In November, Van Ness Main Street won a $200,000 Main Street grant from the Department of Small and Local Business Development. These local funds, allocated in the city’s budget for this purpose by our Council member Mary Cheh, enabled this group to hire an executive director. Our main street now has one.Van Ness Main Street’s board of directors has hired Theresa Cameron to be its first executive director. Following a unanimous board vote, Cameron was offered the position on Wednesday, January 5th, and formally accepted the position that Friday.
Cameron worked previously to help develop and implement programs and services that strengthen the field of 5,000 local arts agencies throughout the U.S., as well as launch the National Cultural District Exchange. Before joining Americans for the Arts, she was CEO of the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County (AHCMC) in Maryland for ten years. There, she oversaw the day-to-day operations of the county’s nonprofit local arts and humanities agency that included a staff of nine and a budget of more than $4 million.
While at AHCMC, she developed Creative Montgomery, a county-wide cultural planning process. Additionally, Cameron has served on many different boards including Arts Action DC, Immediate Past Chair of Maryland Association of Nonprofits Board, Immediate Past Chair of Maryland Citizens for the Arts, and Silver Spring Arts and Entertainment District Advisory Committee. She also served on the Montgomery County Conference and Visitor’s Bureau and the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce.
The Van Ness Main Street board Cameron’s expertise in the arts and cultural development as a great fit for Van Ness, surrounded as it is by embassies, the University of the District of Columbia, the Levine School of Music and Hillwood Museum. These are just a few of the cultural organizations Van Ness Main Street wants to engage as it works to enliven the area not only commercially, but culturally.
Mary Beth Ray, president of Van Ness Main Street, first met Cameron in September. Ray missed the deadline to register for a National Main Street Center webinar Cameron led on cultural districts, but Cameron was willing to meet one-on-one about the possibility of creating such a district at Van Ness. Ray was impressed by Cameron’s ideas from this very first meeting.
“This is one time that procrastination paid off,” Ray said. “Theresa was so excited about the potential of Van Ness. She immediately identified our wealth of arts resources, and in 20 minutes she had outlined an effective strategy for rallying and coordinating our arts resources, and building on that foundation to become a cultural hub.”
“We couldn’t wait to hear more from her. To have Theresa at the helm, Van Ness is sure to become a beacon for the arts, and a more vibrant and dynamic neighborhood in the process,” Ray said.
Cameron became more involved with Van Ness Main Street after that, and even attended an early November workshop given by WAMU for the Van Ness Main Street Board on developing a membership and brand. When VNMS got word of the grant award on November 16th, it put out notices for the position of executive director. Cameron decided to apply, along with 21 other applicants.
Eun Yim, manager of Bread Furst and a board member and co-Chair of the events committee, was actively involved in this hiring decision.
“She made a comment during her last interview about ‘caring for and feeding’ a board that left an impression on me,” Yim said. “This spirit of nurturing with a strong sense of purpose will be a great asset to the community…. Theresa wants to directly engage with and facilitate relationships with all the local businesses in Van Ness and her openness regarding growing a group will be a much needed tool in fostering a sense of defined community in our neighborhood.”
Cameron started the job on Monday, January 11th. We will be seeing a lot of Theresa Cameron in Van Ness, where she will be introducing herself and looking for office space. She is excited to get to know the residents, and business owners at Van Ness and the students and staff at UDC.
“I am very excited about this opportunity and so grateful for the work that the Board has already completed,” Cameron said. “You can’t have a better set of volunteers to work with than the Van Ness Main Street board of directors. I look forward to meeting many of you when I am out and about. Stay tuned for upcoming activities and events that we will be planning for Van Ness Main Street.”
You will also get a chance to hear more about Van Ness Main Street and meet Cameron at the Forest Hills Citizens Association and Neighborhood Alliance annual meeting on Thursday, January 21st, from 7 to 9 p.m. Find more details and RSVP information here – and don’t miss this chance to greet our new executive director!