Arts Shake Up: Longtime Executive Director Leaves Southern Exposure

(Photo: Southern Exposure)

The San Francisco-based visual arts organization Southern Exposure announced on Tuesday that its Executive Director Courtney Fink will step down after 13 years.

Fink’s exit marks the fourth such departure from a Bay Area visual arts nonprofit this year, a trend she says is merely part of a natural progression rather than an indication that local support for the arts is dwindling.

“Historically change does seem to happen in waves and that’s normal,” Fink says. “I think that means progress for the Bay Area. Change is what keeps things interesting and moving forward.”

Fink joined Southern Exposure in 2003 and has steadily built what she describes as a “very diverse base of support” for non-commercial experimental arts programming. She instituted Alternative Exposure, a re-granting initiative with major support from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, awarding nearly $500,000 to 135 independently-run spaces and projects over the past nine years.

“Transitions can be very challenging times for a lot of nonprofits so I always wanted Southern Exposure to be in a really strong place during the change and that time really felt like now,” Fink says.

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Fink’s departure is something she says Southern Exposure’s staff and board have been discussing for two months. They are currently in the final stages of naming an interim executive director and will begin their search for Fink’s permanent replacement in September. She will continue in her role through August.

“I don’t have any plans to leave the nonprofit world,” says Fink. “I’m excited to continue my lifelong commitment to advocating for artists. I don’t know what it will look like next but I have no plans to leave the Bay Area. Who knows what will happen?”

Back at Southern Exposure, programming continues full steam ahead. The ninth round of Alternative Exposure is now open to applications, the organization’s free three-week summer intensive for youth artists, Mission Voices Summer, is underway, and Los Angeles-based artist Robby Herbst hosts a group discussion on "California ideology" on July 18.

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