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SPACE on Ryder Farm Co-Founder and Executive Director Emily Simoness to Step Down in September 2021

Simoness remarks, "SPACE's mission doesn't stop with me, Ryder Farm doesn't either!"

SPACE on Ryder Farm Co-Founder and Executive Director Emily Simoness to Step Down in September 2021

Emily Simoness, the Co-Founder and Executive Director of SPACE on Ryder Farm, has made the decision to step down from the executive leadership role in September 2021. For 11 years, her visionary leadership has grown the organization from a group of friends rehabilitating structures on a historic farm into one of the most sought-after residency programs in the country. With the support of the SPACE's Board of Directors and staff, Simoness will remain active with SPACE during the search and leadership transition processes.

"It has become really clear to me in the past couple of years that I am at my best and at my happiest at the beginning, in the creating and visioning of something," Simoness explains. "After 11 years, SPACE is ready for a leader who will steward its next phase. I believe that leadership turnover is healthy for continued growth and development of an organization. Changes in perspectives and skills ensure continued relevance and ability to respond to changing times in a meaningful way. People stay in these roles for too long! At SPACE, we value a dinner table with multiple perspectives, backgrounds and experiences. It's my belief that executive leadership should reflect this value."

"The Board of SPACE is deeply indebted to Emily for her extraordinary vision and groundbreaking leadership," says SPACE Board Chair, Janet Olshansky. "As we contemplate SPACE's next chapter, we will bring in an Interim Executive Director in the fall, with the goal of bringing in a permanent ED in the first quarter of 2022. We are confident that this plan will set SPACE on a path that will enable the new leadership to frame a bold new vision for SPACE as we enter our second decade."

Governed by a 15 member Board of Directors, SPACE has a $1.5 million dollar operating budget and a year round staff of nine. Since 2011, SPACE has provided residencies and support for over 1,400 creative residents and counts Academy Award winners, Tony Award nominees and winners, Pulitzer Prize winners, Guggenheim fellows, Obie Award winners and MacArthur "Genius" Fellows among its many alumni. During her tenure, Simoness developed unique and celebrated programs supporting playwrights, filmmakers, activists and working parent artists including Clare Barron, Alta Buden, Nia DaCosta, Samuel D. Hunter, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Rupi Kaur, Young Jean Lee, Kylie Manning, Antoinette Nwandu, Carmen Perez, Johnny Perez, Adam Rapp, Sarah Ruhl, Arabelle Sicardi, Shaina Taub, Rebecca Traister, Mfoniso Udofia and Hope Wabuke.

As of 2017, all individual and small group residences at SPACE are free to participants, and SPACE grants at least 50% of these residencies to persons of color and other underrepresented voices. Simoness and the SPACE team continue to deepen the organization's commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and the unending work of antiracism. While SPACE's founding work is rooted in the arts, in 2019 the organization took on the management of the organic farming operations at SPACE. This grew the organization into a holistic model for reciprocity between the arts and agriculture. Presently SPACE gives 50% of the organic vegetables it grows to local community members facing food insecurity.

Playwright and author Sarah Ruhl, who was a member of SPACE's groundbreaking Family Residency in 2016, describes the impact Simoness has had on the arts community, "Emily is a generous visionary who has created something of a utopia for artists working in the theater and on the land. Her stewardship of the land and the people on it has been so remarkable, and I know she will give the same care to the transition into a new epoch for SPACE. I so loved my time there and think the theater world has so much to learn from SPACE as a model of how to live and work with one another. The care is palpable, and Emily's handprint will forever be on that long picnic table where folks break bread."

Simoness is an 8th-generation Ryder Family member and will always be connected to the Ryder family and Ryder Farm. Since stepping foot on Ryder Farm in 2009, Simoness and the SPACE team have rehabilitated Ryder Farm's historic homes and 127 expansive acreages ensuring the preservation of one of the oldest continually owned family farms on the East Coast.

Simoness remarks, "SPACE's mission doesn't stop with me, Ryder Farm doesn't either! The farm is in its 226th year - proof that it has existed long before me and will exist after. As we begin to contemplate a world post-pandemic, it is glaringly obvious how much that world is going to need art, culture and life-sustaining food, and how much artists and farmers are going to need support."

Emily Simoness is an entrepreneur, teacher, facilitator, speaker and the Co-Founder and Executive Director of SPACE on Ryder Farm. A former actress, Emily worked at some of the premier theatrical venues in the nation including The Public Theater and Williamstown Theatre Festival. Additionally, she has developed and taught acting curriculum for NYU and The North Carolina School of the Arts. Outside of her core work in the arts, Emily is a consultant for Bi-Jingo, a management development firm that specializes in communication and leadership skills for executives. In 2015 she gave a talk at TEDx Broadway and currently serves on the TEDx Leadership Board. Emily holds a BFA in acting from UNCSA where she was the inaugural Kenan Arts Research Fellow. For eight years, she sat on the Board of Directors for Ryder Farm Incorporated, the family shareholder body that owns and operates Ryder Farm. In 2017, Emily was honored with the Lucille Lortel Visionary Award by the League of Professional Theatre Women. Emily co-founded TieDyen4Biden that helped raise over $169,000 for Democratic candidates during the 2020 election cycle. She splits her time between Brooklyn and North Salem, NY, with her husband, actor Michael Chernus, and their dog Jerry.

Photo Credit: Ben Allen/HudValleyPhoto


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