Deborah Cullinan joined Yerba Buena Center for the Arts as CEO in September 2013. With her stewardship, YBCA has sharpened its mission and vision; regrounding the organization in its origins as a citizen institution and San Francisco’s premiere art center built by the community, for the community.
In addition to presenting YBCA’s groundbreaking visual art, performance, and film programs, Deborah has fostered what she calls “a culture of invitation.” From asking San Francisco residents to shape the future of Market Street, to bringing together creative thinkers of all kinds to inspire change, Cullinan has set out to prove that an art center can create the culture that’s needed in order to achieve a more hopeful and equitable future.
Armed with a contemporary definition of artistic practice, she has established successful partnerships and collaborations with organizations such as the Institute for the Future, Art Practical, ImpactHUB, Future Cities Lab, Kadist Art Foundation, Autodesk, and the San Francisco Planning Department. She says, “There is no better place to gather and organize the diverse mix of people needed to respond to the key questions of our time.”
Prior to joining YBCA, Deborah served as the Executive Director of San Francisco’s Intersection for the Arts. During her 17-year tenure, Intersection became a powerful arts-focused community development organization. While there, Cullinan played a leading role pioneering the 5M Project, a four-acre prototype for creative urban development in San Francisco’s SOMA district.
Deborah’s passion for connecting art and civic impact has made her a sought after speaker and contributor to both U.S. and international organizations, including the New Cities Foundation, Americans for the Arts, the City Innovate Foundation, the University of Chicago Arts Incubator, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
She is a co-founder of ArtsForum SF, and a member of the Board of California Arts Advocates, Californians for the Arts, MissionHub, and the Community Arts Stabilization Trust. She is on the Advisory Board of the Catalyst Initiative, Grey Area Foundation for the Arts, Howlround, the San Francisco Arts Education Project, and the Community Visions Project/Americans for the Arts. She is co-chair of the San Francisco Arts Alliance and is a Rockwood Fellow, a Gerbode Fellow, and alumni of the National Arts Strategies’ Chief Executive Program.
Deborah Cullinan spoke at MuseumNext Rotterdam in 2017.