David Plettner-Saunders

San Diego, CA


I am a planner, focusing on cultural planning (arts planning for communities), helping foundations with some element of their arts philanthropy, and planning with arts organizations. Each portion of my planning practice informs the other, and I often find it valuable to adapt approaches from, say, community planning to strategic planning for an arts organization.

Training / Education

My undergraduate degree is in music (I am a failed violinist!) and I have a law degree. I also studied modern dance at the North Carolina School of the Arts. My training in arts consulting began on-the-job, starting with my work at ARTS Inc., the service organization for Los Angeles’ arts community, where I consulted with more than a hundred arts organizations, and then applicants and grantees to the National Endowment for the Arts for six years. I also co-founded and managed a modern dance company In Los Angeles.


While my music career ended, I had a wonderful career as a modern dancer, touring internationally with several companies. I know first-hand what it means to be a working artist and toured to 48 states by “bus and truck.”


I am co-founder of the San Diego Alliance for Arts Education, which has accomplished the rare feat of preserving arts education funding in a big city school district (SDUSD is among the ten largest in the US). We are now seeking ways to respond to the “new normal” of public education in California, which includes cataclysmic funding cuts and many competing educational priorities. I am also the founding chair of the Southern California Dance Futures Fund, which seeks to transform the region’s traditional barriers into strengths and strengthen the ecosystem for dance with new ideas.

Wishful Thinking

I love science and the world of inquiry into the surprising nature of reality. I indulge my amateur passion through podcasts and the occasional “Scientific American” – a fascinating but tough read!


I am one of those rootless Americans that doesn’t really come from one place—I was raised and lived in different parts of the country. Sometimes I wish I had a stronger cultural identity (or an accent) but I am interested and comfortable in almost any community in the US.


I understand (and love) the role of the consultant—to pay close attention to the needs of the client, give useful advice, and not be driven by ego.