Open Society Foundations Name Head of Culture and Art
Rashida Bumbray to lead new program dedicated to advancing diverse artistic practices and strengthening locally-led cultural spaces around the world
NEW YORK—The Open Society Foundations today announced that, as the inaugural director of Culture and Art, Rashida Bumbray will lead work to address the aesthetic, political, and capacity needs of arts leaders, individual artists, and cultural activists, while supporting sustainability for a global network of locally-led cultural organizations and initiatives that work at the intersection of culture, art, and social change.
“Rashida understands the role of culture and art for a robust and courageous civil society at a moment when rights and freedom of expression are under threat,” said Patrick Gaspard, president of the Open Society Foundations. “With her expertise in contemporary art and socially engaged art, she has the vision and creativity we need to steer this exciting new program.”
Since 2015, Bumbray has been senior program manager of Open Society’s Arts Exchange, an initiative created to support the integration of arts and culture into programmatic strategies across the Foundations’ network. With an expanded budget, Culture and Art will integrate the existing portfolios of the Arts Exchange and the Documentary Photography Project, as well as launch new initiatives to use grant making, capacity building, and convening power to thoughtfully support the field in increasingly challenging times.
Selected for the role after a global search, Bumbray has previously served as a curator and administrator for seminal institutions during times of rapid growth, including the Studio Museum in Harlem (2001–2006), The Kitchen (2006–2012), Creative Time (2012–2014), and the Duke Ellington School of the Arts (2014–2015). Throughout her career, she has promoted an artist-first position, encouraging artists to make work on their own terms and to take risks within their respective practices, as well as lifting up the voice and agency of contemporary artists of color, globally.
She was guest curator of Funk, God, Jazz & Medicine: Black Radical Brooklyn with Creative Time and Weeksville Heritage Center, and curated and commissioned critically-acclaimed solo exhibitions by Simone Leigh, Leslie Hewitt, Rodney McMillian, and Elodie Pong, and performances by Derrick Adams, Sanford Biggers, Mendi and Keith Obadike, Camille Brown, and Kyle Abraham at The Kitchen.
She holds a BA from Oberlin College and an MA in Africana Studies from New York University. In addition to being a leading arts professional, Bumbray is a renowned choreographer and performer whose practice builds on traditional African American vernacular and folk forms. In this capacity, she received a 2019 United States Artists Fellowship and is currently an inaugural Civic Practice Artist-in-Residence at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 2018, she received A Blade of Grass’s Alchemist Award for Socially Engaged Art.
“I am deeply honored to have the privilege of shaping this new program, building on Open Society’s legacy of support for culture in closed societies,” said Bumbray. “Through an artist-centered approach and support of radical aesthetics in a diversity of forms, we will nurture current and future generations of artists and cultural activists at the forefront of challenging, transforming, and providing alternatives to oppressive power structures and ideologies. As many international institutions find themselves compromised by growing authoritarian regimes and exceedingly populist policies, initiatives like this one—focused on supporting artists to make work on their own terms—will become even more invaluable and integral to the survival of progressive and open societies.”