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651 ARTS Announces New Director Of Programs And Chief Curator Role And Expansion Of Board Of Directors

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651 ARTS Announces New Director Of Programs And Chief Curator Role And Expansion Of Board Of Directors

As the world continues to adjust to a new normal in the midst of the global pandemic, renowned Brooklyn-based organization 651 ARTS today announced a major step forward in reimagining its programmatic strategy to ensure that the institution will thrive in a post-pandemic arts and culture space with the appointment of Monica L. Williams in the new role of Director of Programs and Chief Curator (DPCC). Additionally, the institution also announced the expansion of its Board of Directors welcoming new members Claude Johnson, Bahia Ramos and Lise Suino.

Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, the Black-led institution, now in its 32nd year, was in the process of a major expansion effort with the organization scheduled to move into its first-ever permanent home in Downtown Brooklyn next year. As productions were halted and the construction postponed due to the pandemic, the organization led by Executive Director David J. Roberts, pivoted and quickly worked to reassess the institution's programmatic footprint to face these challenges. The 651 team secured a grant from the New York City COVID-19 Response & Impact Fund created to aid nonprofits during the coronavirus pandemic. 651's award goes in part to support its new digital initiatives through 2020 as it also prepares to eventually resume live performances and presentations. Reporting directly to Roberts, the new DPCC role will allow the institution to more deeply execute on its reimagined program offerings comprised of curated small- and large-scale programs, digital, and live presentations. The DPCC will oversee all aspects of 651's programs and presentations, playing a primary role in season planning, line producing, and curating education, humanities, and related events.

"We, as a nation, have been deeply impacted by two pandemics - the COVID-19 crisis and the systemic racism that has plagued this country for over 400 years. Since its inception, 651 ARTS has always provided a platform for performing artists from across the African Diaspora. We pride ourselves on being both hyper-local and global - bringing Brooklyn to the world and the world to Brooklyn. We know that our constituents are at the intersection of those most disproportionately affected by these crises. As an arts institution, this was a moment to be both reflective and responsive. This time has allowed us to examine not only how we produce with respect to alternative program delivery but how we think about programming in this new era," said Roberts. "The new DPCC role will really allow us to explore innovative ideas around programming in this new terrain. I am delighted to welcome Monica to the team as she will spearhead the most integral piece of 651's identity - our artistic programs. She is an accomplished and passionate curator deeply rooted in the arts of the Diaspora. The ways in which she centers community to the work, thinks globally, not to mention her deep love of Brooklyn, will transform 651's programming and serve our larger organizational vision to illuminate the evolving stories and varied cultural experiences. I believe that in Monica we have found the best match for 651 in these historic and future-focused times."

With more than 20 years of experience as a leader in the arts, Monica L. Williams brings to 651 a unique artistic perspective and a proven track record as a producer, curator and director of the African Diasporic arts.

"I am excited to step into this new role and to join the talented and dedicated team at 651 ARTS. It is an incredible honor to now be part of continuing 651's long and rich legacy of growing Black arts and Black artists, which has always been the heartbeat of the institution," said Williams. "Throughout my career, I have been dedicated to amplifying the voices and perspectives of those across the African Diaspora. It is now more important than ever before to meet the challenges of the current moment and sustain and grow institutions like 651 ARTS that are telling our stories. I look forward to working to create opportunities for many in the Diasporic arts, both locally in the wonderful borough of Brooklyn as well as abroad."

In addition to Williams coming on board, 651 also welcomes three new members to its Board of Directors in Claude Johnson, Bahia Ramos and Lise Suino. All esteemed leaders in their respective areas of expertise, the newly elected members have all been staunch supporters of the arts throughout their careers and represent a wide variety of experience in business, nonprofits, finance, media, education, and the arts.

"An institution's Board is always one of its biggest assets. It was imperative to us to find the right mix of people who could help guide 651 through these uncharted waters. In fact, I would say it is vital to our mission to have a wide variety of strong leaders serving on our Board," said Board Chair Yvonne Joyner Levette. "Claude, Bahia and Lise all bring an invaluable wealth of experience, talent, subject matter expertise, and enthusiasm to the table. I look forward to partnering with them and we are very fortunate to have them by our side as we continue to build a sustainable future for our beloved 651 ARTS."

With Williams scheduled to begin in her role at 651 on August 3rd, the institution looks towards resuming its programming activity which has been in development with a suite of digital and live/hybrid anchor programs and will soon unveil its plans for its Fall 2020 season in the coming weeks. Williams will also oversee 651's recently announced Artist As Resident Initiative, centered around Brooklyn's local performing artists and the diverse neighborhoods throughout the borough they represent. The Initiative includes The Neighborhood Project focused on emerging creatives, the Micro-Works Project for online content and community-building, and the Artist As Resident Feature Presentation Series.

Since its inception in 1988, 651 ARTS has become a trusted convener of contemporary African Diasporic artistic expression, a champion and nurturer for emerging artists and their work and a vital cultural resource for its surrounding community. Part of 651 ARTS's goal is to preserve the legacy of Black culture in Brooklyn, celebrate the eclecticism of Black performance and to pioneer new visions of African Diaspora artists - continuing to lay the framework for the next decade and reinforcing its role as an incubator for artistic innovation in the 21st century.


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