NEW YORK – The Onassis Foundation USA has appointed Vallejo Gantner as its new Artistic and Executive Director. Gantner led the internationally influential New York City cultural institution Performance Space 122 (now Performance Space New York) from 2005 to 2017 and was responsible for all programming and strategic direction, including the creation of the annual, interdisciplinary COIL Festival; the production of worldwide tours for multiple shows under the PS122 Global moniker; and the conception, fundraising, and management for the recent $35 million renovation of the organization’s longtime East Village home, according to Onassis Foundation USA press release.
At Onassis USA, Gantner will lead all of the Foundation’s cultural activities in the U.S., harnessing its evolution into a formidable contemporary producer and presenter of arts-and-ideas programs that substantially contribute to timely national conversations and effectively inspire social change. He assumes the post on April 1.
“I am incredibly honored to accept the position of Artistic & Executive Director of the Onassis Foundation USA,” Gantner said. “Over the last decade, I’ve seen the Foundation courageously chart new ground in Greece and in the U.S., with the completion of the Onassis Stegi cultural center in Athens and the launch of its revolutionary Onassis AiR residency program, the Onassis Festival 2018: The Birds, A Festival Inspired by Aristophanes, the Speaking Truth to Power series at BAM, and, most of all, the upcoming Onassis Festival 2019: Democracy Is Coming at the Public Theater. In the U.S.—as we examine our notions of democracy, cities, and the ways culture and the arts can effect change—I am thrilled to join the Onassis teams here and in Athens, and to continue that urgent exploration with new work, new ideas, new forms, and new audiences.”
“We are thrilled to welcome Vallejo Gantner to the global Onassis team as the Artistic and Executive Director of Onassis USA. He brings a multitude of innovative ideas and diverse experience in the arts, which will bring a fresh approach to our cultural programming in New York. We look forward to his valuable contribution to our activities,” said Anthony S. Papadimitriou, President of the Onassis Foundation.
Afroditi Panagiotakou, Director of Culture of the Onassis Foundation, said, “We are at the beginning of a new era for Onassis Culture in Athens, New York, and beyond. Vallejo Gantner’s talent, vision, and innate curiosity are perfectly compatible with our strategy for the future. I am excited to see him lead Onassis USA to new heights.”
“The Onassis Foundation’s cultural programs in the United States and Athens are overflowing with ideas, energy and creativity,” said Karen Brooks Hopkins, Onassis USA Senior Advisor. “Having Vallejo join our team as the new Artistic and Executive Director in New York will accelerate the pace of activity and stimulate collaboration with the best artists and arts organizations.”
Gantner helped to organize—as part of a transnational consortium including Emily Johnson (USA), BlakDance (Australia), Ilbijerri Theatre Company (Australia), and Indigenous Performing Arts Alliance (Canada)—First Nations Dialogues Lenapehoking/New York, a series of Indigenous-led performances, discussions, workshops, meetings, and ceremony that took place in venues across New York City in January 2019. Most recently, he has been an artistic adviser to BAM Artistic Director David Binder and a curatorial advisor and dramaturg for Theater der Welt in Dusseldorf. In addition to leading Performance Space 122, he has served as co-producer of Spiegelworld (2006-2008), director of the Dublin Fringe Festival (2002-2004), artistic associate of the Melbourne Festival (2000-2001), and executive producer of three independent feature films.
Gantner begins his tenure at Onassis USA just before the April 10 beginning of Onassis Festival 2019: Democracy Is Coming, which is co-presented by The Public Theater and curated by Mark Russell, Gantner’s predecessor as director of Performance Space 122. The festival celebrates democracy in its ideal form and examines its evolution from Ancient Greece to modern-day America through a wide range of performances and conversations. Highlights include Tim Blake Nelson’s new play Socrates; Choir! Choir! Choir!; Antigone – Lonely Planet, by Lena Kitsopoulou; The Fever, by 600 HIGHWAYMEN; the music duo Xylouris White; Relic , by Euripides Laskaridis; a conversation with Suzan-Lori Parks and Oskar Eustis; a day of discussions of democracy; and more. The Festival continues Onassis USA’s thematic exploration of democracy—perhaps Greece’s most significant cultural contribution—in recent programming including the 2018 revival of The Gospel at Colonus, the Lee Breuer / Bob Telson landmark, at the Delacorte Theater, in collaboration with The Public Theater.
About Onassis USA
Founded in 2000, the Onassis Foundation USA was the first international affiliate of the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation. For over 19 years, it has been dedicated to culture, community, and education, with projects that can effectively inspire social change and justice across borders. By collaborating with Onassis Stegi in Athens and educational and cultural institutions throughout the Americas, Onassis USA presents theatrical and dance productions, art exhibits, conversations, lectures, and other initiatives, triggering discussions about democratic values, human rights, civil rights, and the ever-changing realities facing today’s citizens on a global scale. Onassis Foundation USA runs through two major initiatives, one cultural for the general public through its Onassis Cultural Center New York, and the other educational for scholars and students in partnership with educational institutions through the Onassis Humanities Impact Program.