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Photo by Joel Benjamin

We are excited to announce that, following an extensive national search, SPARC has selected Evelyn Francis for the newly created role of Director of Programs. The search process was led by Arts Consulting Group and guided by an 8-member search committee comprised of staff, board, and community members. Evelyn will begin her tenure on November 16, 2020.

The Director of Programs position will provide skilled leadership and administration for all aspects of SPARC’s programs, manage the program team, and ensure that all activities are in alignment with the organization’s mission, vision, and goals of the strategic plan. Reporting to Executive Director Ryan Ripperton, this position will guide the development, evaluation, and continuous enhancement of curriculum through data-driven decisions. The Director of Programs will work creatively and collaboratively across the organization and throughout the community to build strong external relationships with individuals and institutions that contribute to the learning experience and success of SPARC’s students.

Evelyn Francis is an innovative theatre artist, award-winning educator, and established arts administrator. In addition to her undergraduate degree from Georgetown College in Kentucky and her graduate degree from Emerson College in Massachusetts, she has certificates in Youth Development and Youth Worker Supervision through the BEST Initiative.

Evelyn’s master’s thesis examined the effects of devised work in the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth. Her work as a theatre educator includes work at the Boston Center of the Arts, North Shore Music Theater, Cambridge Friends School, the Underground Railway Theater, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Wadsworth Athenaeum in Hartford, and the Ellis/Eldridge Memorial Center. As an arts administrator she has worked with City Stage Company, The Children’s Art Centre, Emerson College, and United South End Settlements

Evelyn joined The Theater Offensive in 2001 and rose in leadership to the position of Producing Co-Executive Director beginning in 2018. As a result of her work, True Colors was designated the 2008 Social Innovator for Empowering Youth through the Arts by the Social Innovation Forum. In 2014, the Massachusetts Non-Profit Network honored The Theater Offensive with the Excellence Award for Youth Leadership on the Board. In 2016, True Colors was honored by the Children’s Theatre Foundation of America with the Orlin Corey Medallion Award. In 2016, Evelyn accepted the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities “Youth Program Award” at the White House from First Lady Michelle Obama, on behalf of True Colors.

As a collaborating researcher and author of the Boston Youth Arts Evaluation Project (BYAEP), Evelyn applied research of various national youth arts models and theories in order to develop an innovative logic model and evaluation/assessment tools, which have been utilized and adapted by youth arts programs around the world. Evelyn is experienced in pioneering interdisciplinary research efforts, having served as the lead researcher on projects in collaboration with the Boston Children’s Hospital. The first project studied the effect of LGBTQ-specific youth theater programming as an intervention for low self-esteem and depression in LGBTQ youth. The second project studied the impact of a theater-based HIV workshop on health outcomes which will soon be published by the Johns Hopkins University Press in Progress in Community Health Partnerships: Research, Education, and Action. Both of these projects demonstrate Evelyn’s innovative approach to utilizing youth arts models on a larger scale.

A strong leader, Evelyn leverages her experience to serve others on the national stage. Evelyn is the founding co-chair of the Pride Youth Theater Alliance (PYTA), a network of queer youth theaters across the continent. She has also facilitated workshops and trainings across the country including at the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention, Theatre Communications Group Annual Conference, the Pride Youth Theater Alliance Annual Conference, and the National Task Force Creating Change Conference.

In announcing Evelyn’s selection, Executive Director Ryan Ripperton said, “I am thrilled for Evelyn to join our team. Her expertise and passion for arts education, creative youth development, social justice, and diversity, equity, and inclusion make her an ideal leader as we continue to envision a bright future for our students, our organization, and our community.”

Evelyn added, “This is a pivotal moment in history for our country and for Richmond. I am excited to work with SPARC and the community in this moment of radical transformation. I know the powerful role arts education can play in the liberation of young people, and I can’t wait to get to work.”

Please join us in welcoming Evelyn to the SPARC family! Welcome messages can be left for her at efrancis@sparcrichmond.org, which she will receive upon her arrival on November 16.