Ryan Gilliam, Executive Director, she/her
Ryan Gilliam is a theater artist, producer, and cultural organizer who has been working in the Lower East Side since 1977. She is a founding member of Fourth Arts Block (FAB), serving as Board Chair from 2005-2016, and Executive Director (2017-present). Under her leadership, FAB has expanded its public art programming; increased membership of local cultural organizations; commissioned public art projects that acknowledge the histories and contributions of Black, Indigenous, Latinx communities, launched the People’s LES website and the LES Young Artists of Color Fellowship, and partnered with nonprofits, residents, and organizers to advance cultural equity in the LES.
As a co-founder and board member of FAB, Ryan played a core role in the establishment of the East 4th Street Cultural District, through which eight city properties were transferred to local arts groups for $1 each, and deed-restricted for nonprofit cultural use in perpetuity. She led the transformation of one of these buildings from a long-time vacant property to an active community cultural center.
As co-founder and director of Downtown Art (1990-present), she worked with young artists, ages 12-20, over several decades, directing over 120 productions and writing 18 original plays and librettos.
In 2021, Ryan was awarded the Betty ‘Coquit’ Brassell Award for Social Justice from GOLES (Good Old Lower East Side.) She has also received a Bank of America “Local Hero” award and an ART/NY “Local Hero” award. Ryan has a B.F.A. from New York University’s School of the Arts and a M.F.A. from the Yale School of Drama. She has served on Community Board 3 since 2017.
Alejandra Acevedo, Programs & Operations Associate, LES Young Artists of Color Fellowship Facilitator
Alejandra Acevedo, born and raised in Puerto Rico, is an artist/performer based in New York City. With a BFA in Dance from Philadelphia’s University of the Arts (2017) she defines herself as a multidisciplinary performing artist. As a dancer and a Caribbean woman, Alejandra is interested in how an experience can create movement. No matter how or where the body is, (simultaneously absorbing new material) it always carries cultural information. The work that she creates is looking for a balance between what is already “hers” and what is “new” for her. Moving between community and professional spaces, she is finding that sweet spot where both can be an inspiring source.
Ari-Duong Nguyen, Programs Assistant
Originally from Hanoi (Vietnam), Ari-Duong Nguyen (they/she) is a recent graduate with an MA in Media Studies from The New School. They write criticism of cinema and time-based media, and program experimental screenings when they can. While primarily concerned with issues of labor and extraction, their work always aims towards the intimate amidst displacement and estrangement, the comfort of makeshift homes in the face of existential uncertainty. Their analog photography and personal documentaries could also be found respectively in zines and microcinemas in NYC.
Dakota Devereux Scott, Managing Director
Dakota is a writer, organizer, and producer from the Lower East Side. She has a background in performance as a company member of both Downtown Art and Nature Theater of Oklahoma and a degree in Creative Non-Fiction Writing from Knox College. She writes about home, family and chosen family, community histories, landscape, feminism, love, death, and memory. In 2022, she successfully navigated the United States alone in her Subaru Forester to honor her grandmother. Over a 4-month period, she visited 22 National Parks and has now been to all 48 continental states. Alaska is next.
Lena Abraham, Open Arts LES Sound Technician
Lena is a sound engineer/designer, experimental composer, and multi-instrumentalist from New York City. They love all things mystical and phenomenological. Lena holds a BFA in Music and Film/Video from Hampshire College where they started their current band Nemesister, an experimental punk trio.
Hannah Miao, Open Arts LES Teaching Artist
Hannah Miao is a journalist, writer, painter and teaching artist based in Brooklyn, NY. Her creative work explores love and safety in community; family, born and chosen; and Asian diaspora. She is a founder and administrator of Chinatown Photo Album (@chinatownphotoalbum), a community-sourced archive preserving family photographs and histories in Manhattan’s Chinatown. Hannah was a 2023 Create Change Fellow at The Laundromat Project, a 2022 Bandung Resident at Asian American Arts Alliance and MoCADA, and a 2022 Young Artists of Color Fellow at FABnyc.
Mark Wilson, Open Arts LES Teaching Artist LES, Young Artists of Color Fellowship Facilitator
Mark Anthony Wilson Jr (b. 1995, Hampton, Virginia) is a self-taught artist whose practice marries the unveiling of African American heritage with Afrofuturism through painting, sculpting, and installation. After playing football at the University of Cincinnati and earning a master’s degree (2018) in Applied Behavior Analysis, he found his passion for art while working as a therapist. Inspired by the Indigenous Totem Poles in Washington, he developed an identity in masquerade. Finding empowerment in historical moments of Black resilience to bear arms in self-defense and militant duties. He utilizes the references to establish new tools for liberation through Afrofuturism.
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