Efforts of Grace, Inc. Announces Appointment of New Executive Director for Ashé Cultural Arts Center
August 27, 2019--NEW ORLEANS, LA. -- Ashé Cultural Arts Center’s board of directors, Efforts of Grace, Inc., is pleased to announce the appointment of Asali DeVan Ecclesiastes as the new executive director of Ashé. She will take her post on January 1, 2020, succeeding founding executive director Carol Bebelle, who will retire from the organization at the end of December.
After a rigorous search, the board of directors concluded that Ecclesiastes’ leadership and considerable experience in both artistic, community and economic development, along with her strong track record of fundraising success, made her the outstanding candidate for the executive director role. Board President Dr. Beverly Guillory Andry, says, “I am delighted to welcome Asali Ecclesiastes as the new executive director of Ashé Cultural Arts Center. Ms. Ecclesiastes comes to the organization with vast experience and knowledge in the field of culture and arts, as well as an understanding of its transformational power in the community. Her expertise, experience and reputation will be hugely valuable and will build on the sterling achievements of our outgoing executive director. It gives me great pleasure, on behalf of the board of directors, to welcome Ecclesiastes to her new role at Ashé Cultural Arts Center.”
The board has spent the last several months evaluating the internal workings of Ashé, and clarifying the leadership needs for the next phase of the organization’s development. After interviewing and assessing all the leading candidates for the position, it was apparent that not only is Ecclesiastes deeply passionate about Ashé’s work and assets, she also has a clear vision about how to take the organization forward.
Educator, event producer, author, and performer, Ecclesiastes currently serves as director of strategic neighborhood development for the New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA). Prior to joining NOLABA, Ecclesiastes served as Claiborne Corridor program manager for the City of New Orleans’ Network for Economic Opportunity, where she advanced place-based projects and secured funding within six priority areas: economic opportunity, cultural preservation, affordable housing, transportation choice and access, environmental sustainability, and safe & healthy neighborhoods.
Before her short tenure in government, Ecclesiastes worked as Congo Square coordinator for N.O. Jazz & Heritage Festival, artist relations director of authors for Essence Music Festival Empowerment Seminars, and has produced several local neighborhood arts and cultural festivals. Additionally, she has taught in New Orleans public schools, area universities, and prisons. She continues to utilize her spoken-and-written-word as a platform for societal change and social justice. She has served as a national and international consultant and speaker concerning policy and practice for equitable community development and arts and culture.
In 2013 and 2017, respectfully, Ecclesiastes presented a TED talk and was a speaker at the TEDx Women’s Conference. In 2018, she was recognized by the Times Picayune newspaper as one of the 300 most influential citizens in New Orleans in the past 300 years.
Ecclesiastes is a graduate of McMain Magnet High School and Vanderbilt University, where she earned a Bachelor’s of Science in English Literature and Secondary Education, with minors in African Diaspora Studies and Biology.
“Asali’s contributions to the New Orleans Business Alliance over the past 18 months have been critical to the development of one of our four work streams, the Strategic Neighborhood Development Initiative,” said Quentin L. Messer, Jr., president and CEO of the New Orleans Business Alliance. “Asali’s publicly recognized accomplishments leading the Claiborne Corridor Cultural Innovation District and helping to create Ujamaa Community Development Corporation demonstrated her ability to work with and harness the power of the community to reimagine neighborhoods that are commercially viable, yet retain financial accessibility for their historical residents. The wonderful news is that in her new role, Asali will continue to challenge all of us at the Business Alliance to ensure that Culture. Equity. Prosperity. remains a central theme of Economic Development Reimagined. Following a legend is difficult, and Ashé could not have chosen better than Asali. I cannot wait for Ashé’s next, greatest chapter under Asali’s leadership.”
Upon accepting the position, Ecclesiastes offered the following comment:
Zimbabwean author Matshona Dhliwayo proclaims, “To help people takes strength, to inspire people takes wisdom, to rule over them takes virtue, but to elevate them takes love. The real power of a leader is in the number of minds she can reach, hearts she can touch, souls she can move, and lives she can change.”
This describes the legacy being shared by Efforts of Grace, Inc. and Ashé Cultural Arts Center, with the retirement of the inimitable Carol Bebelle. She and Douglas Redd created a place that held space for visioning, power producing, and change making in the African diasporic community. After twenty years of being supported by Ashé as an artist, an arts administrator, and a community development professional, my heart bursts with love for the opportunity to serve this extraordinary institution in the next phase of its evolution.”
The Board invites all partners and the community to welcome Asali DeVan Ecclesiastes in her new role leading the next generation of Ashé Cultural Arts Center.
ABOUT EFFORTS OF GRACE, INC.
Efforts of Grace, Inc., sponsor of Ashé Cultural Arts Center (Ashe CAC), a leading community-based cultural arts organization, was founded to provide an institutional presence in New Orleans, dedicated to the celebration of African and African-derived culture, art, artists and culture bearers as a source of inspiration, education, enrichment and empowerment of the overall community. This North Star aspiration of Ashé CAC is an opportunity to demonstrate a model in which equity and social justice prevail, and where place-keeping is as important as place-making. This strategy and effort of creative place-making combines community, cultural and economic development with art and opportunity to establish an organizational agenda of work and activity with artists, culture bearers and community activists as core practitioners. Ashé CAC’s work has been effective in demonstrating the catalytic potential for cultural and arts organizations animated by artists and culture bearers. Ashé CAC is hailed for its trailblazing vision, pivotal influence and its leading force in the renaissance of the Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard corridor of Central City in New Orleans. As a result, Ashé CAC is a studied model in creative place-making and culture-driven community development.
Under the leadership of its co-founding director and visionary, Carol Bebelle, the organization has made significant strides in pioneering the turnaround of the historic commercial corridor, Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard. The organization has played an important role in the recovery of the city following the 2005 Katrina-related disaster, especially for the cultural community. Ashé CAC is now at a critical stage of transition. Following two decades of impactful work, the organization is poised to welcome a new Executive Director to continue its visionary work, building on the founding directors’ successes.
Beverly Guillory-Andry, (504) 408-9855