Tamsin Dillon is named next Executive Director of Socrates Sculpture Park
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Tamsin Dillon is named next Executive Director of Socrates Sculpture Park
Dillon’s career spans more than 25 years curating and commissioning contemporary art projects. Photo: Thierry Bal.

LONG ISLAND CITY, NY.- Socrates Sculpture Park today announced public art proponent, curator, and commissioner of contemporary art, Tamsin Dillon as its next Executive Director. Dillon succeeds Suzy Delvalle, who has served as Interim Executive Director since July 2021, and John Hatfield who served as Executive Director from 2012 until 2021. Dillon begins her tenure at Socrates in mid-February.

In a letter sent to Socrates staff and Board members, Socrates Board Transition Committee Members Michelle Coffey, Robert F. Goldrich, Shaun Leonardo, Ivana Mestrovic, and Brooke Kamin Rapaport praised Dillon, noting her role as a champion of the work of artists and art in neighbourhoods and communities, particularly related to parkland and public space:

“Tamsin is an innovative cultural leader that will take Socrates into the next stage of its evolution. She carries a profound passion for both the necessity of green space in our urban centres and for the expanding role of art and artists in our communities. We thank John, Suzy, and the Socrates staff for their leadership through the pandemic which kept our doors open and programs thriving amidst the most difficult of circumstances. We are confident that Tamsin will inspire our staff, artists, partners, and neighbours to think boldly about how the Park can position itself as a principal model for the intersection of art, the natural environment and social justice."

Dillon’s career spans more than 25 years curating and commissioning contemporary art projects across a range of contexts and settings, from public squares to parks, railways, hospitals, and forests, as well as galleries and other, cultural, and non-cultural, organizations. She has worked with and commissioned more than 200 artists including permanent works by Gillian Wearing in Parliament Square in London, Rachel Whiteread in Yorkshire, UK, Daniel Buren, Jacqueline Poncelet and Mark Wallinger for London Underground and Rasheed Araeen, and Amalia Pica in King’s Cross London.

Dillon’s most recent curatorial work includes Waterfronts, seven new temporary large-scale public artworks for England’s Creative Coast (2021), including new works by Michael Rakowitz, Mariana Castillo Deball, Holly Hendry and Pilar Quinteros. Her partnerships span across organizations within the international arts community including Tate Galleries, Trafalgar Square in London, where she sat on the commissioning group for the Fourth Plinth, and Public Art Fund in New York with whom she co-commissioned a dazzle-ship project with the artist Tauba Auerbach.

“I’m thrilled to be joining Socrates Sculpture Park as its new Executive Director and, as a Long Island City resident, I am honoured to serve the Queens, New York City, and greater cultural communities in this role, especially at such a time where we’re thinking more deeply about the value of our arts institutions as public spaces,” Dillon said. “Socrates has a unique and special history; established by an artist for other artists, for the community, and as a vital natural resource, it has grown to be an institution of both cultural and civic importance. The pandemic showed us how critical places like Socrates are to the artists whose work we commission, our mental and physical health, to the wellbeing of our communities, and to our ability to stay connected to one another. I’m looking forward to collaborating with our incredibly creative and committed staff, Board, artists, and community partners on advancing the way we engage with our art, our natural environment, and with each other.”

Dillon’s appointment follows a yearlong search led by the Socrates Transition Committee with support from Management Consultants for the Arts. The Transition Committee cast a net far and wide in considering candidates for this job. The committee searched for a leader who would be entrepreneurial, could think both locally and globally, who would enthusiastically embrace the complexities required in managing the many relationships of a public, outdoor cultural institution like Socrates. The group also hoped to find a candidate with both the experience and energy to usher Socrates into its next phase.

“Though there are many institutions willing to collaborate with artists and community partners, there are few that have the capacity and expertise to actually see that intention through and to make sure that artists are brought in at the beginning of conversations rather than along the way,” said artist Paul Ramirez Jonas. “For Socrates, this ability may be business as usual, but it as an extraordinary a skill as the projects the Socrates team has been able to produce.”

As Executive Director, Dillon will be responsible for the vision and leadership of Socrates that serves more than 200,000 visitors each year. Located at the intersection of Long Island City and Astoria in Queens, Socrates is one of the few parks that both serves one of the largest multicultural and multi-ethnic populations as well as one of the largest concentrations of public housing residents in the nation. As a public park, Socrates is an essential organization and remains open throughout the year, most recently during the COVID-19 pandemic where it continued to offer a place of reprieve, sanctuary, and connection for New York City residents and visitors.

“With its unique emphasis on art and art making, Socrates Sculpture Park is like no other in our park system. We're confident that the park will continue to nurture and showcase innovative creative talent, serving as an anchor in the Queens community while attracting visitors from around the globe drawn by its transformative power. We welcome Tamsin Dillon and look forward to our continued partnership with Socrates,” said Jonathan Kuhn, NYC Parks Director of Art & Antiquities.

“New York City’s greatest, most engaging parks are right here in Queens, with Socrates Sculpture Park being a shining example of how an accessible, interactive public greenspace should function. I have the utmost confidence in Tamsin Dillon’s ability to lead the serene Socrates Sculpture Park into the future, while centring Western Queens families in her inclusive vision of high-quality programming for all to enjoy,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. “Queens is deeply grateful to Suzy Delvalle and John Hatfield for their invaluable service and deep commitment to the park and to the families of Queens throughout the years, and we wish them nothing but the best going forward.”

In 2021 Socrates produced and presented three major exhibitions with 170 dates of unique programming, from full-day festivals attracting thousands to intimate workshops for small groups. Its recent exhibitions include The 2021 Socrates Annual: Sanctuary that featured the works of ten artists and one collaborative of three artists asked to respond to the idea of sanctuary (on view until March 6, 2022), Planeta Abuelx (2021), a solo presentation of new artworks by artist Guadalupe Maravilla, and MONUMENTS NOW (2020) an expansive exhibition exploring the role of monuments in American society.

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