After a year without a permanent leader, the National YoungArts Foundation, one of Miami’s leading arts institutions, has found a new CEO. Carolina García Jayaram, a Cuban-American with Miami roots who has been a leader at several national organizations, will take over as YoungArt’s new president and CEO on June 20.
“My whole career has been devoted to empowering artists,” says Jayaram, who currently heads Chicago-based United States Artists, which gives annual fellowships to 50 U.S.-based artists. Previously, she was executive director of the Chicago Artists Coalition.
A poet, Jayaram began her career as director of literary programs at the PEN American Center in New York. She graduated from the University of Miami School of Law in 2004, and while there founded Miami visual arts organization Cannonball (formerly Legal Art.) Her parents came to the U.S. from Cuba in 1959, and while Jayaram was raised in Orlando, she has extended family and close ties in Miami.
“I’m eager to move back,” she says. “It feels right.”
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YoungArts chairman Richard Kohan said Jayaram, who was selected from about two dozen leading national candidates, has an ideal combination of qualities.
“She’s the wish list,” Kohan said. “She’s intelligent, articulate, thoughtful, has experience and a nuanced understanding of what YoungArts is and wants to be.”
The appointment of Jayaram, who takes over from interim CEO Michael Kaiser, a nationally known arts consultant, represents the latest move in a broader leadership shift at YoungArts. Lin Arison, the philanthropist who co-founded the group with late husband and Carnival Cruise Lines chairman Ted Arison, has largely ceded her active role to her granddaughter Sarah Arison, president of the Arison Arts Foundation. Jayaram’s predecessor Paul Lehr, who shepherded the group to its current home at the Bacardi Campus in downtown Miami, left a year ago in what Kohan and Lehr both say was an amicable parting.
“There was a difference in philosophy on how best to grow YoungArts moving forward,” Lehr says. “I look forward to their continued success. It’s a fantastic program.”
At its new campus, YoungArts has expanded from its core program of intensive week-long residencies for teenage artists in multiple disciplines in Miami, New York and Los Angeles, to present outdoor performances, discussions, workshops and exhibits.
Jayaram plans to further expand YoungArts. Her first goal, she said, is to create new programs for the 35-year-old group’s thousands of alumni. She also wants to build its relationship with Miami and take a national role on issues such as the growing exclusivity in arts education resulting from shrinking public school arts programs and high college tuition.
“With the campus, there is such an opportunity to engage students and the Miami community,” Jayaram said. “I’m excited about how we can be a bigger part of the community beyond YoungArts Week. There’s also a larger national conversation about this pipeline in the art world, with arts schools being so expensive and who that is leaving out, and I think YoungArts is well positioned to ... affect that conversation in an important way.”
Jayaram is well-equipped to lead that conversation, says Miami-raised Daniel Arsham, a YoungArts alumni, teacher and internationally known visual and interdisciplinary artist. He is on the board of trustees of Cannonball with Jayaram, whom he has known since 2001.
“She really paid attention and understood what artists were thinking and needing,” says Arsham. “She surrounded herself with people who were very diverse ... she has a unique ability to talk across different types of groups and allow them to understand each other. [YoungArts] takes someone who can understand not just the administrative side but what artists need. She’s certainly someone who understands that.”