Neville Vakharia is an Associate Professor and Research Director in Drexel's renowned graduate Arts Administration & Museum Leadership program, teaching courses in management, strategic planning, entrepreneurship, and related subjects while undertaking research and development projects that seek to strengthen the arts, cultural, and creative sector. His research centers on the role that technology, innovation, and knowledge play in building sustainable, resilient, and relevant organizations and communities. His work has been published internationally and he has developed new tools and resources to benefit the cultural and social sectors. Neville is a frequent speaker, facilitator, and panelist for a wide range of conferences and events nationally and internationally.
Prior to Drexel, Neville was the director of the Cultural Data Project at The Pew Charitable Trusts (now SMU DataArts), a growing national initiative created to improve the management and financial capacity of arts and cultural organizations, inform grant-making strategies, and serve as a powerful tool for policy research and analysis. At Pew, he oversaw the program’s strategic direction, operations, and national expansion from a start-up enterprise to multi-million dollar organization.
Prior to Pew, Neville was Director of Technology Services and Programs for the Arts & Business Council of Greater Philadelphia, where he developed and launched the Technology Connectors, a program designed to support the technological capabilities of the region’s arts and cultural organizations through education, strategic planning, and consulting. He served as Director of Marketing for the Prince Music Theater, overseeing all audience development and branding strategies, and for 12 years he was the founder and co-producer of the ArtsFest Film Festival, central Pennsylvania's largest film festival.
Neville also has more than 10 years of experience in the corporate sector, working in new product development, marketing and global product management for W.L. Gore & Associates, Inc., manufacturer of GORE-TEX products. Neville holds two international patents and has developed several new products and technologies. He earned both his bachelor of science degree in materials engineering and his master of science in arts administration from Drexel University where he is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Information Science. He serves on the board of directors of CultureWorks Greater Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Cultural Fund, and is the co-editor of Artivate: A Journal of Entrepreneurship in the Arts. Neville also serves as an advisor to many creative, start-up, and social enterprises and community-based organizations.
BS Material Engineering, Drexel University, 1990; MS Arts Administration, Drexel University, 2002
Jung, Y., & Vakharia, N. (2019). Open Systems Theory for Arts and Cultural Organizations: Linking Structure and Performance, The Journal of Arts Management, Law, and Society, 49(4).
Vakharia, N., Vecco, M., Srakar, A., & Janardhan, D. (2018). Knowledge centricity and organizational performance: An empirical study of the performing arts. Journal of Knowledge Management, 22(5), 1124-1152.
Vakharia, N., (2017). Mapping the museum universe: A systems approach. In Y. Jung and A. Love (Eds.), Systems Thinking in Museums: Theory and Practice, Summit, PA: Rowman & Littlefield.
Vakharia, Neville and Divya Janardhan, 2016. “The Knowledge-Centric Arts Organization: Connecting Practice to Performance.” International Journal of Arts Management (in press).
Vakharia, Neville, 2016. “Perspectives on Arts Entrepreneurship: Knowledge Centricity and the Artist Entrepreneur.” Artivate: A Journal of Entrepreneurship in the Arts, Volume 5, Issue 2: 3-8.
Vakharia, Neville, Marilena Vecco, Andrej Srakar, and Divya Janardhan, 2016. “Knowledge-Centric Practices of Performing Arts Organizations: New Directions for Organizational Resilience.” Association for Cultural Economics International, Working Paper AWP-7-2016.
Vakharia, Neville and Karen DiLoissi, 2016. “Creating Space,” GIA Reader, Volume 27, Issue 2: 35-40.
Vakharia, Neville, Marilena Vecco, Andrej Srakar, and Divya Janardhan, 2016. “Knowledge-Centric Arts Organizations and Financial Performance: An Empirical Study.” Proceedings of the European Group for Organization Studies, Naples, Italy.
Vakharia, Neville and Karen DiLossi, 2016. “Creating Spaces: Performing Artists in Sacred Places.” Public report.
Vakharia, Neville and Karen DiLossi, 2015. “Performing Artists in Sacred Places,” three research reports on Baltimore, MD; Austin, TX; and Detroit, MI.
Vakharia, Neville and Divya Janardhan, 2015. “The Knowledge-Centric Arts Organization: Connecting Practice to Performance.” Proceedings of the International Conference on Arts & Cultural Management, Aix-en-Provence, France.
Vakharia, Neville. “Book Review: Performing Policy: How Contemporary Politics and Cultural Programs Redefined U.S. Artists for the 21st Century” by Paul Bonin-Rodriguez. Artivate: A Journal of Entrepreneurship in the Arts, Volume 4, Issue 1: 49-52.
Zitcer, Andrew, Julie Hawkins and Neville Vakharia. 2014. “A Capabilities Approach to Arts and Culture? Theorizing Community Development in Two Philadelphia Neighborhoods” Planning Theory & Practice.
Vakharia, Neville and Divya Janardhan. 2014. “Towards a Knowledge-Centric Arts Organization.” American Journal of Arts Management. Volume 1, Issue 4.
Hawkins, Julie, Neville Vakharia, and Andrew Zitcer. 2014. “A Fragile Ecosystem: The Role of Arts & Culture in Philadelphia’s Mantua, Powelton and West Powelton Neighborhoods”
Vakharia, Neville. 2013. “The Knowledge-Centric Arts Organization: A Critical Role for Grantmakers.” GIA Reader, Volume 24, Issue 3: 5-9.
Vakharia, Neville and Divya Janardhan. 2013. “The Knowledge-Centric Arts Organization: Practices, Process, and the Path Forward.” Proceedings of the International Conference on Arts & Cultural Management, Bogotá, Columbia: 686-697.
Vakharia, Neville. 2013. “Partnership: A Simple Concept, A Complex Reality.” Philadelphia Social Innovations Journal, March 2013.
At its core, my research and scholarship focuses on two specific concepts that are critical elements of building and sustaining a resilient, adaptive, and vibrant arts, cultural and creative sector:
• The role of information and communications technology as a means to create and utilize data and information that builds both institutional and sector-wide knowledge.
• The role of innovation and entrepreneurial approaches in the development of new enterprises, programs, business models, and funding/philanthropic structures.
My research ultimately seeks to understand and address the critical components that are necessary to build stronger organizations and a stronger sector. As someone who has spent significant time in leadership positions within the sector, I firmly believe that research in our field must be broadly applicable and contain an element of praxis. Our field needs research that can be used to inform leading thinkers and practitioners while also building a formal body of scholarship.
The formal study of arts administration is relatively new when compared to other long-standing fields of study and research. Thus, the best research and scholarship for our field is that which can provide relevant insights that are broadly applicable. I believe my research and scholarship is adding valuable knowledge to the field and is leveraging my expertise, skills, and interests. In all of my research and scholarship efforts, I seek to achieve my ultimate objective of adding significant value to the field while continuing to grow my role as a well-respected representative of my institution.
My research activities are relevant and necessary at this critical time when the arts, cultural, and creative sector is facing significant, structural challenges. These challenges have created a need for new organizational practices and a new type of leadership. Rapid advances in technology, changing demographics, and competition for limited resources are requiring the sector to evolve and adapt in order to exist in our fast-paced, knowledge-driven society. Many long-standing models and approaches are no longer applicable, and as such, research plays a critical role in supporting the advancement of the field. My role as a scholar is to continue to lead our field through my growing body of research that is advancing knowledge and building tomorrow’s organizations and leaders.
The types of research and scholarship I have undertaken to date all align with my research agenda described above. I have been able to lead a wide range of research projects that address both institutional and sector-wide issues in our field. My research methods combine both quantitative, data-driven methods and qualitative, ethnographic methods. In our field, these mixed-methods approaches are most successful in understanding the full scope of the issues I am investigating.
Funded Research Projects:
Strategic Change and Sensemaking in the Performing Arts (Co-PI)
Funding Source: Drexel Faculty Research Grant
March 2018 – June 2019
Nonprofit Ecosystem Analysis and Visualization (PI)
Funding Source: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, sponsored by Stanford University
January 2017 - March 2018
Museums Count Research and Project Development (PI)
Funding Source: Institute of Museum and Library Services (a federal agency)
April 2014 – June 2016
Organizational Practices and Performance of Knowledge-Centric Arts Organizations (PI)
Funding Source: Westphal Faculty Grant
July 2014 – September 2015
Creation of a Scalable, National Model for Performing Artists’ Use of Historic Sacred Spaces (PI)
Funding Source: Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, sponsored by Partners for Sacred Places
October 2014 – January 2016
Knowledge-Centric Arts Organizations and Financial Performance (PI)
Funding Source: Westphal Faculty Grant and International Travel Award
September 2015 – July 2016
The Role of Arts & Culture in Underserved Communities (Co-PI)
Funding Source: Drexel University Office of Research and the Office of University and Community Partnerships
May 2013 – June 2014
Development of Online Arts and Cultural Knowledgebase (PI)
Funding Source: Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, fiscally sponsored for WolfBrown through National Arts Strategies
August 2013 – March 2014