2023 was a year like no other for DNAWORKS and for Adam and me personally.
It started with a reason to celebrate. In March 2023, Adam began his tenure as Artistic Director of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. His appointment is a great accomplishment for many reasons, including that he is the first Global Majority director in the history of the organization.
For me, it was a vital moment of pause and consideration. Adam and I founded DNAWORKS in 2006 as an umbrella for our work together. The organization has always been based on collaboration and shared leadership. Now that Adam would not be part of our day-to-day operations, what would DNAWORKS’s future look like?
Should I continue on my own and scale down? What would happen with our community of artists, supporters, and partners? I began speaking with many of our collaborators, friends, and supporters. And, through these conversations, I quickly developed a clear sense of how to move forward.
DNAWORKS has evolved and expanded during the last 17 years because of the depth of the relationships we have forged everywhere we have been, whether for a few days or many years. Given that the foundation of our work is collaboration and co-leadership, I became excited about an idea of how to expand that—and increase our impact . . .
In July, we welcomed three exceptional artists to join me as Co-Curators of DNAWORKS: Seema Sueko, Sarita Ocón, and Troy Lambert. They come from multiple disciplines and have spanned our nearly 18 years. Troy has been part of the company since the very beginning, Sarita has been in our orbit for five years, and Seema is relatively new to us—all with aligned values and aspirations for arts and humanity. And that was just the beginning of this year’s good news.
On July 17, 2023, Andrés Franco became our first Executive Director (cue Hallelujah chorus!). Originally from Colombia, Andrés is a pianist, conductor, and arts advocate committed to working at the intersections of social justice and the arts. He lived in Fort Worth and currently lives in Pittsburgh. What a remarkable and powerful synergy.
As it turns out, 2023 brought many reasons to celebrate. And the celebration continues: DNAWORKS turns 18 in January 2024!
As you may already know, in Jewish tradition, 18 is the numeric value of the chai, the Hebrew word for “life.” DNAWORKS has completed one life cycle, and this next cycle is exciting and inspiring.
When Adam and I founded DNAWORKS, we knew that we were creating a family of artists, activists, community stakeholders, and participatory audience members who understood the power of the arts to bring people together and catalyze inter- and intra-cultural healing. But I never dreamed that, 18 years later, we would have been able to reach over 100,000 people around the country and the globe.
As I look back at what we have accomplished together, I am hopeful about the future and our ability to make a meaningful and lasting impact with our programs. Due to the unwavering support of the DNAWORKS family of artists and supporters, we have grown exponentially during the last three years.
Because of our expanded artistic team, we now have deep relationships in Hawaii, California, and Pennsylvania, in addition to New York, New Mexico, and Texas—where Adam and I have lived. And our programs have been presented in 39 states and 18 countries. What started as a project of two is now a national organization with local, regional, and global partners. All of this has been possible thanks to you.
As we celebrate our 18th Anniversary, please accept my thanks and appreciation for being part of the DNAWORKS family, believing in us, and supporting our work.
Growing up, my parents gave me a message button that said “make a difference,” and they charged me to do this with my life.
Together, we are making a difference.
Co-Founder and Co-Curator
P.S. Thanks to the support of our community, we have reached more than 100,000 people in 39 states and 18 countries since 2006. Please help us celebrate our 18th Anniversary by making a donation today. And thank you to all the generous donors who have already contributed to our 18th Anniversary campaign!