PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Avery Willis Hoffman, an accomplished writer, director, producer and curator of public arts programs, has been appointed the inaugural artistic director of the Brown Arts Initiative, effective Monday, Nov. 2.
In her role, Hoffman will be responsible for curating arts programming at the University’s Granoff Center for the Creative Arts and the under-construction Performing Arts Center, including work by students, faculty, and external artists and organizations. She will collaborate closely with Brown’s six arts departments, David Winton Bell Gallery, Rites and Reason Theatre and cultural and institutional partners such as Trinity Repertory Company and the Rhode Island School of Design to build the visibility and quality of arts programming at the University.
Hoffman will begin in a part-time capacity in November and will transition to full time in 2021, according to a Friday, Oct. 30, message to the University community from President Christina H. Paxson and Provost Richard M. Locke.
“We look forward to working with Avery to harness the University’s tremendous strengths across and beyond the University’s arts departments,” Paxson and Locke wrote, “and to position BAI to offer valuable contributions to the arts and society through education, research and programming.”
Hoffman is currently program director at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City, where she has created and produced countless innovative and diverse public programming initiatives at large and small scales. While there, she curated an annual “Culture in a Changing America” symposium, a multi-partner digital initiative celebrating the centennial of the 19th Amendment, a Black artist retreat, and many artist and curatorial conversations.
Previously, Hoffman was a senior project developer at Ralph Appelbaum Associates, a museum planning and design firm in New York, where she conducted research and developed content for special projects, including the development of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington.
For more than a decade, Hoffman has also worked on multiple projects with acclaimed director Peter Sellars, including his international productions of Shakespeare’s “Othello,” Mozart’s opera “Zaide” and Toni Morrison’s “Desdemona.”
Hoffman earned bachelor’s degrees in classics and English from Stanford University and master’s and doctorate degrees in classical languages and literature from Balliol College, University of Oxford, where she was a Marshall Scholar.
Hoffman said she is thrilled to join the University at a pivotal point in its arts evolution, as it prepares to occupy a state-of-the-art Performing Arts Center and looks to expand its legacy as a home of experimental, cross-disciplinary and engaged art-making, teaching and research.
“The arts, especially in times of deep uncertainty and loss, provide essential uplift, solidarity and catharsis,” Hoffman said. “They can also offer us fresh perspectives, provide unexpected tools for survival or inspire radical transformation. I am delighted to begin working with the University community and the broader Providence community in producing and curating art that inspires societal change and makes space for challenging conversations and discoveries.”
Hoffman’s appointment follows an extensive international search directed by a committee of faculty and staff and chaired by Paxson. She will work alongside BAI Faculty Director Thalia Field and will report directly to the provost.