I am writing with the first of a few updates about A Blade of Grass’ restructuring process, which began in September 2020.
I am excited to announce that A Blade of Grass is shifting its governance structure to a paid, professional board of artists and arts professionals with deep experience in socially engaged art. Our board will be scaled from 11 to six members following a transition period that will conclude in late spring. The continuing board will include Brett Cook, Michael Quattrone, and Michael Premo, who have served on ABOG’s board for a number of years, and Diya Vij, Gregory Sale, and ashley sparks, who formally joined in January 2022. The members choosing to step down in support of this transition to a paid, professional board structure include Shelley Frost Rubin, Annette Blum, Eva Haller, John Osborn, and Lee Skolnick.
I want to take this opportunity to welcome Diya, Gregory, and ashley, and also to thank every member of this stellar board–historic, new, and continuing–for ensuring that A Blade of Grass enacts its values.
This decision is grounded in direct feedback from Fellowship artists and other members of our community. We are artist-led, and that informs how we relate to socially engaged art projects. We want to amplify that existing strength. We also see this shift as a helpful, positive response to the leadership crises that have been unfolding in museums and other arts nonprofits over the past several years. By establishing a paid, professional board, A Blade of Grass aims to encourage greater accountability, more diverse perspectives, consistent engagement, and stronger leadership by centering the expertise of people who have a real stake in socially engaged art but cannot give their time on a purely volunteer basis.
Our current 11-member board is currently working closely with an attorney and compensation consultant to transition our board structure and determine a reasonable level of compensation. This compensation for the board’s active role in stewarding the organization will follow market practice for many nonprofits, including member organizations and private foundations. It will be supported by a generous gift from Shelley Frost Rubin, our founding Chair, which concludes her formal engagement with A Blade of Grass.
I am deeply grateful for Shelley’s dedication to A Blade of Grass, her brave and visionary leadership, and her belief in the power artists have to make social change!
I am excited about the future we are envisioning for A Blade of Grass, and look forward to being able to give you more updates as we keep charting a course forward.
Read the full Press Release HERE
About ABOG’s Continuing Board Members
Brett Cook is an interdisciplinary artist and educator, who uses storytelling to distill complex ideas and creative practices to transform outer and inner worlds of being. His projects typically involve community workshops and integrated arts experiences that establish connections between art making, daily life, and healing. He has received numerous awards, including the Lehman Brady Visiting Professorship at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Richard C. Diebenkorn Fellowship at the San Francisco Art Institute. Cook was selected as cultural ambassador to Nigeria as part of the U.S. Department of State’s 2012 smARTpower Initiative. His work is in private and public collections, including the Smithsonian/National Portrait Gallery, the Walker Art Center, and Harvard University. In 2009, he published Who Am I In This Picture: Amherst College Portraits with Wendy Ewald and Amherst College Press, and in 2016, Clouds In A Teacup with Thich Nhat Hanh and Parallax Press. He is currently the inaugural Senior Fellow of visual arts at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.
Michael Quattrone is an artist and philanthropist, who is particularly interested in the interplay between arts, social and environmental justice, and wellbeing. Together with his wife, actor and communal theater maker Kala Smith, the pair founded, in 2011, Hearthfire, a non-profit retreat organization that offers experiences of earth, art, and heart to a community of creative spirits in the Hudson River Valley. Quattrone‘s practice of experiential learning also includes 11 years with the Hero’s Journey Foundation. He has taught in the Theater Arts and Studies program at Johns Hopkins University, and co-curated the KGB Monday night poetry series in the East Village. More recently, he has been writing, recording, and performing music as One River. Wolfe Island Records released his album in 2018. In addition to A Blade of Grass, he serves on the boards of the David Rockefeller Fund, The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.
Michael Premo is an artist, photojournalist, documentary producer, and strategist. He has created, produced, and presented original art and media with numerous companies, including Hip-Hop Theater Festival, The Foundry Theater, The Civilians, Penny Arcade, Company One, EarSay, Inc., and the Peabody Award winning StoryCorps. He’s a co-creator and Executive Producer of Sandy Storyline, a participatory documentary that collects and shares stories about the impact of Hurricane Sandy on our neighborhoods, our communities, and our lives. Premo also co-created the multimedia storytelling project Housing is a Human Right, a project connecting diverse communities around housing, land, and the dignity of a place to call home. His radio documentaries have been broadcast internationally and his photography has appeared in numerous outlets including Left Turn, The Village Voice, The New York Times, Narrative,ly, and Het Parool (Holland). In addition to A Blade of Grass, Premo is on the Board of Trustees of the Network of Ensemble Theaters.
Collaborating with individuals and communities on aesthetic responses to social challenges, Gregory Sale creates and coordinates large-scale and often long-term public projects. For close to 20 years, his work has focused on issues of mass incarceration. System-impacted individuals and communities help conceptualize social-aesthetic structures, co-produce artistic components, and direct the advocacy intention of the work.More specifically, Sale has undertaken a series of projects focused on reframing the narrative of reentering society after incarceration, culminating in Future IDs at Alcatraz (2018-2019). This yearlong, socially engaged project, exhibition, and programmatic series was created with core-project collaborators Dr. Luis Garcia, Kirn Kim, Sabrina Reid, and Jessica Tully and in partnership with National Park Service, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, and 20 community organizations.
Since the onset of the pandemic, Sale and a group of system-impacted leaders have formed the Future IDs Art and Justice Leadership Cohort to expand their understanding of the power of artistic production to support justice reform and to further their effectiveness as catalysts of social change.
His work has received support from Kenneth Rainin Foundation, Creative Capital Foundation in Emerging Fields, A Blade of Grass/David Rockefeller Fund Fellowshipin Criminal Justice, Art Matters, SPArt (Social Practice Art), the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and artist residency awards (Yaddo, MacDowell, Grand Central Art Center, Headlands, Montalvo, Ucross, and Centre d’Art Marnay Art Centre). Based in Phoenix and Los Angeles, Sale is Associate Professor of Intermedia and Public Practice at Arizona State University.
ashley sparks is a Southern theater maker, facilitator, and convening curator. sparks co-directs the theater ensemble Mark-n-Sparks along with Mark Valdez and leads the work of spark + dive, inc. As an artist, sparks has worked across the US with companies such as Cornerstone Theater Company in Los Angeles, ArtSpot Productions in New Orleans, PearlDamour, the Network of Ensemble Theaters, Alternate ROOTS, the Network for Energy Water and Health in Affordable Buildings, and the Natural Resources Defense Council. As a director, sparks creates site-specific work and immersive participatory events. spark + dive has worked with dozens of individual artists, filmmakers, and organizations to deepen the connection art can have on specific audiences and across sectors. As a convener, sparks organized the Network of Ensemble Theaters MicroFest USA, a festival/think-tank series that highlighted the impact art has in revitalizing communities and the Network of Energy Water and Health in Affordable Buildings national convenings. sparks is an awardee of the Princess Grace Award, A Blade of Grass Fellow, has an MFA in Directing and Public Dialogue from Virginia Tech University, is a certified coach, a member of the Guild of Future Architects, and a facilitator with the Emergent Strategy Ideation Institute.
Diya Vij is the Associate Curator at Creative Time and is committed to critically investigating the evolving role of public art in politics and civic life. Over the past decade, she has held programming, curatorial, and communications positions at major New York City Institutions. At Creative Time, she commissions and stewards large-scale public art work, initiates public programs, and helps guide the curatorial direction of the organization. As the Associate Curator of Public Programs at the High Line, she organized dozens of live events and performances with artists, activists, practitioners, and healers. At the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, Vij launched and co-directed the Public Artists in Residence (PAIR) program. Additionally, she helped lead the Agency’s citywide Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiative, and played an active role in public monument efforts, as well as CreateNYC—New York City’s first strategic long-term plan for culture. She was a curatorial fellow and the communications manager at the Queens Museum from 2010–2014. She currently serves on the Board of the Laundromat Project.