A Lifetime of Service

She likes to say, “There’s no such thing as “retirement” – it’s “Re-Wirement!” As President & CEO of the Fund for the Arts, Barbara turned the reins over to the next generation and became the Chief Liaison for the Compassionate Schools Project.

As one of Louisville’s Connectors, Barbara Sexton Smith helped raise more than $220 million whilst working with the Fund for the Arts, Metro United Way, Olmsted Parks Conservancy, NCCJ, West Louisville Boys and Girls Choirs, Community Hunger Walk and many others. Out of 59 United Art Funds in America, the Fund for the Arts was named the #1 United Art Fund in 2012 for most new dollars raised. She also teaches the highly sought after Street-Smart Principled Negotiation program which focuses on teaching you how to get others to do what you want.

Her clients have included Norton Healthcare, Humana, Nissan, General Electric, Brown-Forman, D.D. Williamson, Alcoa, Old National Bank, and Yum! Brands. Barbara was nominated for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award! Barbara was appointed by Governor Beshear to the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority Board of Directors, and by Mayors Armstrong, Abramson and Fischer to serve on the Metro Louisville Air Pollution Control District Board of Directors. She also serves on the Board of Trustees for:

  • Kentucky School of Art
  • SouthArts
  • Muhammad Ali Center
  • Simmons College of Kentucky
  • FFTA Properties
  • Hermitage Farm Charities Board


Awards & Recognitions

  • 2015 Muhammad Ali Center named Barbara a “Daughter of Greatness”
  • 2014 March of Dimes – Franklin Delano Roosevelt Leadership Award
  • 2014 Louisville Ballet – Honorary Board Member (one of only six in 54 year history)
  • 2013 Americans for the Arts National Michael Newton Leadership Award
  • 2013 St. Stephen Church: Barnetta Cosby Award for Arts and Communications
  • 2013 St. Stephen Church: Barnetta Cosby Award for Arts and Communications
  • 2012 Children’s Theatre of America awarded Fund for the Arts with the Orlin Corey Medallion
  • 2009 Muhammad Ali Center America’s ten most inspiring women.
  • 2009 Today’s Woman magazine: Most Admired Woman in the Arts
  • 2008 Presentation Academy Tower Award winner for Leadership in Arts & Communication.


Living the Dream

Barbara has helped to raise seven children and managed to make sure that 450,000 schoolchildren get to have an arts experience every year! In all her pursuits, civic as well as business, She is a team builder, a team leader, a motivator and an innovator. Citizen Smith, as the mayor likes to call her, is a highly sought-after speaker giving more than 250 presentations annually!

An interview with Louisville Magazine revealed that Barbara’s favorite childhood meal was navy beans, cooked cabbage and skillet cornbread. Her youngest childhood memory is hiding in potholes dreaming of becoming the manager at Walgreens. After graduating from the University of Louisville’s College of Business in 1979 Barbara says she learned everything she needed to know about management and leadership at Wendy’s. Thank you Dave Thomas!

Along the way she hosted a weekly radio show and posted more than 100 CEO video blogs! Barbara’s legacy lives on through the “Barbara Sexton Smith Education Enhancement Fund” set up by the Fund for the Arts.

Barbara and her husband Lacey T. Smith enjoy bike riding and reading Shakespeare together.


Barbara is deeply connected to her roots in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Using her hand as a map, Barbara points to Whitley County aka “Fightin’ Holler” where her mother was born.