Arts Council New Orleans Promotes first African American Executive Director & new Deputy Director


Promotes first African American Executive Director & new Deputy Director
Arts Council New Orleans and its Board of Directors today announces the promotion of Alphonse Smith to Executive Director and Joycelyn Reynolds to Deputy Director. Smith will be responsible for strategic direction of the organization and implementation of the 2020-2022 strategic plan, while Reynolds will oversee daily operations. 

“Alphonse has proven to be a valuable team member of the Arts Council,” said Board Chair Amanda Mantle Winstead. “He possesses the necessary skills to lead this growing organization through its next phases of growth and development. I look forward to working with him as Board Chair to continue supporting, activating and investing in our creative community.” 
Smith’s and Reynolds’ promotions come as the organization implements its new three-year strategic plan. The plan focuses on bolstering existing programs and partnerships, developing art and design-centered solutions to civic challenges, and strengthening relationships citywide. 

“For years the City of New Orleans has been a proud partner and supporter of the Arts Council of New Orleans, celebrating not only its enduring work but also special cultural collaborations such as the newly redesigned Key to the City and LUNA Fête,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “Our city’s arts and culture is at its best when our leaders reflect the community we serve, and so I was excited to learn of Alphonse Smith as the first African-American Executive Director of the Arts Council New Orleans. We know the arts have a strong leader in Alphonse, a native New Orleanian with degrees from Xavier University of Louisiana and the Southern University Law Center. We wish Alphonse all the best and can’t wait to continue this invaluable partnership.”

Smith has played a leading role in managing the City of New Orleans’ “Percent for Art” program, which dedicates a percentage of capital expenditures to public art. Since joining the Arts Council in 2014, Smith has worked to support cultural exchanges, promote the creative economy through education, and create safe spaces for artistic expression among emerging artists. He has been promoted from Public Art + Civic Design Director to Deputy Director and will now be the Arts Council’s first African American Executive Director. 

“It is a very exciting time for arts and culture in New Orleans,” said Smith. “As the Arts Council celebrates its 45th year with the adoption of new leadership and a new strategic plan, I feel incredibly blessed to lead an extremely talented group of passionate professionals – all dedicated to demonstrating the transformative power of arts and culture in our community.” 

Before working for the Arts Council, Smith, a native New Orleanian, received degrees from Xavier University of Louisiana and the Southern University Law Center. He is an active member of the New Orleans arts and culture community.  

“It brings me distinct joy to welcome and support Alphonse Smith’s leadership at the Arts Council of New Orleans,” said Executive Director of Ashé Cultural Arts Center Asali DeVan Ecclesiastes. “Having witnessed his good work for years–his promotion of the creation of excellent art and his fervent advocacy on behalf of artists–I look forward to the flourishing of programming that increases the capacity of our culture makers to share in the growing economic prosperity of our city.” 

Reynolds, who is also a New Orleans native, joined the Arts Council team in 1983 after graduating with a business degree. She has served as a chair for Louisiana Partnership for the Arts and Americans for the Arts, lobbying and advocating for the arts both city and statewide. For more than three decades, she has managed the Arts Council’s Decentralized and Community Arts grant programs, which are made possible with funds from the State of Louisiana and the City of New Orleans, respectively. Her work focuses on attracting, expanding and advocating for investment opportunities to strengthen the city’s arts ecosystem. 

Smith succeeds former Executive Director Heidi Schmalbach, who moves into an executive advisory role at the organization while focusing on completing her PhD at Tulane University and new motherhood. Schmalbach led the organization’s three-year strategic planning process and created numerous programs focused on youth and artist opportunities during her tenure. 

In 2019, Schmalbach and Smith worked successfully with City Council members to amend the City’s “Percent for Art” allocation from 1% to 1.5% and remove several restricted categories. This results in a significant increase in future funding for artist commissions and public art, as well as more equitable distribution across our neighborhoods. Similarly, the City’s Community Arts Grant budget increased from $405,000 to $500,000, making it possible for more arts organizations, Mardi Gras Indians, and Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs to receive support. 

“The Arts Council recognized the need to support indigenous cultural groups and parading organizations, something that is unique to New Orleans,” Reynolds said. “Creating the More Joy grant category allowed for direct funding primarily for New Orleans Mardi Gras Indians and Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs.” 

Smith and Reynolds will continue to identify and implement innovative ways to increase the Arts Council’s impact and organizational sustainability. 

Arts Council New Orleans, a 501(c)(3) independent nonprofit organization, is the city’s official art agency and regional arts council for Orleans, Jefferson and Plaquemines Parishes. The organization’s mission is to improve quality of life in New Orleans by supporting and investing in the city’s artists, cultural producers, and creative community.

Michiel Perry

Michiel is a Black Southern Belle living a lowcountry life. I love all things fashion, home decor and southern! When I am not running around doing fun stuff for Black Southern Belle, I live in antique stores and have a minor obsession with historic homes 🙂

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