Doug Shipman

A little known fact: Atlanta is the home of America’s third largest arts center (Lincoln and Kennedy Centers are the first and second). An even lesser known fact: Doug Shipman is one of the youngest CEOs of any major arts organization and probably the only one with a graduate degree from a divinity school. His professional accomplishments, however, belie his youth and are an interesting mélange of corporate, civic and nonprofit experiences.

Doug grew up in an Arkansas town of 1,200 residents. His family didn’t travel, have wealth or connections, but Doug was always interested in expanding his horizons. While attending Emory University on an academic scholarship, Doug’s interest in the civil rights religion and social movements was sparked by Professor Rev. Robert Franklin, future president of Morehouse University. After a brief stint in banking, Doug earned graduate degrees in public policy and theology from Harvard before returning to Atlanta so his wife Bijal Shah could attend medical school. Doug later joined the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) where he leapt at the chance to help Mayor Shirley Franklin on a pro-bono project that eventually evolved into the establishment of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.

Doug served as the Center’s first CEO and led the design, fundraising, building and launch of this $100MM+ project highlighting the past sacrifices and accomplishments of individuals for civil and human rights. After eight years with the Center, Doug returned to a division of BCG as the CEO and Managing Director of BrightHouse Consulting. Two years later, Doug’s branding experience, energy, enthusiasm and fundraising expertise made him a strong, if unorthodox, candidate to lead the Woodruff Arts Center (WAC).

As President and CEO of the WAC, Doug feels a responsibility to engage Atlantans broadly in arts appreciation and is focusing on growing the membership base by increasing the relevancy of the arts. He is specifically working on ways to engage new business leaders in technology and health care in programs and events sponsored by the region’s premier arts institution.

All three divisions of the WAC (High Museum, Alliance Theatre, and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra) are the largest and most prestigious in the region. One of the benefits of this powerful triumvirate is the opportunity to collaborate. For instance, the High Museum is hosting an exhibit featuring painter and poet Ashley Bryan, and the Alliance will concurrently produce two new musicals based on his work. Additionally, Atlanta’s Center for Puppets Arts created six puppets inspired by Bryan’s artwork that are available for visitors to interact with. Each year the Alliance and the High also collaborate on a children’s piece. The Alliance and the Symphony will be collaborating on a production of Candide in 2018.

Doug admits to being particularly excited about the Making Africa exhibit at the High which offers a fresh look at African design through a myriad of diverse works by more than 120 artists in sculpture, prints, fashion, furniture, film, photography, apps, maps, digital comics, and more. Also, each day he peeks into the massive construction site that is transforming the Alliance Theatre. We look forward to seeing the transformation that Doug is fostering across all divisions of the Woodruff Arts Center.


  1. How did you get your name?
    My parents named me after a distant uncle (Dwight) and just liked the way Douglas matched. Then they called me Doug for some unknown reason.
  2. What did you want to be when you grew up?
    An astronaut. I loved the idea of traveling in space and to the Moon. I remember the World Book pullout about the Apollo program.
  3. What do you want to be now?
    Someone who makes the world more accessible for folks who don’t start out with money or a pedigree. I love opening up institutions for everyone to find something of value and to discover something about themselves.
  4. If you could have a mulligan, what would you redo?
    I would have spent more time with my brother before he died.
  5. What are you reading?
    I just finished Atlanta author Daren Wang’s debut novel The Hidden Light of Northern Fires. A great book.
  6. If you had the opportunity to live anywhere outside of America, where would you establish your home?
    At the moment I would choose New Zealand. Would be fun to have such an outdoor playground to explore.
  7. What is the biggest challenge ahead of you?
    Trying to find enough time in each day to do what I want to do and do what I need to do.
  8. Which living person do you most admire?
    Desmond Tutu—his ability to maintain joy in the face of all the horror he has witnessed is remarkable.
  9. What is your greatest extravagance?
    Drinking expensive scotch.
  10. Which superpower would you most like to have?
    The ability to fly.
  11. You’re invited to a state dinner at the White House and cannot take your spouse/significant other. Who is your date?
    Former President Barack Obama.
  12. Assuming you had the talent, with what musical group/artist living or dead would you most like to perform?
    I’ve long been a huge fan of The Robert Cray Band—a longstanding blues band. I know all the words—so a quick duet would be great fun!