A toast in celebration of outgoing Executive Director Shay Wafer with inaugural Creative Director
Raelle Myrick-Hodges. Photo by Stephanie Mei-Ling

Happy 2019, 651 Family! 

With every new year comes an invitation to shift, grow, or ground ourselves in our deepest truth. Currently, 651 ARTS is in the midst of all of these.

Last year, as we ushered in our 30th Anniversary, we strategically entered a phase of rebuilding and revitalization. This year - a transition year - is an integral time to lay the framework for all that is to come. One of many foundations in that framework is our beloved Shay Wafer who recently transitioned out of the role of Executive Director. Close friends and colleagues enjoyed a joyful celebration this past Monday in her honor. 

Shay led us through what she sometimes called "the best and worst of times." As arts funding declined and political climates shifted, 651 continued to offer rich and diverse presentations featuring artists such as Ntozake Shange, Dianne McIntyre, and Kris Bowers, and we maintained our commitment to exchanges across the African diaspora working with artists from around the globe. Our New Media & Arts Fellowship program flourished and our 25th anniversary celebration was a night we'll never forget! We cannot thank Shay enough for her dedication, generosity, and vision, and we look forward to her continued support as an advisor and lifelong friend to the organization.

Now what, you ask? First, let us introduce our inaugural Creative Director Raelle Myrick-Hodges. Raelle is a nationally-known stage director, producer, and curator extraordinaire who founded Azuka Theater in Philadelphia, led as Artistic Director of Brava for Women in the Arts (San Francisco), and served as the inaugural Curator of Performing Arts for the Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans. "My history in the performing arts field is eclectic and unique," she reflects, "and I’m eager to work with the team to celebrate the pioneering of new avenues of presenting live art and performance."

The appointment of Raelle signifies a larger organizational strategy to expand the institution’s programming and artist development practice. We move full steam ahead toward a new artistic vision that ensures our place as a leader in presenting African Diasporic arts in the 21st Century. As we continue our evolution, 651 ARTS and MoCADA will not merge as once planned, but will be two distinct entities, both dedicated to advancing art and cultural heritage of the African diaspora in bold, innovative ways. Lastly, we are so excited to share that we are moving forward in our plans towards a new home in the breathtaking space at 300 Ashland (now known as 10 Lafayette). This new home is one of great possibility for programming, for artists, and for our beloved Brooklyn community. We're diving in with electrifying dreams for our future while continuing to ground ourselves in the mission that has sustained us for 30 years.

We would be remiss not to mention those who continue to support the organization throughout these shifts. Our Production Manager Robert W. Henderson, Jr. is a steady pulse working in collaboration with our dedicated Program Manager Sydnie L. Mosley. Our longtime partners at CJAM Consulting are lending executive strategy and oversight and, in partnership with the Board of Directors, managing the search for a new Executive Director, while PURPOSE Productions continues to manage our marketing. With these folks alongside Raelle and our deeply committed staff, Advisory committee, and consultants, there is no limit to where #BlackArtNOW can go.

Are you ready?!

Feb. 2
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Feb. 5
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