Ryan Gilliam, Executive Director

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.