As Eyenga Bokamba steps into the role of executive director at Intermedia Arts on February 1, she plans to approach the position from the perspective of an artist.
A poet, performer, and visual artist, with a background as an educator, Bokamba plans to work collaboratively with the staff, artists' community, and audience. As an artist, she's not afraid of allowing things to shift and change.
“I get excited about the big picture,” Bokamba says. She’s looking forward to not worrying about having to curtail her own vision, and also to support the vision of the people that make up Intermedia. “Part of justice being served is to actually have leaders of color have opportunities to think the largest possible thoughts and implement those thoughts with the help of the community we are part of. What are we going to dream up next?”
Bokamba is one of several new leaders taking the reigns of a Twin Cities arts institution. Theaters such as the Guthrie, the Jungle, Mu Performing Arts, and Penumbra all have new artistic directors, and last week it was announced that Jamie Grant, formerly of Austin’s Long Center for the Performing Arts, would be taking over Patricia Mitchell’s role as the new CEO of the Ordway.
Her vision for Intermedia is to integrate the programs so they all work together. For example, Intermedia’s arts leadership program might intersect with its artistic programming, its youth educational programming, and the Creative Citymaking program on some kind of civic project. “I’m really curious to see what could emerge if we build more intersectionality,” she says.
Growing up, Bokamba moved around a lot. Her father was a professor and her mother was a librarian, so they were frequently relocating to various U.S. university towns, as well as spending a year in Nigeria. When she first visited Minneapolis, she fell in love with it.
“Somehow I knew I could be myself here,” she says. “I could come out, I could be an artist, this is where all these possibilities were.” She remembers making the decision to attend the University of Minnesota while crossing the bridge heading to the West Bank. She looked to her left at the downtown cityscape and knew it was the city where she wanted to live.
Right out of college, Bokamba started a theater company, United Queer Artists of Color (UQAC), funded by a small grant that was enough to bring a group of artist together for a year to perform at venues around town, including Patrick’s Cabaret, the Walker Art Center (where they were a frequent guests of the Dyke Night series led by Eleanor Savage), and Intermedia Arts.
“That started my relationship with Intermedia,” Bokamba says.