Lourdes Lopez has made a life in art, first as a dancer, then cultural arts reporter, instructor and dance company leader.
Now, the Miami City Ballet artistic director will bring that background to a new role: board member of the Ford Foundation.
The New York-based foundation announced Wednesday that Lopez had been elected to its board of trustees, the first artist to serve in that capacity.
“Lourdes brings a dynamism and creative energy that will enrich and advance the work of the foundation,” said Ford Foundation president Darren Walker said in a statement. “She shares a deep commitment to social justice and has continually broken barriers in her own life while working to expand opportunity for everyone.”
Pronouncing herself “a bit stunned,” Lopez said her appointment is a reflection of “the transformational power that the arts have on communities.”
“If you’re really thinking of implementing social change, positive social change, you have to have the arts there,” she said. “It’s critical.”
Born in Havana and raised in Miami, Lopez moved to New York as a child to pursue her dance education and career. She returned to her childhood home to take the job at Miami City Ballet in 2012.
The Ford Foundation, which has distributed more than $16 billion in grants worldwide since it was founded in 1936, describes its mission as strengthening democratic values, reducing poverty and injustice, promoting international cooperation and advancing human achievement.
“In the world of big philanthropic organizations, it doesn’t get more important or powerful than Ford Foundation,” Alberto Ibargüen, president and CEO of the Miami-based John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, said in an email.
He praised the appointment, saying that Lopez will bring a unique perspective to the board.
“It’s also a point of pride for Miami to have someone from our arts community in a position of national impact,” Ibargüen said. “This is an enormous honor, and she has earned it.”
While the ballet company’s dancers were still in rehearsals and hadn’t heard the news Wednesday, Lopez said she has received enthusiastic responses from artist friends who were thrilled that an artist — and especially a dancer — was chosen for the honor.
“It’s great for the artists — not just the ones here, all artists,” Lopez said. “It’s great for Miami that someone from the city is on the board, and certainly a city that’s doing so much in terms of the arts.”