A LEGACY OF ARTS LEADERSHIP: REBECCA BLUNK, 1953-2014
(Boston, MA) It is with great sadness that the New England Foundation for the Arts shares the news of the passing of Rebecca Blunk on June 22, 2014. A tireless champion of the arts – ranging from public art, the visual arts, music, dance, theater, and puppetry - her unwavering presence was felt across the arts and culture landscape, through her work in performing arts creation and touring, the creative economy, Native American arts, and cultural exchange on an international scale. Throughout her career, she derived deep personal reward from the artists and administrators with whom she worked.
“Rebecca brought more integrity and compassion to the work of serving artists in realizing their vision than anyone I have ever known. She was a friend and inspiration to all she touched and she touched so many,” said former NEFA executive director Sam Miller, president of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.
Ms. Blunk came to NEFA from the Nebraska Arts Council in 1985 as the director of performing arts and then served as deputy director for ten years before being named executive director in 2004. Under her leadership, the organization brought important resources to New England, strengthening its capacity to connect artists and communities through regional, national, and international programs.
“Rebecca’s steadfast commitment to art and community enabled her to be as passionate about avant-garde dance in Boston as she was about basket making in Maine or painting in Haiti,” said Jill Medvedow, executive director of the Institute for Contemporary Art in Boston. “NEFA was the work of her lifetime, and her truth, loyalty, laughter and friendship will be forever valued and sorely missed.”
Blunk’s tenure is marked by many accomplishments, including:
Establishing the Expeditions grant program and its annual Idea Swap convening—supporting New England’s access to the performing arts through collaborative planning and presentation
Hosting Creative Economy conferences and awards—showcasing best practices and replicable projects from local communities and recognizing remarkable leadership from across the region
Advancing the National Dance Project, now a cornerstone of dance touring and funding in the U.S.
Developing a Native Arts program, increasing support and visibility for Native American artists in New England and beyond
Launching the National Theater Project to provide networking and funding support for some of the most creative theater makers of our time
Engaging in international exchange and cultural diplomacy with artists of Australia, Cambodia, France, Haiti, Indonesia, Ireland, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Pakistan, and Vietnam.
Joan Shigekawa, senior deputy chair of the National Endowment for the Arts paid tribute to Rebecca upon her retirement in May, stating "The NEA celebrates your long-standing leadership and distinguished contributions to the field of arts and culture."
Noted Mayor Marty Walsh of the City of Boston, “Rebecca was a firm believer in the power of the arts to bring people together, not just in New England, but worldwide. The entire region is richer because of her efforts.”
“We will mourn her with the entire arts field,” said NEFA board chair Larry Simpson, provost of Berklee College of Music, “and we are honored to continue her legacy through the programs NEFA offers.”
About NEFA NEFA builds connections among artists, arts organizations, and funders, powering the arts to energize communities in New England, the nation, and the world. NEFA is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) that operates in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the New England state arts agencies, with additional funding from foundations, corporations, individuals and other government agencies.
NEFA’s work is accomplished through grantmaking, services, and initiatives which strengthen and advance the national arts infrastructure. For more information, please visit www.nefa.org or call 617.951.0010.