The Onassis Foundation USA has appointed Vallejo Gantner as its new Artistic and Executive Director. Gantner led the internationally influential New York City cultural institution Performance Space 122 (now Performance Space New York) from 2005 to 2017 and was responsible for all programming and strategic direction, including the creation of the annual, interdisciplinary COIL Festival; the production of worldwide tours for multiple shows under the PS122 Global moniker; and the conception, fundraising, and management for the recent $35 million renovation of the organization’s longtime East Village home. At Onassis USA, Gantner will lead all of the Foundation’s cultural activities in the U.S., harnessing its evolution into a formidable contemporary producer and presenter of arts-and-ideas programs that substantially contribute to timely national conversations and effectively inspire social change. He assumes the post on April 1.
“I am incredibly honored to accept the position of Artistic & Executive Director of the Onassis Foundation USA,” Gantner said. “Over the last decade, I’ve seen the Foundation courageously chart new ground in Greece and in the U.S., with the completion of the Onassis Stegi cultural center in Athens and the launch of its revolutionary Onassis AiR residency program, the Onassis Festival 2018: The Birds, A Festival Inspired by Aristophanes, the Speaking Truth to Power series at BAM, and, most of all, the upcoming Onassis Festival 2019: Democracy Is Coming at the Public Theater. In the U.S.—as we examine our notions of democracy, cities, and the ways culture and the arts can effect change—I am thrilled to join the Onassis teams here and in Athens, and to continue that urgent exploration with new work, new ideas, new forms, and new audiences.”
Gantner helped to organize—as part of a transnational consortium including Emily Johnson (USA), BlakDance (Australia), Ilbijerri Theatre Company (Australia), and Indigenous Performing Arts Alliance (Canada)—First Nations Dialogues Lenapehoking/New York, a series of Indigenous-led performances, discussions, workshops, meetings, and ceremony that took place in venues across New York City in January 2019. Most recently, he has been an artistic adviser to BAM Artistic Director David Binder and a curatorial advisor and dramaturg for Theater der Welt in Dusseldorf. In addition to leading Performance Space 122, he has served as co-producer of Spiegelworld (2006-2008), director of the Dublin Fringe Festival (2002-2004), artistic associate of the Melbourne Festival (2000-2001), and executive producer of three independent feature films.
Gantner begins his tenure at Onassis USA just before the April 10 beginning of Onassis Festival 2019: Democracy Is Coming, which is co-presented by The Public Theater and curated by Mark Russell, Gantner’s predecessor as director of Performance Space 122. The festival celebrates democracy in its ideal form and examines its evolution from Ancient Greece to modern-day America through a wide range of performances and conversations. Highlights include Tim Blake Nelson’s new play Socrates; Choir! Choir! Choir!; Antigone – Lonely Planet, by Lena Kitsopoulou; The Fever, by600 HIGHWAYMEN; the music duo Xylouris White; Relic, by Euripides Laskaridis; a conversation with Suzan-Lori Parks and Oskar Eustis; a day of discussions of democracy; and more. The Festival continues Onassis USA’s thematic exploration of democracy—perhaps Greece’s most significant cultural contribution—in recent programming including the 2018 revival of The Gospel at Colonus, the Lee Breuer / Bob Telson landmark, at the Delacorte Theater, in collaboration with The Public Theater.