New Harlem Stage CEO hopes to help artists bring their truth to power

Joelle Garguilo Image
Friday, July 5, 2024
New Harlem Stage CEO hopes to help artists bring their truth to power
Joelle Garguilo has the details on the new Harlem Stage CEO.

HARLEM, Manhattan (WABC) -- For the last 40 years, Harlem Stage has been a beacon for showcasing up-and-coming artists of color, providing them with a nurturing space to develop their talents and express their truth.

And now, it's the end of an era for the organization.

The incomparable Pat Cruz has led the non-profit for 25 years. Now she is stepping down and passing the baton to a new leader, who's ready to carry Harlem Stage forward into a new era.

"I've never seen an obstacle," Cruz said. "I've only seen an opportunity."

It's that determination that has motivated Cruz all of her life and for the past two decades, as she served as artistic director and CEO of Harlem Stage, guiding young artists of color, and providing them with the resources, the encouragement, and the safe space to be their creative selves.

"I count myself as more a fan of art than anything else and I'm a fan because that art has been my education," Cruz said. "It's been my ability to understand the world that I live in, and you know I've said to other people that I feel like I've gotten a tuition-free education for almost all my adult life, because of my work with artists."

It was under Cruz's leadership that Harlem Stage gained national and international prominence and landed its current home, the historic Harlem Gatehouse, from where clean drinking water once flowed throughout the city.

Now the woman at the center of this invaluable community resource is stepping back and handing the reigns to another artist-turned-CEO, Dr. Indira Etwaroo.

"My connections to New York City arts and culture started once I finished my doctoral work doing a Fulbright in Ethiopia, working with Somali refugee women," Etwaroo said. "I came back to the United States and I felt like being in an academic setting felt just a little bit too confined and too removed from the community."

"Indira Etwaroo has the passion, and the brilliance, and actually the training to do the job and take it to its' next level," Cruz said. "Because here you have a kindred spirit. The thing that is our kinship is based in a common belief."

The belief that art can spark positive change in the world.

"We have artists who are always speaking truth to power. They do that better than almost anyone, and so we want to make sure that we're connecting them to larger communities and larger audiences," Etwaroo said.

Harlem is home, but the world is their stage.

While Cruz is taking some time to relax and enjoy her family, she will continue to mentor the future stars of tomorrow.

"She has this incredible genius in carving out platforms and safe spaces for artists," Etwaroo said.

"It's been a joy, it's been a blessing for me to do this work," Cruz said.

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