The Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center has been in a transitional phase during the past several months. This week, the Lower East Side arts institution announced new leadership to guide the organization through the next phase of a multi-million dollar renovation.
The new executive director is Anita Romero-Warren, who was most recently director of operations and administration at the Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn. New board members have also joined the Clemente and there’s a new board president. He’s Victor Martinez, a senior manager at the New York City Housing Authority. Martinez was previously board treasurer.
Romero-Warren succeeds Jan Hanvik, who served as executive director for eight years before stepping down this past summer. Together with outgoing board president Manuel Moran, Hanvik helped end a long dispute among many of the Clemente’s 52-resident artists in 2010. They secured $28 million in grants for the restoration of the beautiful but decaying 1897 former school building. The exterior renovation was completed and now the project has shifted to the building’s interior spaces. Among other improvements, an elevator will be installed, making the center ADA-compliant.
The Clemente, dedicated to fostering Latino culture on the Lower East Side, was founded in 1993. In addition to its subsidized artist spaces, there are four theaters and two exhibition spaces. The building is owned by the City of New York. In 2013, the Department of Cultural Affairs granted the institution a 10-year renewable lease to operate the cultural facility.
In a statement, Moran said, the Clemente remains dedicated to providing affordable spaces for artists to create their work. “The center,” he explained, “will continue to play a critical role for dancers, theater artists, musicians and aspiring playwrights.” Romero-Warren said she is, “looking forward to building upon and strengthening the work done by” the previous administration, “to harness and enhance the center’s potential.”