THE WEDGE — Nine months after the departure of Theresa Sweetland for the Minnesota Museum of American Art in St. Paul, Intermedia Arts has named a new executive director.
The non-profit community arts organization announced the hiring of Eyenga Bokamba on Friday. Bokamba previously served as executive director of Sprockets, a network of after-school and summer programs serving St. Paul youth, a position Mayor Chris Coleman appointed her to in 2013.
“I know it’s the right decision and I’m just elated about the possibilities,” Bokamba said.
An artist who has worked in both painting and performance, Bokamba earlier in her career spent 13 years as a Hopkins Public Schools language arts teacher. She attended Harvard after winning a 2006 Bush Leadership Fellowship and studied the connections between arts and education for her graduate degree.
Julie Bates MacGillis filled in as interim executive director for Intermedia following Sweetland’s move to St. Paul in April. MacGillis plans to stay on as associate director, the nonprofit noted in a press release.
“Theresa Sweetland, as executive director for so many years, kept things going so very well,” Bokamba said.
Sweetland’s 17-year tenure at Intermedia included a moment of financial crisis in late 2008 when grant funding suddenly dried up, leading to staff cuts and the temporary closure of galleries. The global economic crisis and the Great Recession that followed led many corporate and foundation donors to cut back considerably on giving.
Sweetland convened a town hall to discuss the situation publicly, and a year later Intermedia was being praised for its skillful navigating of the crisis. Bokamba said the organization appears to her to be in a good place and ready to grow.
“The picture that I’m seeing is an organization that is deeply solvent and that is committed, that’s strong, that’s had great leadership and that is at a place to thrive,” Bokamba said.
She said she’s particularly interested in expanding Intermedia’s work with artists in ways that can grow financially sustainable careers, defying the “starving artist” stereotype.