Hey there community,

Ashraf here (on Jessica’s website login, lol). As the subject of this blogpost suggests, big news and big changes are underway at VERA. But before I talk about the future, I want to first take an opportunity to recognize the amazing growth and revitalization the organization has seen over the last couple of years. 

VERA is in such a wonderfully stable and lucid position. We have meaningful financial reserves for the first time; we’ve solidified partnerships with neighbors new and old; our space looks better than ever, with new program equipment and regular maintenance and repairs to the venue; we’ve launched a slew of new programs that meet community needs, such as VERA On Yr Block, Neurodiversity Nights, VERA SAFE, No Place Fest, and Vote with VERA, and are doubling down on our core programs with a refreshed curriculum and renewed focus. We’re even on the precipice of launching a slick new website!

That’s not even close to everything! We accomplished so much, and that’s due to our incredible membership, board, and staff–not to mention our community of loyal volunteers, partners, and dearest supporters. Together, we’ve worked collaboratively, brought everyone’s unique perspectives together, and have created a shared vision that’s felt in every corner of the organization. Big ups to YOU!

And so comes the aforementioned big news. Deep breath!

An amazing career opportunity has presented itself, and I have decided to pursue it. I’m transitioning out of VERA this Fall and stepping into the City of Seattle Office of Arts & Culture (ARTS) as Youth Arts Manager in late November/early December. The work I’ll be doing at ARTS is directly aligned with our work here at VERA, and I’ll have the incredible privilege of continuing the collective impact work Lara Davis started with The Creative Advantage, working on systemic change in arts education with Seattle Public Schools, as well as out-of-school youth arts funding and paid internships for young people looking to apply their creative thinking (via arts education) to creative careers, so they can not only stay in Seattle, but thrive here—all while centering racial equity and youth voice. 

I love VERA and the work we’re doing around radical inclusivity, equity and social justice, “alternative” arts education, experiential learning, building the region’s creative economy, and empowering new leaders. Through this new career opportunity, I will continue to support organizations like VERA, while focusing on justice, equity, and access. I am excited to build new connections across communities in Seattle, support more inclusive conversations around arts education, and take on a broader role in helping our region to recognize the importance of investing in our young people. 

Though my time at VERA was short, know that it is certainly not over. Upon my formal departure as a staff member, I’ll join membership, the 2020 Gala Committee (save the date! Sat Feb 22, 2020 @ Washington Hall, 5-10pm), and help to form the 20th Anniversary Advisory Council with former board members, local big-deal influencers, and fellow True & Sincere Friends. You can’t keep me away!

You’re probably wondering who will step into the role I am leaving behind. Well fear not, dearest community! For the Board and I have a kick-ass transition and succession plan that we have been working on over the last few weeks. 

Our righteous Development & Advocacy Director, Ricky Graboski, will move into the Interim Executive Director role for a period of six months, ensuring that the Board can be deliberate and diligent about considering the extra-special role of ED. Establishing Ricky as Interim ED will also provide considerably less distraction with VERA’s Fall Fund Drive, Live From Our Living Room, and the 2020 Viva Vera Gala, all within the next few months. After the gala, the Board will consider whether or not to conduct an executive search and seek input from True & Sincere Friends as we march toward our 20th anniversary in 2021. 

In a short time, Ricky’s proven to be an effective, accessible, and inclusive leader within our community. He has earned credibility, exceeded all of his goals, and helped bring stability to the organization. He has also grown to be my key thought partner and strategic advisor within the organization, especially around long-term planning, financial health, and mission-driven programming. He grew up in DIY spaces like VERA, and brought the activism spirit from which we were founded back into the space. Ricky has been an Executive Director in his career (ask him about it!) and is familiar with the responsibilities, commitment, and dedication it takes to do the job with integrity.

A transition like this couldn’t have happened at a better time, really. As mentioned at the top of this post, we’re doing really great with a happy and motivated staff, board, and membership to boot. I have tremendous faith in VERA and its future. So let’s celebrate! It’s VERA’s annual Fall Fund Drive, and I hope you can help us ensure we smash our goals and enter 2020 strong. There’s so many ways to support! Give a gift of any amount here before the end of the year, join us for Live From Our Living Room, VERA’s annual holiday benefit show we just announced today, or come see me at any of our Cool Times (fka A Drink For The Kids) events, where I can introduce you to Ricky, with my *official* unofficial send-off party being at Life On Mars on Sunday 11/17 from 4-8pm

Much love,