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Executive Director Anita Walker to Retire June 30, 2020

Bethann Steiner, Communications Director

Commonwealth’s Most Senior Arts Official has Guided the Creative Economy and Nonprofit Cultural Sector for 13 Years

Anita Walker speaking at a podium at the State House
Anita Walker speaking at a podium at the State House. Photo by Timothea Pham.

CONTACT:  Carmen Plazas, 617-858-2738

BOSTON – Mass Cultural Council today announced that Executive Director Anita Walker will retire on June 30, 2020. At the time of her retirement, Walker, nationally recognized as an innovative and visionary leader for the creative economy and nonprofit cultural sector, will have led the Council for more than 13 years.

Anita Walker has served as Executive Director of the Mass Cultural Council since April 2007. As Massachusetts’ highest-ranking cultural official, she oversees a range of grant programs, services, and advocacy for the arts, humanities, and sciences in communities statewide.

“I feel like I’ve been part of a dream team of dedicated Mass Cultural Council colleagues, passionate constituents, and supportive legislative allies,” said Anita Walker. “As the Commonwealth continues to unleash the power of culture, it could not be in better hands.”

Walker, a California native, plans to return to her home state in July to be closer to her adult sons.

Mass Cultural Council is widely regarded as a premier state arts agency with innovative ideas and major impact. In its January 2020 State Arts Agency Overview, the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA) found that Mass Cultural Council makes grants in more communities than any other state in the nation and makes grants to more grantees than any other state in the nation.

The agency’s governing Council is engaging a search firm to launch a nationwide search for its next executive director. Mass Cultural Council is an independent state agency, governed by a gubernatorially-appointed board.

“The Council has deep gratitude and appreciation for Anita’s vision, passion, and leadership in the nonprofit cultural sector,” said Nina Fialkow, Chair, Mass Cultural Council. “We are thankful for her 13 years of service, and grateful that she will be with us for four more months to ensure the important work of the Council continues uninterrupted.”

During her tenure at Mass Cultural Council Walker has raised the visibility of the nonprofit creative sector as a driving force for growth and prosperity in Massachusetts:

  • She led advocacy for the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund, which has invested $119 million in arts and cultural capital building projects statewide over 10 years.
  • Walker launched Mass Cultural Council’s Cultural Districts Initiative to help cities and towns attract new visitors and commerce through new arts and cultural activity.
  • She led the creation of a new Cultural Investment Portfolio for more than 400 outstanding nonprofit arts, humanities, and science organizations that simplified the state’s support system for the nonprofit cultural sector.
  • Under Walker’s leadership, Mass Cultural Council placed emphasis on defining and building a new field of practice called Creative Youth Development which provides brave spaces for the state’s young people to create, connect, and catalyze change in their lives and communities.
  • Walker also led development of Mass Cultural Council’s Universal Participation Initiative to support organizations that recognize the power of inclusive design to grow audiences and enhance cultural experiences for all, and embrace inclusivity as core to their mission.
  • Most recently she developed Mass Cultural Council’s new CultureRx Initiative, which seeks to improve health and well-being in Massachusetts through cultural participation by providing residents unrivaled access to cultural organizations, developing strategic partnerships, and positioning the Commonwealth to be a national leader in the practice of social prescription.

Before coming to Massachusetts, Walker was Director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs for seven years, serving as Executive Director of the Iowa Arts Council, Administrator of the State Historical Society, and the State Historic Preservation officer. Walker is a graduate of The University of Arizona.

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