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ArtPlace Updates: F. Javier Torres joins Surdna Foundation

February 5, 2018

By: Jamie Bennett, Executive Director

As you may have read, the Surdna Foundation has just announced that F. Javier Torres will be joining them as the next Program Director for their Thriving Cultures program.  We are thrilled for everyone: thrilled that Javier will be taking on a new challenge worthy of him; thrilled that the Foundation has recognized all that Javier can bring to their work; and even thrilled for ourselves – since Surdna is one of our key partners, we will all get to continue to work closely with him.

It is hard to overstate the ways that Javier has indelibly changed and shaped our organization, as well as the national field of creative placemaking. 

Over the past four years, he used the investments we made in creative placemaking projects to build a community of practitioners committed to enlisting arts and culture as an ally in building more equitable, healthier, and more sustainable communities across the country. 

He was able to use our National Creative Placemaking Fund as a teaching moment to show philanthropy new ways of engaging with potential partners.  He worked to change the traditional power dynamics between those of us with resources to invest and those of us who are doing the hard work in the real world.  And he helped assemble a national portfolio that actually reflects the people and the geographies that make up these United States. 

(Personally, I have also especially admired his deep commitment to investing in work happening in rural communities and to work being led by indigenous colleagues.) 

Because Javier has spent so (so, so, so) much time on the road, it will likely take some time before it really sinks in for us at ArtPlace that he is not just off in Kivalina, AK or Eastport, ME, but that he really has decamped to Surdna’s offices on Madison Avenue.  Javier will wrap up his work with us at the end of February, and before that, we hope you will join us in thanking Javier for all that he has done and in wishing him well on all the work ahead of him.

We are also thrilled to announce that Leila Tamari, who has worked with Javier almost from the beginning of his tenure, will become ArtPlace’s Senior Program Officer.  She will continue to work with the colleagues involved with the 279 projects in which we have invested some $86.4 million over the past seven years, and she will also play a key role as part of the team shaping our strategic direction for the next three years. 

As many of you remember, ArtPlace was conceived as a ten-year fund by a group of foundation leaders who recognized that the arts and culture sector was traditionally not represented in comprehensive community planning and development and who believed that this sector has a unique set of knowledge, skills, and abilities to bring with them to this work.

Over the last seven years we have learned a lot through our ongoing research strategies, and through the work we have gotten to know through our Community Development Investments and the National Creative Placemaking Fund.

We are now making a pivot as an organization because we know that lasting change will not happen by investing in discrete projects or even single organizations.  Instead, we must think about strengthening the place-based ecosystems that enable the integration of arts into community planning and development in an ongoing and permanent way. 

We also need to think about how we capture the knowledge generated by the members of our community (as well as by those who were doing the work long before ArtPlace ever existed) to be both accessible and actually useful to practitioners moving forward.

We will be sharing more details about how our thinking is evolving over the coming weeks and expect to announce what our new strategy will look like in May at our annual ArtPlace summit. 

Meanwhile, there is much to be done and much to celebrate!