Gregory S. Smith has been appointed to be the next executive director of Creative Alliance. Photo courtesy of Creative Alliance.

Creative Alliance announced on Tuesday that Gregory S. Smith has been appointed to be its next executive director, replacing Gina Caruso.

Selected after the non-profit arts organization launched an extensive search in March 2021, Smith began his new job on Monday. He is the third executive director in the 26-year history of the Creative Alliance, after Caruso and founder Margaret Footner.

According to the organization, Smith brings more than 20 years of experience in arts non-profit and business management, including executive operations, fundraising, staff management, long-range planning, arts education and programming, and community building.

Smith was most recently at Minnesota Public Radio and the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, where he was accountable for revenue goals and guest experiences. He also produced a monthly community conversations series, In Focus, which centered on issues affecting black and indigenous communities.

“Smith started his career as an actor, director and choreographer, and will be bringing these experiences and his passion for the performing arts to the Creative Alliance as we continue to support diverse arts programming in Baltimore,” the Creative Alliance said in announcing his selection. “Smith’s career has been committed to making arts and cultural programming accessible to all people through a mission-based lens of collaboration and strong fiscal management.”

“Gregory arrives at such a thrilling time in the Creative Alliance’s history,” said Doreen Bolger, outgoing board president and member of the search committee, in a statement. “For twenty-six years, the Creative Alliance has celebrated the transformative power of the arts and community in Baltimore. Gregory brings experience in leadership, fundraising, support of the broad spectrum of the arts, and engagement with the communities he has worked and lived in.”

Bolger called Smith a “positive and collaborative” leader.

“The board and I are confident that Gregory’s warmth, collegial and collaborative style, and passion for making the arts accessible for all people will endear him to staff, artists, communities, volunteers, board, and donors,” she said.

Founded by volunteers in 1995 as the Fells Point Creative Alliance, the organization operated for several years out of a Fells Point row house as a hybrid of gallery, performance space, and artist guild.

Since 2003, it has been based in the Patterson Theatre at 3134 Eastern Ave. The theater is now a multi-purpose arts center that includes two galleries for contemporary art, a 200-seat flexible theater, a classroom, media lab, and eight resident artist studios.

Last summer, the Creative Alliance began construction of a $6 million expansion called the Creativity Center, scheduled to open this fall at 3137 Eastern Ave., the site of the old La Raza Cantina bar across the street from the Patterson. The new facility will provide more room for community arts programming and education, including classrooms, a teaching kitchen and a dance studio.

As it enters its 27th year, leaders say, Creative Alliance has weathered the COVID-19 pandemic and emerged as a “financially and artistically thriving organization” through the innovation and creativity of its staff and board. One of Smith’s first acts, they say, will be to meet with community members who make up the Creative Alliance’s audience and constituency.

“I am delighted to join such an amazing organization and be part of Baltimore,” Smith said in a statement.

“The Creative Alliance has such a rich history, and I am joining at a time where the reach of the Creative Alliance is expanding. The organization’s mission, to be a catalyst for building stronger communities through the arts and with artists from diverse backgrounds, will expand with the new Creativity Center. The Creativity Center is a testament to the Creative Alliance’s commitment to the arts and the communities of Baltimore.”

“The future is bright for the Creative Alliance, and we are thrilled to welcome our new Executive Director,” said incoming board president Sophia Silbergeld. “He joins a talented, energetic, and visionary staff and will be supported by a strong and supportive Board of Trustees.”

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Ed Gunts

Ed Gunts is a local freelance writer and the former architecture critic for The Baltimore Sun.