Alum Named to CBJ’s “Most Admired CEO” List

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Devlin McNeil ’00 is president and executive director of Arts+.

Devlin McNeil had already had stints in banking and as a stay-at-home mom when she enrolled at UNC Charlotte to nurture a passion for photography that she had first developed as a student at Myers Park High School. When she graduated in 2000 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in art, she joined the staff of the recently founded McColl Center, building the arts education program there before becoming the organization’s chief operating officer.

Now president and executive director of Arts+, McNeil has been named a 2024 “Most Admired CEO” by the Charlotte Business Journal. Chosen annually for the past seven years, CBJ’s “Most Admired CEOs” demonstrate “a strong vision for their companies and a commitment to the community,” with a “proven track record of innovation in their field, outstanding financial performance, promoting diversity in the workplace and making an impact that extends beyond the boardroom.”

McNeil came to Arts+ in 2013 and successfully led it through its rebranding from Community School of the Arts in 2019 and the pandemic.

Founded in 1969, Arts+ serves more than 4500 students of all ages each year, with programs in music and visual and multimedia arts. About 60% of them participate for free or reduced fees.

“What attracted me to this organization to begin with was its mission,” McNeil says. “A high-quality arts education should be accessible to all.”

During her tenure, the Arts+ operating budget has grown from $1.1M to nearly $2.5M. The nonprofit has 10 full-time staff and nearly 70 part-time staff and instructors – some who have taught in the program for decades, which McNeil says is “a testament to the organization’s strength and stability.”

McNeil says that her leadership style “is one of shared leadership. I firmly believe you should hire people who are smarter than you in areas you’re not and get out of their way.”

With offices currently uptown, Arts + operates across the county in a dozen locations, from Davidson to Ballantyne, and has a long list of community partners with which it delivers programs, including Arts Empowerment Project, First Baptist Church West, and the Charlotte Symphony.

Most recently, Arts+ has launched “the biggest thing the organization has ever taken on,” McNeil says: a $16M capital campaign to transform the former Plaza Presbyterian Church into the Arts+ Community Campus. The organization will still operate in the hub and spoke model, she says, but having a large hub “will be game changing.” And her vision for the campus “extends beyond Arts+ to building a community ‘center’ that will serve generations to come,” she says. “This has to be bigger than just who we are.”

The fundraising and subsequent renovation and redesign of the church property are her next big challenges as president and executive director, but McNeil says she’s ready.

“I’m excited to see us get into the new space – what it can mean for the organization and for the community.”