The Boston Foundation plays a big role in the city's arts scene, so it's worth paying attention when it hires someone new to take over its arts funding program, as it just did. The 36-year-old is Chicago through and through, but she now shifts her attention to Boston to take up her post as TBF’s new arts director. Here’s a bit of background and speculation about Allyson Esposito, who’ll step into this role next month.
It seems that Esposito made her connection to TBF through the City of Boston’s arts chief, Julie Burros, who has been her colleague and just became chief of arts and culture last December. For the last few years, Esposito has worked for the City of Chicago as its director of cultural grantmaking. Interestingly, she also worked as an attorney for over five years at Esposito & Stabus in suburban Burr Ridge, specializing in transactional and complex litigation. She got her JD from DePaul in ’05.
So what made Esposito really stand out to the TBF staff and board?
Well, based on her background and interests, Esposito is a rare combination of artist and philanthropist. She’s worked on both sides of the grantmaking and grant requesting equation and gets the big picture.
“She understands not only the philanthropic and grantmaking requirements, but she’s also an artist who understands what it takes to run a nonprofit organization,” commented Boston Foundation Vice President Travis McCready.
For over a decade now, Esposito has served as the executive director, as well as a dancer and choreographer, at the Space Movement Project. This female-focused nonprofit contemporary dance group has been supported by some familiar names, including MacArthur Funds for Art & Culture at the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, and the Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation. Yep, Esposito helped secure those funds by applying for grants.
She also has nonprofit experience as a program officer from her four-year stint at the Mayer & Morris Kaplan Family Foundation in suburban Highland Park, Illinois. During this time in her career, Esposito focused grantmaking on youth, reproductive rights, and the environment.
Last year, TBF awarded around $2 million in local arts funding, and Esposito will be tasked with making key arts funding decisions going forward. A significant part of TBF’s arts funding is dedicated to arts education, so we’ll see if dance nonprofits get any more attention with Esposito in charge.