Tom Kaiden, longtime advocate for the region's artistic and cultural offerings and acting director of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, has been named president of the organization.

Kaiden, 51, succeeds Peggy Amsterdam, who died of cancer in December. Amsterdam served as president for nearly a decade, with Kaiden as the chief operating officer for most of that period.

"I would say Tom is the right guy for the right time," said Hal Real, president of the alliance's board of directors and a member of the search committee. The board voted in favor of Kaiden at a Wednesday meeting.

"Tom brings a tremendous skill set to the job," said Real, head of Real Entertainment Group and founder and president of World Cafe Live in West Philadelphia.

Kaiden's experience with the organization and familiarity with the region, Real said, make him well-suited for the job, "given the complexity of the times and given the complexity of the organization. It's an advocacy organization and a membership organization, and it serves many institutions of different shapes and sizes and the arts community as a whole."

Over the last decade, organizational membership in the alliance has almost doubled. It serves 396 cultural and arts groups in Pennsylvania and South Jersey as an advocate for those organizations in public and governmental forums, as a research operation measuring the impact of cultural activity on the area, and as an increasingly aggressive advocate for cultural and arts activity with the public at large.

Real said Kaiden, in partnership with Amsterdam, had been instrumental in expanding the alliance's operations and activities.

Kaiden said he wanted to continue in that direction.

"An important part of Peggy's legacy will be the transformation she led of the cultural alliance from a membership to a leadership organization - a role we will attempt to expand on here," he said. "Arts and culture are an important part of what makes Philadelphia unique."

Over the last several years, the alliance has conducted in-depth marketing and research studies of the region, seeking to define the roles played by the arts, both economically and socially.

"We want to make sure as many Philadelphians as possible have access to the breadth of what's here," Kaiden said, "connecting cultural organizations to citizens."

One of the most prominent programs the alliance has initiated, Engage 2020, seeks to build arts audiences and participation in the arts through market research and analysis, encouragement of programming to attract overlooked or underserved audiences, and grant-making.

"We're seeking to increase interest in personal participation and in practice" of the arts, Kaiden said.

At the same time, Kaiden is more than aware of the increasingly difficult public funding climate for arts organizations nationally and in the Philadelphia area.

"Our message is that arts and culture is absolutely central to how this region grows. . .," he said. "Innovation in arts and culture is one of the things that will help us have a vibrant economy."