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ArtsBoston program pairs emerging BIPOC arts administrators with sponsors and mentors

Dawn Simmons and Jazzmin Bonner of Stage Source, at a pre-pandemic NAAC/Boston reception.ArtsBoston

An ArtsBoston program revealed the class of 10 emerging BIPOC administrators across Boston’s art institutions who have been paired with BIPOC sponsors and mentors this Tuesday.

The mentorship and sponsorship program from ArtsBoston’s Network for Art Administrators of Color (NAAC) is designed to guide the burgeoning careers of arts administrators, improve representation of people of color in the field, and expand access to leadership opportunities in the area’s arts and culture sector.

The six-month program includes one-on-one-meetings, career counseling, panel discussions, professional development workshops, and networking events, according to a press release.

Sponsors, who are executive-level business leaders, are paired with mid-level arts administrators to jumpstart their careers. Mentors, who are mid-level arts administrators, offer professional development opportunities for junior- or entry-level arts administrators. This year’s sponsors include Andrés Holder, executive director of Boston Children’s Chorus, and Yvonne Cain, senior vice president and group media director of the agency Mediahub Worldwide. Mentors include Central Square Theater education manager Kortney Adams and Broadway in Boston marketing manager Adriana Zuñiga. A full list of sponsors and mentors can be found on the NAAC website.

“This is a group of people dedicated to making the arts more representative of the community where we all work and live,” said ArtsBoston executive director Catherine Peterson about the founders of NAAC in the press release.


Sponsees and mentees come from institutions across the Boston cultural scene — sponsees must have four or more years of experience, while mentees must have one to three years. Sponsees are Maria Servellón of Emerson College; Cameron Lane of Artists for Humanity; Leslie Anne Condon of Pao Arts Center; Lani Asuncion of Digital Soup; and Kat Nakaji of Harvard University’s ArtLab. Mentees are Jamison Cloud of Massachusetts College of Art and Design; Noelle Villa of Harvard Museums of Science & Culture; Amy Chu of the Mass Cultural Council; Holly Dyer of Community Music Center of Boston; and artist Merlo Philiossaint.


“It is true in the arts, as in all other industries, that inclusion, representation and the raising of diverse voices makes the work better, deeper and more resonant,” said Cain in the release. “I’m personally committed to guiding young professionals on their path to leadership.”

The initiative, which was piloted in 2019, includes workshops, a “Navigating the Recovery” toolkit (which outlines arts administration terminology, legal services, and resources for fighting racism in the arts), and a learning cohort for NAAC members who were not paired with a sponsor or mentor. Those in the cohort can attend any of the six workshops where the pairs convene — instead of meeting with a sponsor or mentor during that time, NAAC members will participate in “a facilitated conversation centered in peer learning and support,” according to the program’s website.

NAAC, which has over 400 members, was founded in 2016. In addition to the sponsorship and mentorship program, NAAC also offers an online member directory and a listserv to promote job and funding opportunities.

NAAC Katrina Conrad from ADC-Purple Fox, Ola Akinwumi from ArtsBoston (Deputy Director of Programs and NAAC/Boston administrator), Atiya Charley from Purple Fox at a pre-pandemic NAAC/Boston party.ArtsBoston

“Being an arts administrator of color can be an isolating and challenging experience,” said mentor Jazzmin Bonner in the release. “We face particular challenges around culture, interpersonal communication and promotion that require a specific set of skills and awareness. This Mentor/Sponsor program is a great way to address those challenges with smart matches and deep sharing of knowledge and networks.”


This story has been changed to update Maria Servellón’s college affiliation.

Dana Gerber can be reached at Follow her @danagerber6.