Arts, Culture, and Humanities


  • Ann Arbor, MI

Mission Statement

The Ann Arbor Summer Festival’s mission is to present a world-class celebration of arts and entertainment that enriches the cultural, economic, and social vitality of the region.

Main Programs

  1. Ann Arbor Summer Festival
Service Areas



Serving the Southeast Michigan region, specifically the greater Ann Arbor community.

ruling year


Executive and Artistic Director


Amy Nesbitt



multidisciplinary, performing arts, festival, summer, admission-free, concerts, movies, workshops, community-based

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Also Known As

A2SF Top of the Park





Physical Address

310 Depot Street, Suite 3

Ann Arbor, 48104


Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Performing Arts (A60)

IRS Filing Requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

Programs + Results

How does this organization make a difference?


Self-reported by organization

The Ann Arbor Summer Festival presents a world-class celebration of the arts and entertainment that enriches the cultural, economic, and social vitality of the region. The festival is a leading multi-arts festival and an enduring local treasure—a widely anticipated, interactive hub of creative and community energy.


Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Program 1

Ann Arbor Summer Festival

The Ann Arbor Summer Festival is an international arts gathering connecting people, place, and exceptional performance. For three weeks Ann Arbor is transformed into an open celebration, a gathering space where friends, family, neighbors, and visitors can connect and share in artistic inspiration, creativity, and community spirit.

Over one hundred scheduled events take place in various venues and spaces in downtown, with the heart of our festival, our free outdoor program called Top of the Park (TOP), taking place on the central University of Michigan campus. The indoor Mainstage series includes ticketed performances of world-class music, dance, theater, and comedy. From Tito Puente, to Mikhail Baryshnikov, to Al Green, each season brings an impressive line-up of luminaries to the stage.

At the outdoor, admission-free Top of the Park, large audiences enjoy concerts, movies under the stars, cutting-edge dance, circus and street arts, outdoor spectacles, spoken word, mind/body workshops, and innovative family programming. With an emphasis on community building, much of the programming features talent from the local area, region, and state of Michigan. Other activities include educational and outreach events, youth activities, and ethnic and cultural celebrations that offer the community accessible ways to discover, understand, and participate in the performing arts. Additionally, patrons can sample local food on culinary row and enjoy wine and beer in a beverage garden called The Grove. All events are accessible at TOP.



Population(s) Served

General Public/Unspecified





Charting Impact

Self-reported by organization

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

  1. What is the organization aiming to accomplish?
    The Ann Arbor Summer Festival’s mission is to present a world-class celebration of the arts and entertainment that enriches the cultural, economic, and social vitality of the region. Our vision is to present the best possible artistic experiences to as many people as possible through excellence, diversity, and relevance.

    Founded in 1984, the festival has grown from a small summer cultural event into a 21-day international festival that offers dozens of performances, activities, exhibitions, and screenings representative of the best in music, dance, comedy, film, circus and street arts, and family entertainment. Our audiences are comprised of the more than 75,000 people who attend the festival annually. All festival activities are designed to be inclusive: all ages, backgrounds, socio-economic groups, and ethnicities. As champions of accessibility, 90% of our 100+ events are offered free to the public. For three incredible summer nights, we transform Ann Arbor into an open celebration, a place where friends, family, neighbors, and visitors can connect and share in artistic inspiration, creativity, and community spirit.

    On the heels of our 30th anniversary, our goal moving forward is to secure the festival’s reputation as a major cultural event in the Ann Arbor community, as well as a premiere artistic enterprise in the national and international festival-presenting arena. We seek to nurture the ways in which the festival has become more of a cultural and social destination, and less about a specific concert-going experience. To achieve these outcomes, we seek projects that represent unique audience engagement strategies, that can bring community together in surprising and innovative ways, and that can merge technology with the performing arts.

    Since 2009, we have been guided by a 5-year strategic plan outlining the following vision and goals, which are aligned with the mission of the organization. The five-year vision is to increase the positive impact on audiences and the community while building a financially stable and adaptable organization. The goals are: (1) deepen audience and community engagement (2) improve financial health of organization (3) strengthen key partnerships and develop new mutually beneficial relationships (4) further enhance and extend reputation of the festival (5) continuously improve leadership and administration.
  2. What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?
    1. Deepen Audience and Community Engagement
    • Days and Hours of Operations: Improved alignment of festival days and hours of operations to periods of maximum audience participation.
    • Programming and Venue Alignment: Continue to line-up programming that will address the most popular audience interests; utilize a wider range of appropriate venues for each program (with selection based on genre, audience segment, capacity needs, and cost considerations).
    • Volunteering: Mature the festival’s volunteer program and expand levels of volunteerism within the community.
    • Marketing and Promotions: The festival will increase its marketing reach (e.g., number of people engaged, unique visitors) and improve returns on marketing (e.g., increased attendance volumes and frequencies, greater loyalty).
    • Targeted Engagement Initiatives: The festival should continue to implement initiatives that engage the core audience. At the same time, we will also identify and implement special initiatives each year that further improve audience diversity.

    2. Build a Financially Sustainable Organization
    • Renewed focus on fund development as a priority.
    • Building festival endowment.
    • Delivering a profitable and lower-risk season.
    • Improving cash flow.

    3. Strengthen Key Partnerships and Develop New Mutually Beneficial Relationships
    • Continue to reinforce the strong and mutually beneficial relationships between the festival and the City of Ann Arbor and University of Michigan.
    • Solidify our relationship with priority organizations that can benefit the festival the most holistically, and cultivate multiple relationships/linkages.
    • Develop the next tier of partnerships – organizations that can provide significant benefits to the festival across a smaller number of criteria but are also high priority partners. Cultivate these relationships via the festival staff and committees.

    4. Further Enhance and Extend the Reputation of the Festival
    • Clarity and Communication: Defining, articulating, and demonstrating the unique value proposition of the festival.
    • Association: Alignment to high-profile sponsors, funding agencies, partners, media and/or other events that reflect our values.
    • Talent: Attracting and retaining top talent of all kinds (e.g., board, staff, seasonal management, volunteers, high-quality artists).
    • Openness: Working in partnership with our community and audiences, listening to and implementing feedback, being open to ideas, broadening the audience of our programs.
    • Advocacy, Thought Leadership and Giving Back: Supporting growth of our creative industries, serving as a leader and resource for local/national colleagues in the arts presenting arena, being a good community citizen.

    5. Continuously Improve Leadership and Administration
    • Year-round organization optimization.
    • Continued outsourcing of non-core functions.
    • In-season cost structure improvements.
    • Infrastructure and technology improvements.
  3. What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?
    The festival is highly capable of advancing this strategic plan and fulfilling its mission and vision. There is outstanding leadership among our full-time staff, whose combined expertise and efforts have helped to grow the festival significantly in recent years. A team of seasonal managers, contractors, seasonal employees, interns, and volunteers support the staff. A diverse, knowledgeable, and actively participating board of trustees (28 members in 2013) also guides festival progress, and engages in committee work to further our core strategies of engagement, financial health, partnerships, reputation, and leadership and administration.

    With a tailwind of solid operating performance and a strengthening balance sheet, our financial health is solid and demonstrates the significant impact that individual and corporate supporters can have on our fiscal well-being. We have worked diligently these past few years to diversify our funding portfolio and expand our base of support. On average, nearly 45% of our annual contributed revenue comes from individual donors who believe in our mission. Compared to similar festivals, we have a smaller budget than most, but have managed to do more with less. Despite challenging funding environments and state budget cuts to the arts, our festival is thriving and expanding.

    The external strengths that will contribute to our reaching our goals include our founding partnerships with the City of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan. Additionally, we have a growing roster of community partners, including corporations, educational institutions, non-profits, and community groups that participate in the festival each year. We have repeatedly won support from major granting agencies like the National Endowment for the Arts and the Michigan Council for Arts & Cultural Affairs, as well as several international grants. As our programming expands, so does our network and sphere of influence. In recent seasons, for example, the addition of storytelling performances has helped forge a presenting partnership with Michigan Radio, our local NPR affiliate, who have collaborated with us on many successful shows such as An Evening with Ira Glass, The Moth Mainstage, and A Prairie Home Companion. We engage innovative educational outreach partners and seek to attract new partnerships with local organizations and businesses that have not previously collaborated on community-based art projects.

    Moving forward, our capabilities will be strengthened by a number of research tools. We recently completed a fundraising study, polling long-term festival donors for strategic planning feedback. We also have plans for a demographic study to help us better understand our audience and their needs. With the completion of our 5-year-plan in 2014, the organization will also undergo a renewed process of strategic planning. Key board and festival community members will be engaged in this process.
  4. How will they know if they are making progress?
    To measure our success in achieving our primary goals, we will look at a variety of factors. Engagement goals can be monitored through the gathering and analyzing of data from audience surveys, ticket sales to indoor programs, website traffic, and press coverage. A picture of our financial stability is determined through an annual audit reflecting the success of our development campaigns, granting efforts, in-season sales, and sponsorships throughout the year. Along with the staff and festival accountant, the board’s finance committee monitors financial progress monthly. Our strategy for strengthening partnerships is furthered by our staff and board, and indicators of success include solidifying and cultivating partnerships with season sponsors, presenting partners, and donors. Lastly, tools like our funding study of major donors and feedback on how competitive we are for grants from granting agencies have been invaluable indicators of our progress toward reputation and leadership goals.
  5. What have and haven't they accomplished so far?
    The Ann Arbor Summer Festival is recognized as one of the leading multi-arts festivals in the country today and is a pillar of quality of life in our community. We introduce audiences to groundbreaking local, national, and international talent. Our programming emphasizes works of artistic excellence that push creative boundaries, invite direct participation, and attract diverse audiences.

    In fulfillment of our mission, we partner with individuals and organizations on innovative outreach opportunities that foster community engagement with the arts, such as free workshops, master classes, and children’s activities. We provide a vibrant arts destination that draws thousands of people to downtown Ann Arbor, resulting in an economic impact of $1M+ annually. We showcase the talent of southeastern Michigan, presenting regional artists, engaging local food vendors, and employing hundreds of seasonal staff. We are a community treasure, attracting 300+ community volunteers annually. Almost half of our contributed revenue comes from individual donors.

    Our efforts have been recognized by awards from the NEA, the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, the Ann Arbor Community Foundation, the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, and the French American Fund for Contemporary Theatre.

    In 2013, we hosted over 100 events in 9 venues. Two out of eleven Mainstage shows sold out, with many others close to capacity. Over 400 local, national, and international artists performed. Special outdoor attractions drew large crowds, and the season featured more artists than ever before. Over 15,000 people gave to our onsite donation program. We launched a festival app that had 9,754 downloads. By all accounts, our 30th anniversary season represented our strategic plan in action.

    Now as we enter our fourth decade, we aspire to further our reputation as a leading mulit-arts festival. To do this, we must strive to be dynamic and evolving. We must pursue new engagement models that can deliver artistic excellence to our audiences, be it through innovative educational outreach or large, interactive spectacle. We want to further diversify programming, appealing to, for example, more families, the burgeoning tech sector in Ann Arbor, and our multi-cultural audience.

    In order for us to continue to grow and engage the hearts and minds of our community, we need to diversify our funding portfolio and expand our base of support. To keep pace with audience shifts and market changes, we must strive to have greater impact and relevance in our community while developing capitalization strategies to foster growth.

    Since our founding in 1984, the festival has weathered many tests. Today, the festival is much stronger, more confident, and more dynamic than ever. Our charge for the years ahead is to sustain our organization while testing and presenting new experiences for our community that encourage and develop a sense of place and ownership for all audiences.
Service Areas



Serving the Southeast Michigan region, specifically the greater Ann Arbor community.

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Funding Needs

As an independent nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, the average cost of producing the Ann Arbor Summer Festival each year is $1.2 million. Earned revenue from ticket and beverage sales covers only 65 percent of total expense; support from corporate sponsors, foundations, government agencies, and individual donors makes up the balance. As an institution with limited cash reserves, the festival requires private funds to sustain a spectacular array of programs, as well as the capital improvements that enhance the patron experience. Successful fundraising initiatives are both ongoing and necessary in order for us to maintain the highest standards of excellence, accessibility, diversity, innovation, and competitiveness.


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Fiscal year: Oct 01-Sep 30
Yes, financials were audited by an independent accountant.

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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.




Free: Gain immediate access to the following:
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  • Forms 990 for 2015, 2014 and 2014
  • Board Chair and Board Members
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Executive and Artistic Director

Amy Nesbitt


Amy Nesbitt is executive and artistic director of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival. She oversees all programming and artistic planning for the festival, working directly with artists and artist management, along with other presenting and partner organizations. Prior to this Amy was the festival’s general manager for 7 years. She was also a talent booking agent for Fleming Artists in Ann Arbor, where she was responsible for a client list that included Jeff Daniels, Ani Difranco, The Capitol Steps, and others. Amy is a graduate of Syracuse University.

STATEMENT FROM THE Executive and Artistic Director

"As the director of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, I am guided by our vision to be a leading multi-arts festival—a widely anticipated, interactive hub of creative and community energy. We strive to make our festival a gathering space where, for 21 incredible summer nights, people can share in unique social and artistic experiences that speak across economic, cultural, and generational boundaries.

Featuring internationally renowned artists such as Cesaria Evora, Gilberto Gil, Femi Kuti, and Amadou & Mariam on the Mainstage is just as important to us as showcasing up-and-coming local talents on our more intimate outdoor stages. We make a special effort to look for performances, installations, and theatrical spectacles that are placemaking projects—works that transform the streets, lawns, and surrounding architectural landmarks into places of public celebration. By presenting international groups like Dream Engine, Strange Fruit, Erth, Architects of Air, Wild Bytes, and Polyglot Theatre, we’ve been able to inspire and entertain large audiences and engage them in questions of place, interaction, and community. As we build on this tradition of hosting large, outdoor spectacles, we strengthen our appeal as a desired destination for international artists and companies.

2013 marked our thirtieth anniversary. Moving forward, we are committed to growing the festival as a major cultural event in the Ann Arbor community and as an internationally recognized celebration of arts."



Michael S Dubin

University of Michigan

Term: Oct 2013 - Sept 2014


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Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?



Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?



Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?



Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?



Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?