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New Director Named at Heart of Brooklyn

Heart of Brooklyn


Heart of Brooklyn's Board of Directors announced today that Liz Harris has been selected to serve as the organization's next Director, effective November 2012. In this role, Harris will lead the cultural partnership's community engagement and fundraising efforts, and will oversee the organization's award-winning programming. Harris brings more than three decades of corporate and civic experience to the position, her first in a New York City institution. Sarah A. Shannon, who has served as the organization's Acting Director since March of this year, will remain at the organization as Deputy Director following Harris' appointment.

Founded in 2001 as an alliance between Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn Children's Museum, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Public Library, Prospect Park Alliance and the Wildlife Conservation Society's Prospect Park Zoo, Heart of Brooklyn (HOB) provides a forum for collaboration between its six member institutions. Over the past decade, this unique partnership has produced award-winning programs in education, research, economic development, marketing, and tourism and has been cited as a collaborative model for other cultural districts across the country.

During the partnership's first decade, largely thanks to the efforts of strong local leadership, the borough's small businesses and entrepreneurs, and its visionary cultural institutions, Brooklyn's reputation as a vibrant, creative economy has attracted millions of new visitors to the borough. Heart of Brooklyn has worked to leverage this transformation for the benefit of local residents and businesses through cross-marketing and tourism efforts. In aggregate, the six Heart of Brooklyn institutions now see over 11.5 million annual visits. These cultural institutions have long been an economic engine for the borough, employing over 1,500 staff, engaging over 5,000 volunteers, providing apprenticeship and education for thousands of local children and teens, and attracting significant capital investment for the community. Liz Harris' extensive experience in business, arts management, and strategic planning make her well suited to lead Heart of Brooklyn's next phase as its Director, and help the borough to continue to benefit from increased visitation and attention.

Born in Chicago, Illinois and raised both there and in Pasadena, California, Harris came east to receive an A.B. degree cum laude in social relations from Harvard-Radcliffe College, and an M.B.A. degree from the Harvard School of Business Administration. Harris most recently served as Executive Vice President at Boston's UNC Partners, Inc., which invested venture capital funds with a focus on entrepreneurs of color, and Principal of Harris Associates, a management consulting firm specializing in arts management, strategic planning, economic development and agricultural ventures for organizations such as the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Massachusetts College of Art & Design, NISE! (National Institute for a Sustainable Economy) and others.

Harris' strong management background and expertise in facilitating cross-sector collaborations has well positioned her to guide the partnership as Heart of Brooklyn enters a second decade of service to central Brooklyn and its treasured cultural institutions. Bringing Building Strong Community Networks, a collaborative research effort to more effectively diagnose and serve community needs, to national prominence is another mandate from Heart of Brooklyn's Board, which conducted an eight-month, nationwide search.

"We welcome Liz to Heart of Brooklyn, confident that she will bring her own brand of creativity and business savvy to the organization's efforts," said HOB Board President and Prospect Park Zoo Director Denise McClean. "We are thrilled to have found such a visionary and inventive leader in Liz, and look forward to her contributions to the Heart of Brooklyn, for the certain benefit of the community and the field."

"Brooklyn is the creative and cultural capital of New York City, due in no small part to the outstanding work of the Heart of Brooklyn, which has become a model for cultural partnerships across the nation," stated Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. "Liz Harris has more than thirty years of corporate and nonprofit experience, with expertise in working with diverse cultural partners and institutions—qualities that will serve her well in our diverse borough. On behalf of nearly 2.6 million Brooklynites, I welcome Liz Harris to this new chapter in her life, and there's no doubt she will bring ‘heart and soul' to the Heart of Brooklyn."

"As the Heart of Brooklyn continues to embrace its second decade, we are delighted to welcome Liz Harris, who brings exceptional talents in both the cultural and financial arenas," stated Arnold L. Lehman, Director Brooklyn Museum. "Her extraordinary vision, background, and leadership talents will enable Heart of Brooklyn to build upon the superb work achieved in its first decade of service to our community."

In addition to her corporate experience and consultancy, Harris has also held positions as an entrepreneur and business owner, founding the Liz Harris Gallery in Boston in 1984, which showcased contemporary works by African American artists, earning two "Best of Boston" awards by Boston Magazine. She has served as Juror for the Friends Of Post Office Square and on the Boards of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, among others. Harris also served for ten years as Chair of the Board of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society.

"I am truly delighted to accept the position of the Director of the Heart of Brooklyn cultural partnership," said Harris. "It is an honor to have been selected and I am excited to lead the organization into its second decade. I relish the opportunity to collaborate with such historic and distinct cultural institutions in their ongoing service to the Brooklyn community."

"Since Heart of Brooklyn was founded, we have been delighted to see our partnership grow into an exemplary model of collaboration and outreach to benefit Brooklyn's children and communities," stated Martha Rubin, Founder of the award-winning BCAP program, Brooklyn Botanic Garden Board member and Heart of Brooklyn Trustee. "Liz will be an outstanding leader in our mission to link our partners and to spread our message of the power of partnership."

Since its founding, Heart of Brooklyn has created model programming in youth development, most notably its Brooklyn Cultural Adventures Program (BCAP), which was recognized in 2010 with a National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, an initiative of the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, from First Lady Michelle Obama; collaborative marketing and cultural tourism initiatives (in partnership with Brooklyn Tourism) that have received an Encore Award from the Arts & Business Council of New York; economic development efforts, recognized with a Neighborhood Achievement Award from Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the New York City Department of Small Business Services; and cultural consumer research.

With its new Director in place, Heart of Brooklyn is poised to strengthen its model of cross-institutional collaboration through Building Strong Community Networks and bring new programs and ideas to the borough and the cultural field.

For more information about Heart of Brooklyn, please visit

Heart of Brooklyn (HOB) is a partnership of the leading cultural institutions located near Grand Army Plaza in central Brooklyn. Founded in 2001 by Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn Children's Museum, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Public Library, Prospect Park Alliance, and Prospect Park Zoo, this partnership is dedicated to promoting its unique cultural campus as a "must-see" destination to a diverse audience in Brooklyn and beyond. Heart of Brooklyn encourages tourism and learning by making its world-class collections and historic treasures more visible and accessible. As an integral part of Brooklyn's renaissance, Heart of Brooklyn is committed to strengthening the future of its neighborhoods. Learn more at