(c) Isaiah Watkins 2019
Five years into her tenure as The Studio Museum in Harlem’s visionary director of public programs and community engagement, Nico Wheadon is headed to NXTHVN to serve as inaugural executive director of the budding arts incubator. Wheadon begins her new post June 1.
“It’s an honor to join president Titus Kaphar, and fellow founders Jason Price, Jonathan Brand, and Carrie Mackin—alongside the supremely inspired board of directors—to help build upon NXTHVN’s bold vision for nurturing and sustaining creative community in New Haven. From its tiered mentorship program that bridges practitioners across generations and disciplines, to its purposefully designed facility that supports goals of social inclusion and collaboration, NXTHVN is poised to radically transform how art, community and education intersect.”
Wheadon first joined the Studio Museum in 2007 as curatorial assistant, and returned in 2014 in her role as director of public programs and community engagement. She is credited with building the new department, and is perhaps best known for the pioneering artist projects, community engagement initiatives, and strategic partnerships she has nurtured through the museum’s inHarlem initiative. With cultural partners ranging from government bodies such as the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and the New York Public Library System, to arts and culture organizations including Maysles Documentary Center, WNYC’s The Greene Space, The Schomburg Center for Research on Black Culture and The Park Avenue Armory, Wheadon’s practice is deeply rooted in collaboration and experimentation.
Many are excited to welcome Wheadon to New Haven, including the city’s Mayor Toni Harp: “New Haven will be well-served with an innovator of Nico Wheadon’s stature now overseeing the day-to-day-operations of NXTHVN,” said Mayor Toni N. Harp. “As I’ve seen first-hand, Titus and his co-founders have not only given new life to a building with a connection to New Haven’s creative, albeit industrial past, they’ve now created an enterprise to help shape the city’s future by inspiring young people, nurturing their careers, and invigorating the entire city’s blossoming arts community.”
In discussing the opportunity to work collaboratively with Dixwell residents and the Greater New Haven community, Wheadon has said, “As a newcomer, I know I have much to learn and am eager to meet the local artists, students, entrepreneurs, scholars, and innovators that have invested in New Haven and are proud to call it home. I look forward to plunging roots in this historically Black, creative community. In the ways Harlem has transformed me over the years, I’m already inspired by Dixwell’s palpable, ancestral energy and the amazing work local cultural organizations are doing to carry this legacy forward.”
A proud Harlem resident and founder of the museum’s Community Advisory Network, Wheadon carries with her a deep appreciation for the many individuals and institutions that undergird creative community. Of her tenure at the Museum, she has noted, “I am indebted to my mentor and supervisor Thelma Golden and to the family I have found in my colleagues at the Studio Museum, particularly my brilliant team and the partners with whom we’ve had the privilege of collaborating. Your steady support has served as the bedrock upon which I’ve been able to grow, both personally and professionally. Without Harlem as my home and the Studio Museum as my anchor—which is where Titus and I first met back in 2007, him as a resident artist and me as an intern—I would quite literally not be here today. For me, NXTHVN is an extension of the relationships, values and practices I discovered in Harlem.”
NXTHVN is an ambitious art space housed in a former manufacturing plant in the Dixwell neighborhood of New Haven, Connecticut. Immersed in the area’s rich intersection of art, academia and history, NXTHVN’s multifaceted Program and facility fosters an atmosphere of collaboration, inclusion and social engagement. It is this unique combination of curatorial, educational, and programmatic practices that first drew Wheadon to the opportunity. In addition to her museum work, Wheadon is also an educator and writer concerned with how scholarship and pedagogy support cultural innovation and sustainability. She is a regular contributor to The Brooklyn Rail, C& and Artnet, and is currently working on her first manuscript with Rowman & Littlefield. She is also an adjunct professor at Barnard College and Hartford Art School, teaching Freestyle and Displacement in Contemporary Art Practices and Public Art Professional Practices respectively. Wheadon holds an MA in Creative & Cultural Entrepreneurship from Goldsmith's College, University of London, and a BA in Art-Semiotics from Brown University.
While NXTHVN is thrilled to welcome Wheadon to New Haven this summer, the Studio Museum is definitely sad to see her go. Of her departure, the museum’s director and chief curator, Thelma Golden, has said, “For the last five years, Nico has led the Museum’s Public Programs with an unmatched creativity and vibrancy. Her thoughtful and ambitious approach to engaging the community has made for countless memorable programs throughout her tenure. We are deeply grateful for Nico’s contributions to the Museum in the last five years, which will continue to shape our programmatic efforts well into the Museum’s future. And I look forward to the incredible work Nico will continue to do, at NXTHVN and beyond.”