Leading Brooklyn Arts Institution 651 Arts Announces New Executive Director
651 ARTS, Brooklyn's premier organization for the African Diasporic arts, today announced the appointment of seasoned nonprofit arts leader David J. Roberts as the renowned institution's new Executive Director. The selection of Roberts follows an extensive nationwide search led by cultural consulting firm CJAM Consulting, LLC and 651's Board of Directors. Roberts, who succeeds former Executive Director Shay Wafer, will report to the Board of Directors and will officially assume the role in August, 2019.
Currently in the midst of a major phase of transition and expansion, 651 ARTS has now filled its two most key positions with David Roberts' appointment. Earlier this year, the institution welcomed Raelle Myrick-Hodges as its inaugural Creative Director, which was part of the larger organizational strategy to expand its programming and artist development practice. As Executive Director, Roberts will oversee all aspects of 651 and will focus on institutional strategy and growth, administrative and financial management, board engagement and fund development, as well as partnering with artistic leadership.
Additionally, one of the major responsibilities for Roberts in his role will be to launch and build a business model for 651's new home in the much-buzzed about cultural spaces at 10 Lafayette in Brooklyn. The move marks the first time in its history that the organization will have a permanent space in which to independently program and operate, allowing it to comprehensively foster artists and cultivate new audiences.
With over 15 years of experience, David J. Roberts brings to 651 a strong background in theater and arts management as well as an impressive track record of guiding cultural institutions through expansion and periods of growth. He will be the strategic lead in developing and implementing plans for advancing a reimagined 651 ARTS as it ushers in a new chapter in the organization's evolution.
"After a competitive national search, David stood out among a strong group of candidates and we are excited to have him on board to steer the ship in this critical time of growth for 651 ARTS," said Board Chair Yvonne Joyner Levette. "He brings an invaluable set of credentials in financial and program management and an equally
important history of leading arts organizations with integrity, dynamism and vision. His expertise and insight, wide range of experience, passion for the arts and innovative spirit are the perfect fit for 651. Speaking on behalf of the Board of Directors, I can say that we are confident that David's contributions will be instrumental to realizing 651's strategic goals and taking the institution to the next level."
"It is a true honor to be selected to lead this dynamic organization and serve its important mission in the next exciting stage of its institutional life" said Roberts. "I am humbled by 651 ART's rich 30-year legacy of presenting both established and emerging performing artists from across the African diaspora, and serving audiences across Brooklyn, all five boroughs, and beyond. We will continue this vital work and build upon it. At a time when the national conversation tells people of color to 'go back where they came from,' it is incumbent on us as Black people to make known that we are here, and we are home. As a creative community we do this by planting a stake in the ground and joyfully, unapologetically, passionately, and authentically giving a platform to the artists and ideas that will push all of us to see differently, to do better, and to imagine brighter tomorrows. I look forward to working with the community, the 651 Board, Raelle, and our family of artists to make this so."
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. As it moves forward, part of 651 ART's mission 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. This year - the transition year - is integral for the institution as continues to lay the framework for the next five years that will further help to reinforce 651 ARTS' role as a leader of African Diasporic culture while also establishing it an incubator for artistic innovation in the 21st century.
David J. Roberts is the newly appointed Executive Director of 651 ARTS. He is also a faculty member in the theater management department of the Yale School of Drama (YSD) and a co-founder of the Artists' Anti- Racism Coalition -- a grassroots effort to help the Off-Broadway community dismantle systems of exclusion and oppression. Mr. Roberts served most recently as the Executive Director of Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation (SDCF), and was charged with all programmatic content curation, creation, and execution. While there, he expanded the Foundation's national presence, deepened programmatic content of its signature Observership program, introduced original content to its podcast series, and oversaw the expansion of record-breaking fundraising initiatives and the Foundation's major awards: the "Mr. Abbott" Award, the Gordon Davidson Award, and the SDCF Awards.
Prior to his time at SDCF, he was the Managing Director of The Classical Theatre of Harlem (CTH). Under Mr. Roberts's co-leadership from 2013-2016, CTH increased income, reduced deficits, increased audiences, and expanded programming. He was pivotal in professionalizing the company's operations and actualizing its turnaround and momentum plans. Before CTH, he served as Managing Director of The Pearl Theatre Company, where he oversaw the transition of the classical company from its temporary residence at New York's City Center to its home on far West 42nd Street.
As a volunteer, Mr. Roberts is on the editorial advisory board of YSD's Theater Management Knowledgebase, serves on the advisory committee for Superhero Clubhouse - an ecological theatre company, and is a past vice- chair of the board of Palissimo Company - a New York based dance and performance troupe. BFA, Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University. MFA, Yale School of Drama.
Founded in Brooklyn, NY in 1988, the mission of 651 ARTS is to enrich the lives of artists and intergenerational audiences through captivating cultural experiences that amplify the rich complexities of the African Diaspora and connect with people all over the world. 651 provides professional development for artists of African descent while simultaneously presenting international and regional works in dance, music, film and theater.
651's signature programs have featured pioneering black choreographers from around the world including Germaine Acogny, Nora Chipaumire, Carmen de Lavallade, Diane McIntyre, Bebe Miller, Abdel R. Salaam and Jawole Willo Jo Zollar. As part of its commitment to the furtherance of conversations and celebration of Diaspora music, the institution has presented dialogues and performances by Somi, Hugh Masekela, and Grammy-winning artist Betty Carter, to name a few. Theatrical and text-based works by Anna Deavere Smith, Sekou Sundiata, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Ntozake Shange, Okwui Okpokwasili and Maria Bauman are representative of the hundreds of artists and productions featuring solo creations, collaborations, emerging artists, and works-in-development all produced by 651's visionary leadership.
The organization's recent initiatives include: "Live & Outspoken", an intimate interview and performance series juxtaposing artists across disciplines and/or generations; "Classically Black", an interdisciplinary initiative including live arts presentations to technology-based dialogues, namely #BlackArtNow Twitter conversations and "Home in the Time of Brooklyn," a think tank featuring voices of Brooklyn artists age 25-40. 651 ARTS's 2019 season featured a condensed series of productions including Antonio Brown Dance, Madison McFerrin, and Andre J's Excuse Me, Hello.