Letter from Executive Director Lex Leifheit

SOMArts Executive Director Lex Leifheit

Dear Friends, Colleagues, Artists and Neighbors,

In 2008, as the recession loomed large, I drove cross-country to become the executive director of SOMArts. I had visited SOMArts before but had a lot to learn about the organization and about San Francisco. What I shared with longtime employees, board members and artists was deep faith that SOMArts was unique … an incomparable home for art that opens minds and builds communities. With its large network and longstanding partnerships, SOMArts was a sleeping giant and it has been absolutely breathtaking to see this organization grow and begin to tap its full potential.

Undaunted by the challenges of the past seven years, this organization has doubled in size and is more active and vital than ever. SOMArts has received deserved recognition as an artistic frontrunner and anchor institution within the Bay Area’s cultural ecosystem. Our growth has been balanced by investments in longevity—we have a skilled and dedicated board, consistent revenue, and operating reserves to shore up the organization during inevitable unforeseen challenges.

SOMArts has an incredible core staff of 18 employees, abundant with community leaders and creative ideas. The organization  has never been stronger or better positioned to harness all the possibilities of a leadership change. So with deep gratitude for the many opportunities and unforgettable experiences I’ve had here, I am moving on to accept a newly-created position supporting the nonprofit sector within the Mayor’s Office Of Economic and Workforce Development. It is an opportunity to contribute to the health and stability of nonprofits in San Francisco and a chance for me to learn and grow. My time at SOMArts has reinforced my belief in the essential role nonprofits play here.

With this letter I am passing the baton to new leadership. During the transition, Debra Bok and Jess Young will step forward as an Interim Leadership Team to assume leadership responsibilities. Debra Bok will serve as Transition Manager. Debra has been with SOMArts for almost 19 years and worked closely with the board during the leadership search in 2008. Jess Young will serve as the Interim Executive Director. In her role as Director of Communications and Community Engagement, Jess has forged community partnerships, launched new initiatives, expanded participation and overcome obstacles with sensitivity to the organization’s working culture.

Board member Sherry Suisman is leading the formation of a search committee of board and staff members and the executive director position should be posted by late June. If you have questions, suggestions or concerns during the transition you may share them at transition@somarts.org.

My final day in the office will be Friday, May 29, but I will be just up the street! I look forward to joining all of you as an enthusiastic participant, audience member and supporter.

See you soon at SOMArts!


Photo credits, clockwise from top left: 2013 SOMArts Summer Shindig ; I Live Here:SF photo walk; staff photo; audience photo at What is a w(Hole): Salon of Mysteries; photo by Julie Michele; Dia de los Muertos installation photo by Rio Yañez