Elysa Voshell Named Next Executive Director of MN Center for Book Arts

Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA) announced today that Elysa Voshell will be its next Executive Director. Elysa Voshell will lead a new era of community engagement and sustainability for the internationally-recognized book arts organization. Voshell joins MCBA from Venice Arts, a nonprofit media arts organization in Venice, CA, dedicated to igniting, expanding, and transforming the lives of Los Angeles’ low-income youth through photography and film education. As Venice Arts’ Associate Director, Voshell provided broad leadership and managed day-to-day operations of the organization. She has been with Venice Arts since 2009. Additional career highlights include her role as Associate Editor at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Staff Writer at the Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, and Artist in Residence in Book Arts at the Oregon College of Art and Craft.

KC Foley, MCBA Board Chair, speaking on behalf of the board and search committee, stated, “We are delighted to have attracted someone of Elysa Voshell’s talent and accomplishment. She brings all the key skills that MCBA needs to be successful at this stage in its history. As a graduate of the Arts Innovation & Management program from the DeVos Institute of Arts Management, Elysa not only understands the value of successful education and community programs, but also the importance of strong fiscal management and integrated marketing and development. Her track record of working with diverse communities, broadening funding sources,and building stable financial foundations are exactly what MCBA needs going forward.”

Voshell will assume the directorship of MCBA in late January 2019. She states, “Coming to MCBA feels like a synthesis of my key passions: creating and stewarding accessible nonprofit arts spaces that foster the creativity of others, and my own artistic practice in book arts and letterpress. My passion for the arts and their ability to transform individuals and communities goes beyond my career; it is an essential part of my character. I am humbled to be named MCBA’s new Executive Director, and to have the opportunity to lead this incredible organization into its next phase of development.”

“Elysa has been an extraordinary leader at Venice Arts. She’s a creative and strategic thinker, an excellent designer and communicator, and a caring and thoughtful leader. While I’m sad to see her leave, I can’t think of a better position for her, marrying her nonprofit experience with her artistic practice. MCBA is so lucky to have her and, I am certain, she will be instrumental in MCBA’s future success,” comments Venice Arts’ founder and Executive Director, Lynn Warshafsky.

Voshell notes the similarities between Venice Arts and MCBA as hubs for creative practice, education, and community: “Venice Arts serves as a vibrant center for photographic and film education, creation, and presentation in Los Angeles, much as MCBA does for the fields of letterpress printing and book arts not only in Minneapolis but also around the country and around the world. I’m so impressed with the scope and vitality of MCBA’s programs, and with the creative community that is fostered here. MCBA’s world-class printing facilities not only preserve an incredible array of printing, papermaking, and binding equipment, but also make these beautiful, specialized tools available to community members of all ages. I am looking forward to working with MCBA’s Board, staff, and community stakeholders to grow MCBA’s programs and support, and expand the communities it serves.”

MCBA’s search committee—which consisted of board members Ronnie Brooks, KC Foley, Mary Pat Ladner, Monica Edwards Larson, Diane Merrifield, and Deborah Ultan, as well community representative Cathy Ryan—began the national search in July, ultimately interviewing 10 finalists from around the country for the position. “The search committee was impressed by the depth and breadth of the pool of candidates. But Elysa, with her strong background in arts management and leadership, as well as her commitment to the arts community and the role of book arts in the contemporary art world, stood out as someone with the vision to lead MCBA forward,” commented Cathy Ryan.

For the past year and a half, Amanda Kaler has served as Interim Executive Director, as well as Director of Development. “We were fortunate during this time that our Development Director, Amanda Kaler, was able to fill the Interim Executive Director role, as we clarified our organizational needs and conducted a national search for our next Executive Director,” said Diane Merrifield, past Board Chair. Kaler, who has been with the organization since 2013, will become Director of Development and Operations and will continue to work with Voshell on MCBA’s strategic vision.

A native of the Philadelphia area, Voshell has nearly two decades of experience as an artist, curator, and arts executive, and a deep commitment to fostering creativity and expanding cultural equity, diversity, and inclusion, as well as to the book arts form. As Venice Arts’ Associate Director, Voshell led initiatives that enabled the organization to grow both its visibility and community support, leading public programming, strategic planning, development, and communications. As the organization’s first Gallery & Public Programs Director, launched in 2010, Voshell built this new programmatic initiative from the ground up, forging community partnerships and organizing dozens of exhibitions and over 100 public programs. 

Before joining Venice Arts in 2009, Voshell worked as the Staff Writer at the Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, served as the Exhibitions and Events Board Chair of the Philadelphia Center for the Book, and was an Artist in Residence in Book Arts at the Oregon College of Art & Craft, as well as a Fellow at the Center for Book Arts in New York. She started her career as an Associate Editor at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. 

Voshell holds an MA in Book Arts from Camberwell College of Arts, University of the Arts London, and a BA in English/Creative Writing and MLA in Visual and Curatorial Studies from the University of Pennsylvania. Her masters’ thesis exhibition, Reading in Installments: Book Arts Meets Installation, was selected as the Visiting Curator exhibition by Philadelphia’s Center for Emerging Visual Artists, and Voshell’s work and writing has appeared in Paperback LA, The Blue Notebook, and the Lark Books’ 500 Artists Books series.

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