Ink People Center for the Arts press release:
Ink People Center for the Arts is excited to announce Leslie Castellano as its new Executive Director. Castellano will succeed Libby Maynard, who is retiring this December after 42 years leading the organization.
Leslie Castellano’s name will be familiar to members of the arts community through her work as an educator, artist, business owner, organizer, volunteer, and Eureka city councilmember. Trained as a dancer, she serves as executive and artistic director of the performance group Synapsis Collective. As an arts administrator, she worked with collaborators to organize the inaugural outdoor land art exhibition Outer Roominations during the pandemic. She works as an instructor at Trajectory, a career development program in Eureka for visual, performing, and literary artists and fine artisans with disabilities. As a current member of the Eureka City Council, representing Ward 1, she advocates for the arts and culture as instruments of community wellbeing and civic engagement.
Castellano’s involvement with and support of Ink People projects is longstanding. Prior to accepting a position as Executive Director she served on the Ink People Board of Directors for fifteen years, holding positions as secretary, vice president and, most recently, past president. As director of Synapsis Collective and a longtime employee of Trajectory, she has worked directly with two DreamMaker projects and is familiar with the scope and complexity of the DreamMaker program, with its over 100 separate independently directed, community-initiated ventures.
In her role as executive director of Synapsis, Castellano taught dance and acrobatics to children, youth, and adults, in addition to writing grants that made it possible to fund free community-based art programs, an accessible dance program, a street festival, and a community mapping project. She was responsible for maintaining these projects’ budgets, supervising employees and volunteers, and designing strategies for successful program delivery.
Castellano spent three months performing as a dancer with Carpetbag Brigade Physical Theater in Monterrey, Mexico at the United Nations World Cultural Forum. She also danced in Karl Frost’s “Great Bear Wilderness Project,” which had performers spending several months filming in the Canadian wilderness in order to bring awareness to places that would be impacted by oil spills and pipelines. Through feralferal, her ongoing collaboration with Kevin Dockery, she creates original dance pieces that explore concepts including otherness, society, and the wild.
She ran successfully for Eureka City Council in 2018 with a slogan of “Together We Thrive,” listing a robust and ecologically sound economy, housing, youth programs, and neighborhood safety as key priorities. “Caring for people and building community has been at the core of all my work,” she said at the time. “I am familiar with the energy, commitment, and organization it takes to develop projects that include feedback and input from a wide range of perspectives. In addition, I have years of experience creating diverse partnerships between organizations and citizens.”
“After a competitive recruitment process, we are very excited about the selection of Leslie Castellano and are assured by her creative vision to develop the organization’s legacy,” board member Robert Sataua said. “Leslie has already contributed so much to The Ink People as a culture worker, community organizer and artist. We are impressed with her ability to merge her talents across a myriad of projects, and grateful she has decided to focus her energy with us. In this era of immense change, we are confident she can build on our strengths to reimagine how we champion culture and art.”
Maynard, who co-founded the Ink People in Eureka in 1979, expressed confidence that Castellano is the right person to take the organization into the future. “Following a well thought out and fair process, the Ink People Board of Directors has chosen Leslie Castellano to succeed me as Executive Director, and I couldn’t be happier,” she said. “Leslie has a great vision for the future, is thoughtful and kind, and has new ideas to lead the Ink People into the next 40+ years.”
“Now that I am Executive Director,” Castellano said, “my hope and my excitement is to bring my passion for people and for cultures to the Ink People, building on its strong foundations to take the organization forward into the future.”
As Executive Director, Castellano will work closely with staff and board members to ensure that the organization can continue adapting to serve people of this region by weaving the arts into the fabric of our community. A California native, she grew up in the Florida panhandle and has lived in Humboldt County since 1998. She studied anthropology and sociology at New College in Florida and studied dance and postmodern performance through intensive work with Sara Shelton Mann, Karl Frost, Keith Hennessy, Diego Piñon, and others. She lives with her husband Derek Shaw, two cats, and a dog above the stage of the new Synapsis performance space in Eureka.
About Ink People Center for the Arts
The Ink People Center for the Arts seeks to encourage people to exercise their humanity, build civic discourse, and engage their creative potential. Since our founding in Eureka in 1979, our vision has been weaving the arts into the fabric of our community. Through our DreamMaker Program, we provide administrative and logistic support to more than 100 independently directed, community-initiated arts and culture projects. Our other core projects include facilitating public art, promoting community artists and culture bearers, creating arts programming for youth and the differently abled, and partnering with municipal, state and tribal authorities to promote the arts.