Downtown Brooklyn Cultural Institutions Launch New Fellowship to Increase Long-Term Equity and Diversity in Arts Administration

Sep 28, 2017 • 4:15 PM



Downtown Brooklyn Arts Management Fellowship Provides Seven Young Professionals with Full-Time Salary
and Benefits While They Receive Training and Mentorship in Year of Employment at BRIC, Mark Morris Dance Group (MMDG), The Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA) and Theatre for a New Audience (TFANA)

Pilot Program Follows 2016 Diversity Study by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs

Lead Funding Is Provided by the New York Theater Subdistrict Council, The New York State Council on the Arts and the New York Cultural Agenda Fund in the New York Community Trust

BRIC, Mark Morris Dance Group (MMDG), The Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA) and Theatre for a New Audience (TFANA) are pleased to announce the launch of the Downtown Brooklyn Arts Management Fellowship, a new program whose aim is to build long-term equity and diversity in the field of arts management. In the pilot year, beginning in September, seven Fellows—Sarah Branch, Kiana Carrington, Linda Diaz, Donnay Edmund, Claire Kim, Alexandria Ryahl and Alexa Smithwrick—will work with and be mentored by arts managers from the cohort of four organizations, participate in a comprehensive professional development training curriculum, have opportunities to connect with and learn from each other through formal and informal activities, and build networking connections to springboard their careers as emerging arts leaders in New York City. They will receive full-time salary and benefits throughout the year.

These four leading Downtown Brooklyn arts organizations have created the Downtown Brooklyn Arts Management Fellowship in response to a study released in 2016 by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) on the state of diversity in DCLA-funded organizations, which found that 55% of junior staff at New York City arts organizations identify as white, with cultural diversity decreasing significantly among more senior positions. The Fellowship prioritizes emerging voices from racial and ethnic communities that are historically underrepresented in the industry, as well as low-income individuals who have not had access to internships or costly master’s degrees that are often the entrée into the industry. Over 600 applications were received for the seven available fellowship positions.

Each Fellow will complete a twelve-week work intensive at each of the four partner institutions, receiving a fully immersive experience in multiple departments of an arts organization, including Marketing and Community Engagement, Development, Administration and Finance, Production and Tech, Education, and Curatorial and Programming. Each partner organization will host one or two Fellows at a time, and each Fellow will rotate through the four organizations over the Fellowship year.

The 40-week Professional Development Curriculum, designed in partnership with Third Eye Cultural Collaborative (TECC), is designed to progressively build knowledge, starting with basic skills and topics and moving toward more complex concepts. Jonas Cartano, one of three Third Eye Cultural Collaborative partners, will serve as the lead instructor on the program. The key principles for the professional development curriculum are:

  • A balance of practical skills instruction (i.e. reading a financial statement) with interpersonal skills (i.e., networking and leadership).
  • A scaffold of curriculum concepts, gaining complexity throughout the year, which are disseminated using a variety of formats (lecture, discussion, experiential, etc.).
  • Structured mentoring and an opportunity to learn from the mission and work style of all four partner organizations, as well as visiting additional organizations.
  • Learner-centered education, with an opportunity for the fellows to craft their own activities and to give feedback to improve the curriculum over future years. 

The Downtown Brooklyn Arts Management Fellowship begins in the midst of a vital national conversation regarding diversity in arts administration, and about practices that seek to recruit and train arts administrators from underrepresented groups. The partner institutions hope to make a substantial contribution to this discourse in the form of thought-leadership, as well as by sharing results and documentation from the pilot program.

 “BRIC is dedicated to making arts and media genuinely accessible and inclusive, and to serving audiences and artists who demographically reflect our City. We do our work most effectively when our team is also diverse and inclusive. This fellowship program enables BRIC and our partners to invest in the careers of a new generation of arts administrators who are not adequately represented in our field. We are tremendously grateful to New York City’s Theater Subdistrict Council, the New York City Cultural Agenda Fund in The New York Community Trust and the New York State Council on the Arts’ Regional Economic Development Council Program (REDC) for helping to make this ambitious dream a reality,” said Leslie Schultz, President of BRIC.

“The 2016 DCLA study revealed that the theater field has a great deal of work to do in creating diversity among theater professionals. As a modern classical theatre we maintain that these plays belong to everyone, and should be created by everyone and accessible to everyone. We embrace this opportunity to support the development of young professionals who might not otherwise have the opportunity to build their careers in the field of theater administration and production. The vibrant and diverse community of residents and artists that is now our home should also help to build a vibrant and diverse community of emerging arts professionals.” said Dorothy Ryan, Managing Director of Theatre for a New Audience.

“The Mark Morris Dance Group is honored to join this distinguished group of arts organizations representing a wide range of disciplines to carve a new pathway for greater diversity in arts leadership,” said Nancy Umanoff, Executive Director of Mark Morris Dance Group. “This program will expand MMDG’s commitment to providing comprehensive professional development opportunities and hands-on learning experiences.”

Support for The Downtown Brooklyn Arts Management Fellowship is provided by New York City’s Theater Subdistrict Council, the New York City Cultural Agenda Fund in The New York Community Trust, and the New York State Council on the Arts’ Regional Economic Development Council Program (REDC).


About the Fellows

Sarah Branch is an aspiring actress, educator, activist and recent graduate of Swarthmore College, where she studied Theatre, Educational Studies and Sociology/Anthropology. Branch is originally from Madison, Wisconsin. She first discovered her passion for the performing arts and their impact on social change movements while participating in MULTICO, a multicultural and educative traveling theater performance group. At Swarthmore, Branch participated in the student-run dance group Rhythm n' Motion; and an all-female a cappella group, Grapevine; and was the leader and founder of a community chapter of an existing arts non-profit, Artists Striving to End Poverty Swarthmore (ASTEP Swarthmore). Branch believes in the power of theater to invite audiences to discover and connect to diverse perspectives outside of their own. As a new resident of New York City, she hopes to continue to contribute to broader social change movements in arts management and performance. Through these avenues, she is dedicated to empowering the underserved, the under-resourced and the unheard.

Kiana Carrington, a Brooklyn native, is a recent graduate of CUNY Hunter College. She majored in Emerging Media with a minor in Political Science. The interdisciplinary nature of her degree allowed her to explore her interests in the intersection of art and technology. In her work she focuses on the imagination and the worlds we can create through a human/computer interaction. Her projects range from computer games and websites to physical interactive pieces. While at Hunter, Carrington worked with many arts organizations throughout New York City including BRIC, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and The Museum of Arts and Design.

Linda Diaz is singer/songwriter from the Lower East Side of Manhattan. She attributes much of her development as an artist, as well as her passion for arts administration, to the free cultural programming that she had access to as a young girl growing up in New York City. Diaz graduated in the class of 2017 at Oberlin College, where she majored in Comparative American Studies with a focus in the African Diaspora and Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies. In the summer of 2016 she worked as the Public Programs Intern at BRIC, and in January of 2017 she worked with the Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation as a Curatorial Intern.

Donnay Edmund’s work integrates dance from the African diaspora with poetry, writing and ritual as mediums to address communal and state violence, mass incarceration and the current police state in the United States. Her lived experience has driven her passion and determination to work with people who have experienced incarceration. Grounding herself in her Brooklyn roots she seeks to use political art as a means to question, organize and create. Edmund attended Oberlin College, where she studied closely with artists and scholars Adenike Sharpley and Alassane Soumah through Dance Diaspora. She has a BA in Africana Studies and Comparative American Studies with a focus in performing arts. She is currently a part of Truthworker Theatre Company, under the direction of Samara Gaev, a Brooklyn based hip-hop theater company whose works interrogate mass incarceration.

Claire Kim is a recent graduate of Fordham University, where she studied English and Art History. She has worked in several arts institutions and organizations, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Asian American Arts Alliance, and the New Museum of Contemporary Art. Her interests include curation, museum accessibility, and arts programming. She resides in New York City. 

Alexandria Ryahl is an artist and educator from Los Angeles currently based in Brooklyn. She graduated from New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study in 2015 with a concentration in Visual Politics. As a conceptual artist, Alexandria’s work explores themes of biography and heritage within marginalized communities, and utilizes a variety of mediums including photography, painting and installation. She is a first generation American of mixed-race descent. Prior to this fellowship, Ryahl worked as a freelance Teaching Artist for the Rubin Museum and in the Education Department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She is passionate about art’s ability to visually communicate complex ideas and hopes to create positive social change through her work as an artist and arts educator. Ryahl is currently working on a series of self-portraits and a collection of essays for publication.

Alexa Smithwrick is a Virginia Beach native and a recent graduate of New York University's Global Liberal Studies program with a concentration in Contemporary Culture and Creative Production. The interdisciplinary nature of her degree has led her to projects that operate at the intersection of visual studies, ethnography and urban design. Since graduating, Smithwrick has worked in collaboration on archival digitization and public programming projects with Abrons Art Center, Recess, The Studio Museum in Harlem and the Guerilla Girls. Her practice is driven by theories on collectivity and visual-spatial storytelling as they relate to the various roles art can play in reimagining our communities.


About the Partner Institutions

BRIC is the leading presenter of free cultural programming in Brooklyn, and one of the largest in New York City. Founded in Brooklyn in 1979, BRIC has a mission to present programs in contemporary art, performing arts, and video that reflect the creativity and diversity of the borough. BRIC also advances and nurtures emerging voices and works-in-progress by local artists and media makers. BRIC supports open access to arts and media by making programs available without charge or at very low cost, through education and public programs, and by enabling and amplifying individual and community voices. Reaching hundreds of thousands of people each year, some of BRIC’s most acclaimed programs include the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival in Prospect Park, several path-breaking public access media initiatives, including BRIC TV, and a renowned contemporary art exhibition series. BRIC also offers education and other vital programs at BRIC House and throughout Brooklyn. In addition to making cultural programming genuinely accessible, BRIC is dedicated to providing substantial support to artists and media makers in their efforts to develop work and reach new audiences. BRIC is unusual in both presenting exceptional cultural experiences and nurturing individual expression. By providing artist resources and residency opportunities, BRIC supports the careers of artists and media-makers from all backgrounds and income levels.

Third Eye Cultural Collaborative is a social enterprise dedicated to strengthening the cultural ecosystem by enhancing the impact of small to mid-size organizations.  The collaborative provides strategy, organizational development, and innovation support services that enrich arts and culture organizations and leaders. Impact services are affordable, effective and supportive.

The Third Eye Cultural Collaborative process is highly customized to each client and is informed by knowledge, data, and years of personal experience as arts and culture leaders. The work concentrates on three major areas: Programs and Strategy, Organizational Development and Growth, and Innovation. They are committed to understanding mission, supporting client work, and crafting the appropriate tools to invigorate organizational excellence and propel organizations to new heights.

Mark Morris Dance Group (MMDG), founded in New York City in 1980 by choreographer Mark Morris, has a mission to develop, promote, and sustain dance, music, and opera productions by Morris and to serve as a cultural resource to engage and enrich the community. MMDG has been called “the preeminent modern dance organization of our time” (Yo-Yo Ma). Live music and community engagement are vital components of the Dance Group, which has toured with its own musicians, the MMDG Music Ensemble, since 1996. Through Access/MMDG programming, the Dance Group provides educational opportunities in dance and music to people of all ages and abilities while on tour internationally and at home at the Mark Morris Dance Center. Since it opened in 2001, the Mark Morris Dance Center in Downtown Brooklyn has provided a home for the company, a resource for music and dance classes in all styles for all ages and abilities, rehearsal space for the dance community, and free outreach programs. MMDG is dedicated to increasing access to the arts, and brings to this proposed project its commitment to community programming with an emphasis on under-resourced areas, its high artistic standards rooted in the work and vision of Mark Morris, and a philosophy of open access and “dance for all.”

The Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA), founded in Brooklyn in 1999, has a mission to use the visual arts as a point of departure for exploring new artistic production across a variety of disciplines. Through exhibitions and programming, MoCADA incites dialogue on pressing social and political issues facing the African Diaspora, and fosters a dynamic space for the creation and continuous evolution of culture. MoCADA is more than a Museum. Not only do they curate four exhibitions a year, they also organize many programs and events, both inside and outside the gallery walls. MoCADA believes that the arts should be brought to the community instead of making the community go beyond their neighborhoods to experience it. MoCADA’s Apprenticeship Program—a three-week art intensive summer program designed to enhance the creative skills of students of African descent by immersing them in a college-level fine arts environment—demonstrates MoCADA’s expertise in implementing programs such as the proposed one. In partnership with the Art Department at LIU Brooklyn (Long Island University), the Apprenticeship Program seeks to ensure that young artists have the support, skills, relationships, and experiences necessary for pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the fine arts and ultimately joining the long legacy of Brooklyn-based artists of African descent.

Theatre for a New Audience (TFANA), founded in 1979, has a mission to develop and vitalize the performance and study of Shakespeare and classic drama. TFANA’s work is guided by five core values: a reverence for language, a spirit of adventure, a commitment to diversity, a dedication to learning, and a spirit of service. The Theatre broadens cultural literacy by engaging diverse audiences in innovative productions of masterworks that offer context and perspective to current events and contemporary life. TFANA mounts three to five productions each year, juxtaposing Shakespeare with other major classical and contemporary authors and creating a dialogue over centuries between Shakespeare and other authors about our world. In addition, The Theatre develops and cultivates audiences for classical theatre through extensive audience outreach programs. It also runs the largest in-depth arts in education program that introduces Shakespeare and classic drama to New York City Public School students, serving schools in some of the City’s most economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. TFANA also makes its work accessible through the New Deal ticket program, which offers $20 advance-purchase tickets to anyone 30 and under and full-time students of any age, and the Access Pass program which extends $20 tickets to constituents of arts and social service organizations throughout Brooklyn. TFANA brings this focus on equity and education to the proposed project.


Press contact: Blake Zidell at Blake Zidell & Associates, 718.643.9052 or

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