Volume 16 • Issue 53 | May 28 - June 3, 2004

Healy named new leader of Downtown cultural group

By David H. Ellis

Downtown Express photo by Elisabeth Robert

Tom Healy, who will become the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s executive director July 1, attended L.M.C.C.’s fundraiser May 26.

Local arts mogul Tom Healy, whose career has included fostering the growth of the Chelsea art district, publishing essays and poetry in numerous publications and serving on the White House AIDS Advisory Council, was named as the new executive director of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council at the organization’s spring benefit Wednesday night.

Healy, who has established himself in all aspects of performing, literary and visual arts, replaces Liz Thompson, who left L.M.C.C. a few months ago. He will start July 1 and acting executive director Tricia Mire will become managing director.

“Tom brings a passion for contemporary art and community, as well as a solid background as an entrepreneur and strategic planner to L.M.C.C.,” Cherrie Nanninga, L.M.C.C.’s board chairperson, said in a prepared statement. “He enters as the organization is alive with activity and purpose, with an outstanding history of serving artists and the community.” 

Healy, 42, received his bachelors degree from Harvard and a masters in fine arts degree from Columbia, where he most recently worked as a consultant on literary, visual and performing arts projects. His resume has included such achievements and accolades as owning an arts management consulting company that worked with the Metropolitan Museum, PBS, and the Institute of Contemporary Art in London. His contemporary art gallery, which he opened in 1994 in Chelsea and has since sold, showcased emerging international and American artists such as Tom Sachs and Venice Biennale winner Janet Cardiff. Healy currently holds numerous board positions in such organizations as the List Center for Arts and Politics and PEN America and for the past five years he has been the chairperson of Creative Time, a cultural organization which commissions public artwork.

“I am thrilled to take this job,” Healy said in a telephone interview. “I think it’s a great opportunity for me and I think it’s going to be a challenge.”

Healy will oversee all programs that the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council offers, such as funding local artists and cultural organizations across Manhattan, numerous arts performances such as the River to River music festival and such projects as the artist residency program in the Woolworth Building. Before 9/11, the program was run in the World Trade Center and an L.M.C.C. artist was killed in the attack.

Even though he won’t fill the director’s position for another month, Healy is already attempting to bring some of his ideas to fruition. He has spoken with the literary organization PEN America about starting a literary festival and has hopes for creating events that would showcase artists in theater and sculpture. More than anything, Healy’s goals point to his desire to keep the arts Downtown as construction begins on the World Trade Center site and to maintain affordable spaces for artists as real estate prices continue to climb. For him, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council will have to play an important role in keeping the arts entrenched downtown as the physical and cultural landscape begins to change.

“It‘s a question of what’s L.M.C.C.’s role and how can we be effective politically and financially,” said Healy. “Billions of dollars will be spent Downtown and we want to be sure that the arts are on the table for all those conversations. The challenge is to make ourselves smart and relevant — how do we make more opportunity for the arts?”

“The challenge is also making sure the artists and arts organizations can survive in the real estate market and finding a way the cultural fabric of Downtown doesn’t lose the artists that are there or maybe create incentives for them to live and work in spaces in Downtown,” continued Healy. “Time is not on our side in some of those issues. We want to be able to do what we can during the next decade so artists don’t get priced out.”

Healy, a resident of Greenwich Village, lives with his partner Fred Hochberg, who was recently appointed as the dean of New School University’s Robert J. Milano Graduate School of Management and Urban Policy. Hochberg was acting director of the Small Business Administration under President Clinton and is one of the top gay political fundraisers in New York City.

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