NEW YORK – MacDowell, one of the oldest artist residency programs in the U.S., has tapped Chiwoniso Kaitano as its new executive director, the organization announced Friday.
Kaitano joins MacDowell with a mandate to “intensify outreach to traditionally underrepresented artistic voices,” among other charges, a release said.
“Our search was rigorous, all our finalists compelling. But Chi’s expertise, energetic and collaborative methods of engagement, and inspiring leadership qualities proved irresistible,” author Nell Painter, the chair of MacDowell's board, said in the statement.
Kaitano is the former executive director of Girl Be Heard, a nongovernmental organization that uses theater and the performing arts to advocate for social change. Originally from Zimbabwe, she also serves on the boards of several arts organizations.
The prestigious MacDowell retreat is based in Peterborough, New Hampshire, where David Macy serves as resident director. Kaitano will work from the organization's New York office when she joins in mid-March. She will take over from transitional leader Philip Himberg.
In the wake of the 2020 protests spurred by the police killing of George Floyd, MacDowell shed “Colony” from its name in response to feedback from fellows and artistic communities.
“In the language we speak today, colony is a word tied to occupation and oppression,” Painter told The Associated Press at the time. A statement from the organization said the name change was “in keeping with the organization’s longstanding commitment to eliminate financial, geographic, cultural and accessibility barriers to participation.”
Friday's statement referenced the shift in announcing Kaitano's appointment.
“This change in MacDowell’s leadership follows an intense period of inquiry and innovation throughout the pandemic and recent social justice movements,” said board president Andrew M. Senchak. “During which time, MacDowell dropped ‘Colony’ from its name and the staff and board worked with external consultants to examine our values and our governance, to strengthen and democratize our policies, procedures, and program.”
The retreat was founded in 1907 by composer Edward MacDowell and the musician and philanthropist Marian MacDowell and has played host to more than 8,800 fellows across seven disciplines: writing, architecture, composition, film, theater, visual art, and interdisciplinary art.
“I look forward to working with the board and staff to sustain and grow funding and to build upon the extraordinary vision for artist support that Edward and Marian MacDowell articulated when they welcomed the first artists-in-residence,” Kaitano said in the statement. “Imagining and joyfully meeting the ever-evolving needs of contemporary artists is how MacDowell can and will continue to be a pioneering champion for the value of the arts in our society."