Lisa Willis Appointed Interim Executive Director

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Board of Directors of Cave Canem Foundation, Inc., North America’s premier home for Black poetry, is pleased to announce that Lisa Willis has been appointed the organization’s Interim Executive Director. She succeeds Ann Marie Lonsdale, whose last day was May 23rd, and will serve as the organization’s Interim Executive Director until a permanent Executive Director is appointed.

Willis is a passionate artistic administrator with 20 years of extensive experience managing multi-disciplinary projects in the non-profit and commercial arts sectors. She joined Cave Canem in September 2020 as development manager and has held various consulting and management roles in development, programming, and operations for New York Live Arts, home of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, Contemporaneous, Thresh, Heidi Latsky Dance, Brian Sanders’ JUNK, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, the Mann and, JazzReach. In 2020 she co-founded The LynList, a curated listserv and grant writing support service for individual artists and small non-profit arts groups. Prior to her shift into fundraising she was the founding operations manager for CAMI Music, establishing and managing its daily administrative protocols in addition to overseeing the touring and managerial logistics for Lang Lang, Tan Dun, Savion Glover, American Ballet Theatre, Cirque Eloize, and the Ballet Folklórico de México de Amalia Hernández. 

The Board of Directors states: “We are excited to welcome Lisa Willis to the position of Interim Executive Director for Cave Canem. Her experience and leadership will build on the strong foundation paved by her predecessors and support the organization during this time of transition and growth. As Interim Executive Director, Lisa will guide our team of talented staff and continue the necessary work of executive management during our 25th anniversary year. She will continue to aid in growing the overall budget, as she has already been pivotal in developing Cave Canem’s  increased financial stability.”

Reflecting on the work ahead, Willis said: “It is an honor to be selected and trusted to carry out the role of Interim Executive Director for Cave Canem at this pivotal moment. I look forward to carrying out this position with enthusiasm and optimism, elated to be here in service of our mission. I remain committed to making a significant contribution towards securing North America’s premier home for the many voices of Black poetry.”

Founded by Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady in 1996 to remedy the under-representation and isolation of African American poets in the literary landscape, Cave Canem is a home for the many voices of Black poetry and is committed to cultivating the artistic and professional growth of Black poets. It has grown from a gathering of 26 writers to an influential movement with a renowned faculty and an international fellowship of over 500. Cave Canem’s programs and publications enlarge the American literary canon; democratize archives; and expand for students, poets, and readers the notion of what’s possible and valuable in poetry. Its programs include an annual retreat, community workshops, lectures, and reading and panel series. Its three book prizes, delivered in collaboration with five prestigious presses, have launched the careers of several poets, including former U.S. Poets Laureate Natasha Trethewey and Tracey K. Smith.