Mari Robles to Join Headlands Center for the Arts as New Executive Director

Mari Robles will step into Headlands' executive director position on Dec. 14. (Erik Peterson)

Headlands Center for the Arts has announced arts leader, educator and organizer Maricelle (Mari) Robles as the nonprofit’s new executive director. She will begin on Dec. 14.

Robles was selected after an international search to replace Sharon Maidenberg, who served as Headlands’ executive director for over 11 years. “After speaking with Mari, we quickly realized that we had found the perfect fit,” Board Chair Robin Strawbridge is quoted saying in today’s announcement. “Her career and personal interests in the arts genuinely mirror our mission here at Headlands. She shares our deep value for bringing the arts to everyone in the Bay Area, and for creating a space for artists to grow and thrive.”

Robles, who currently lives in New York, has a background in arts education. Headlands’ announcement emphasizes her interest, “as a Latinx woman of Puerto Rican heritage,” in “making art more accessible and welcoming to all.”

Robles served as the educator-in-charge of public programs and engagement at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the deputy director of education and public programs at the Pérez Art Museum in Miami, and the coordinator of youth and family programs at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

This will be the first time Robles has lived or worked in the Bay Area. Unique to Headlands’ executive director position, the job comes with housing on the arts center’s campus. She looks forward to the more reflective and slow-paced environment of the Marin Headlands, especially after a year like 2020. “I’m ready for the wild turkeys,” she says.

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Most recently, she was part of a team of cultural producers organizing public programming leading up to the 2020 Prospect New Orleans triennial. The entire exhibition has since been pushed back a year due to the pandemic, with a new opening of Oct. 23, 2021.

Robles will step into the role with some major changes on the horizon, including the end of Headlands’ affiliate artist program and the beginning of two funded fellowships. It’s also, she notes, a time of great upheaval and re-evaluation in the art world, as institutions grapple with their role in upholding white supremacy, and strive to adopt anti-racist practices.

“Which is also why I’m excited to be, frankly, coming on to Headlands at this moment—a moment where the entire arts world is having a reckoning, as well as a more global reckoning around justice and race issues,” she says. “Headlands has been doing some of that work already, internally, thinking about racial equity. But really that’s something I value very much and have been working at intersection for some time.”