sector, and nonprofit organizations with $1B (+) in annual revenue, including strategic business development and sales for the fourth largest defense corporation, General Dynamics. He has also founded and started his own private consulting company Leader Six, Inc.

Bivens holds a Bachelor of Science in chemistry from South Carolina State University, a Master of Science in management from the Naval Post Graduate School, and a Master of Science in national security and strategic studies from the National Defense University. He and his wife Pamela have three children, all of whom are now professionals in the fields of creative writing, visual arts, and art history/architecture.