Dear Friends,

In January, I shared with the NEFA community that I would be leaving my position as Executive Director at the end of May, 2022. As May 31 approaches, I write to say farewell and to share my appreciation, as well as my encouragement.

We have accomplished so much over the past seven years. It is especially meaningful to me that NEFA increased direct support to artists in our region, launching the New Work New England grant, and Public Art programs that center artists in public space with a spatial justice lens. These programs are a powerful addition to our long-standing work to support presentation and touring, international cultural exchange, and the art forms of dance and theater. I’m also proud that NEFA stepped up quickly to provide resilience and relief funding during the COVID pandemic, demonstrating how we work as partners and grantmakers.

NEFA is rightfully recognized for its artist- and equity-centered practices, its commitment to community-led grantmaking and field-building practices, and its support for our region’s creative economy and cultural infrastructure. We do our work in a wholistic manner – as a catalyst, a resource, a service-provider, and a champion of the brilliant creative people who are at the core of the cultural sector. We recognize equity, diversity, intersectionality, and accessibility as essential to all our work, and to a healthy arts ecosystem, and we work both operationally and programmatically to live up to that value.

I am buoyed, and so often in hard times, I am healed by the art-making that many of us hold as central to the experience of being human and in community. Whether in the New England summertime seeing dance together, in a Boston neighborhood experiencing public art, or seeing art intersect with activism as we gather to grieve or make change – creativity makes space for joy and stirs the soul. I am grateful to the artists and cultural organizers whose imagination and commitment makes our communities better, every day.

NEFA works in partnership with New England’s State Arts Agencies, our fellow Regional Arts Organizations, and the National Endowment for the Arts. In addition, we seek to align our strategies with other national and regional service providers and philanthropists. This is complex yet rewarding work, as we collectively develop commitments to be part of progressive change. I have learned so much from all our partners as we collaborate to increase our impact.

NEFA is fortunate to have a wonderful board of directors. My special thanks to our Board Chairs over these years – Larry Simpson, Ann Smith and John Henry – and to all of our board members and advisory council members, past and present, who are dedicated and wise volunteers.

I am especially grateful to the NEFA staff colleagues I have worked with. The NEFA team is made up of talented, passionate professionals. This remarkable staff has worked together to envision our commitments, implement our strategies and live our values. NEFA’s current Chief Operating Officer, Jug Chokshi, has been named Interim Executive Director by the NEFA board of directors, and will begin in that role on June 1. In addition, Jane Preston, Deputy Director for Programs, will be taking on an increased portfolio, alongside the entire knowledgeable NEFA staff who will continue to lead in their areas of work and steward ongoing projects and commitments. NEFA is in strong hands as we search for our next Executive Director and move into the future!

As I depart to pursue my own creative endeavors and new directions, I look forward to continuing to champion creative people and places, and the important work of NEFA and our collaborators.

With appreciation,

Cathy Edwards