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Philadelphia Cultural Fund announces Gabriela Sanchez as its new executive director

As the organization pushes for the recognition of the importance of art in society, it brings in new leadership with experience in the subject.

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In a press release, the Board of Directors of The Philadelphia Cultural Fund (PCF) have announced Gabriela Serena Sanchez — a previous honoree of AL DIA’s 40 Under 40 — as their new executive director, effective April 3, 2023.

The PCF is an independent nonprofit focused around the communities of Philadelphia, working to make grants for Philadelphia-based arts and culture organizations and has awarded over $60 million in grants.

Sanchez will provide leadership and seek to fulfill the PCF's mission to support and enhance the cultural vitality of Philadelphia through the promotion of arts and culture as a means to social cohesion, economic development, and for the public's health and wellbeing.

Born in Philadelphia, Sanchez graduated from the High School for Creative and Performing Arts and earned her Bachelor of Arts in Theater from Temple University. Her work as a coalition builder in communities has made her the leader of multiple rallies for raising awareness about art.

For more than a decade, Sanchez has worked with influential arts and culture organizations, including Conflict Resolution Theatre, Taller Puertorriqueno, Norris Square Neighborhood Project, and Philadelphia Young Playwrights being among the dozens she has worked with.

In her efforts to advocate for the arts, Sanchez acted as one of the primary organizers of the 2020 and 2021 Digital Rally for Philadelphia Arts and Culture, which sought to raise awareness of the arts during the pandemic, when many in-person art avenues had been closed.

During this period of absent engagement, the arts sector was defunded in the 2020 city budget. In response, the 2021 Rally hosted over 50 multicultural and intergenerational artists who provided workshops, original songs, interviews, short films, and calls for accountability, among other things, spread out in 12 hour segments of programming over two days, with over 12,000 views.

In addition, Sanchez is the Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director of Power Street Theatre, a multicultural, women of color led theater collective presenting new plays, theater education, and community story circles in the heart of el barrio, as well as other Philadelphia neighborhoods.

As she embraces her new position with PCF, Sanchez will maintain in both roles with Power Street Theatre, while transitioning out of the role of managing director.

“I am excited to join PCF given its important role in supporting Philadelphia’s cultural sector. Seven years ago, PCF was the first grant I received funding for as a rising arts leader. PCF opened up a door of possibilities for me and Power Street Theatre and gave us a chance to learn about grant funding, building a bridge that connected us with other funders,” Sanchez said in a press release.

“For over a decade, I have worked for multiple arts and culture organizations that continue to make an influential impact on the city of Philadelphia’s arts and culture sector with the support of the PCF. I remember going to City Hall to pick up our award checks and the pride I felt in seeing so much diversity in the room - the energy was always vibrant. I stand in deep gratitude for PCF’s commitment to and investment in artists, cultural leaders, and Philadelphians,” she continued.

Beyond her AL DIA 40 Under 40 award, Sanchez’s work has earned her much acclaim and accreditation over the years.

Last year, Sanchez was awarded the Leeway 2022 Transformation Award for her long term commitment of working for social change. In 2020, she received a Citation from the Council of the City of Philadelphia for her dedication and work in theatrical production. 

Other awards include the 2021 NEXUS Initiative Artist Grant, the 2020 Map Fund Artist Grant, the 2020 Phenomenal Women's Award, the 2016 and 2018 Leeway Art and Change Grant, the 2017 GALAEI David Acosta Revolutionary Award, and the 2018 Knight Foundation Emerging City Champions Fellowship.

She has been keynote speaker with Quiara Alegria Hudes at the 2018 Association for Theatre in Higher Education Conference and plenary speaker for the 2019 Theatre Communications Group National Conference.

“Gabriela’s dedication to social equity and advocacy for the arts is an excellent fit for PCF,” said PCF’s Board chair Magda Martinez. “As artists and cultural organizations continue to navigate an uncertain funding environment and changes in audience engagement driven by the pandemic, her experience working collectively and collaboratively with diverse communities will generate new ideas for how to best support the arts so that they can, in turn, strengthen the city and its residents.”

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