Catherine Nueva España is the new executive director of Velocity Dance Center. Nueva España, a Seattle-based nonprofit consultant, dancer, and teacher, has been chosen to fill the shoes of Tonya Lockyer, who departed Velocity after 16 years with the organization.
Former associate producer Erin Johnson, who has taken on the role of interim artistic director in December, will oversee programming in 2019 as Velocity “explores different options for how to fill the role of artistic director in the future.”
Nueva España will start on February 19th. She comes to Velocity from local nonprofit 501 Commons, where she served as the program manager for arts and development and consulted with arts organizations and nonprofits to streamline and stabilize operations.
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At Velocity, she’ll take the same holistic approach, Nueva España said in a phone call ahead of the announcement. “From fundraising to IT: I’ll take a very practical look at what the necessary steps are,” she said. Among those steps are overseeing a long-planned website update, consolidating a comprehensive diversity, equity and inclusion plan and strengthening fundraising efforts.
In her nearly 20-year career, Nueva España has worked in business operations, development and consulting for nonprofit and for-profit organizations in New York, San Francisco, and Seattle. Since moving to Seattle two years ago, she served as a grants panelist for the Washington State Arts Commission and a board member of Khambatta Dance Company/Seattle International Dance Festival.
Dance has been one of the common threads of her life. She received an MA in Dance Studies from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London and has been dancing since she was six.
“A doctor told my mother I should take dance classes to cure my flat feet,” said Nueva España, “so I took up classical ballet and ended up loving it. Later, I discovered contemporary dance at my public school in New York and also dabbled in ballroom.” She continued her dance education in San Francisco and since moving here, at Velocity. “To be honest, my enthusiasm is better than my ability,” she says about her dance talent. “But that’s what’s great about Velocity: It’s not just professional dancers — it’s for everyone with moving abilities.”
Now at the helm of it rather than merely on its marley floors, Nueva España has big shoes to fill. Since Lockyer took on the role as executive and artistic director in 2011, she is credited with reviving the dance center artistically and financially. Lockyer also brought national visibility to the center and grew ticket sales by nearly 400%, all in a rapidly changing, increasingly expensive neighborhood.
Now, the challenge ahead is to build upon that growth with sustainability and stability. Though Velocity’s blessed with a benevolent landlady, the organization is planning to re-evaluate its current space.
“In the Strategic Plan put together in 2016, there was an intention to figure out whether we could stay, need to move, or expand here, and so on”, said Nueva España. “I would very much like the input of the community to get a sense of what they need from a space, and then figure out whether we fulfill that need.”
A specific point of attention is how Velocity could evolve as a space for artists, perhaps also to live. Options the organization are considering include mixed-use or public-private partnerships à la 12th Avenue Arts or TK Lofts, as well as different funding options that would allow them to stay on Capitol Hill.
Another recent example? Hugo House. The literary nonprofit returned to 11th Ave last year in a new mixed-use development on the site of its longtime Capitol Hill home.
Ideally, Nueva España would like to start the conversation about the space this year.
“Regardless where Velocity is physically, I would like it to be a steady place for the community,” she added. “ Velocity is a dance hub for the community, and I want to preserve that. That’s why I want to bring organizational stability so that we can deal with that external stuff. It should be a creative space that’s a rock in the storm.”