516 ARTS bids farewell to Founder & Executive Director Suzanne Sbarge

It was with honor, sadness, and profound thanks that 516 ARTS bade farewell to Suzanne Sbarge on October 15, 2023. Over the past 17 years, Suzanne founded, built, nurtured, inspired, and led this unique contemporary art museum. Through her unparalleled dedication and vision, Suzanne built partnerships that grew 516 ARTS from an empty shell to a nationally-recognized art institution. The exhibits and programs she organized brought communities together to confront, and be confronted by, today’s issues. She engaged countless artists, art appreciators, and people of all walks of life to ponder and discuss what has and what can be done.

Suzanne founded 516 ARTS in partnership with McCune Charitable Foundation in 2006. Under her leadership, 516 provided opportunities for over 1,500 artists, commissioned an estimated $1 million in new artworks, organized 92 exhibitions, and led major collaborative projects that generated income for our local economy. Suzanne developed the reputation for quality and relevance that brought nationally known foundations including Ford Foundation, Warhol Foundation, Henry Luce Foundation, and Via Fund/Wagner Foundation to resource the annual budget growth from $149,000 to $650,000 per year, and build a staff from two to six trained professionals. Suzanne spearheaded a building expansion and capital campaign to ensure sustainability through diversified income and cultural opportunities, Sawmill Center for the Arts, and co-led with Tom Guralnik of the Outpost Performance Space the effort that raised $9.3 million from government, businesses, and private donors.

Among the accolades handed to Suzanne upon news of her departure were many that applauded her for leaving behind such a strong institution:  “You have been such a strong force of good in New Mexico arts… thank you for the wonderful organization you’ve built and the inclusive creativity you’ve brought to culture in our state; ...”; “…I don’t doubt (it) will flourish because of its history and excellent leadership”; “Anyone who builds an organization that outlasts their personal administration has truly built a legacy, so congratulations!”. Most importantly, Suzanne is leaving behind a broad network of friends, supporters, partners, staff and board members determined to keep this legacy flourishing.

The Board along with our Interim Director April Chalay are committed to a transparent and expeditious transition. A transition team is already underway with a target date of no later than end of February 2024 to appoint a new Executive Director. Click here to view the 516 ARTS succession plan.

Stay in touch with us over the next few months while we pursue the selection of the next Executive Director; please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.