The Neil Morgan Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement

Alan Ziter, Executive Director, NTC Foundation   

Since arriving in San Diego from Chicago in 1986, Alan Ziter has advanced San Diego’s arts and culture in impactful ways.   Throughout his career in nonprofit arts, he has had the opportunity to work with leading San Diego artists, arts administrators, patrons, civic leaders, board members, and audiences to whom he is most appreciative of their collaborative efforts to shine the spotlight on San Diego’s remarkable arts and culture community. 

In December 2003, Ziter was hired as the Executive Director of the NTC Foundation, which oversees the restoration of 26 historic buildings at the former Naval Training Center and the opening of them as ARTS DISTRICT Liberty Station.  To date, the NTC Foundation has secured $110 million to renovate 18 buildings.  ARTS DISTRICT has become a favorite San Diego destination as a curated campus of 105 galleries, dance companies, civic groups, and nonprofit organizations – as well as artists, designers, cafes, and creative retail.    

In addition to being on the leadership team that renovated the historic Navy buildings, Alan and the NTCF staff developed community programs at the ARTS DISTRICT, including Friday Night Liberty open studios, Liberty School Arts Education Program for Underserved Youth, and Installations at the Station, which commissions local artists to create temporary artworks on the former Navy grounds.    

Each year, nearly 2.1 million people take a class, attend a workshop or performance, or see an exhibit at the ARTS DISTRICT, which is a fulfillment of the community’s vision that Ziter helped to implement for this successful military base conversion to civilian use. 

Over the past 5 years, Alan has focused on developing a performing arts center for the ARTS DISTRICT.  With planning and designs complete, and $38.9 million in fundraising nearing its goal, groundbreaking is planned for late 2023 for The Joan and Irwin Jacobs Performing Arts Center with an opening in 2025.  It will be the new home for Cygnet Theatre – San Diego’s third largest theater company – and will meet the needs of dance companies and other mid-size to small performing groups. 

During his time at the NTC Foundation, Alan received the “Advocate of the Arts” award from Bravo San Diego in 2013 and an “Artie Award” from ArtWalk in 2016 for his leadership in advancing the arts in San Diego. 

Prior to the NTC Foundation, Alan was the first staff person hired by the San Diego Performing Arts League in April 1986.  The League grew to twelve staff members serving a membership of over 140 theatre, music, and dance companies in San Diego County.   The strength and stability of this “chamber of commerce for the arts” are borne out by nearly 18 years of successful leadership and prudent fiscal and program management under Alan’s direction.  While at the League, Alan created and oversaw the implementation of programs that develop new audiences for the arts, increase community access to underserved audiences, and lower operating costs for arts organizations.  These include the ARTS TIX half-price ticket booth in 1986 (which continues to this day), Business Volunteers for the Arts, Family Theatre Days, Bargain Arts Day, the What’s Playing performing arts guide, and the BRAVO San Diego initiative to strengthen Arts and Business Partnerships. 

During his tenure at the League, one of Alan’s proudest achievements was as a founding board member of Creative Response of the Arts, a nonprofit that at the height of the AIDS devastation of the arts community brought arts groups together to raise hundreds of thousands for San Diego organizations providing services to people with AIDS.  Fundraisers included a performance and reception with Carol Channing in her final “Hello, Dolly!” tour and a benefit performance of the San Diego premiere of “Angels in America.” 

One of the leading arts advocates in California, Alan was a founder in 1992 of the California Arts Advocates/Californians for the Arts, for which he is a past Chair.  He is also a former 5-year board member and officer for the California Confederation of the Arts and a founder in 1989 and 3-time past Chair of the San Diego Regional Arts & Culture Coalition.  He served 7 years on the board of the San Diego Tourism Authority and 3 years on the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce board where he chaired the Arts & Business Committee.  He also served on Mayor Susan Golding’s Naval Training Center Citizens Implementation Advisory Committee to assure arts and culture were included in the Master Plan for the new Liberty Station neighborhood. 

Prior to coming to San Diego in 1986, Alan was for 5 years the Marketing Director for the League of Chicago Theatres where he expanded the popular HOT TIX half-price ticket program and launched POST TIX discounted tickets-by-mail.  He started his art career working in the Chicago office of the Shubert Organization and as house manager of the Shubert Theater. 

He graduated in 1980 from Northwestern University and hails from North Adams, Massachusetts. 

Ziter will retire in June 2023 from his 43-year career to enjoy what he calls Act 3, which includes travel, community service, and enjoying San Diego like a tourist.