Board Names Equity, Access Champion as Next NAEA Executive Director

Association News

Mario R. Rossero

Following an extensive national search, the NAEA Board of Directors named Mario R. Rossero, a leader in arts education equity and access, as incoming NAEA executive director, succeeding Dr. Deborah B. Reeve, who is retiring in January.

“Every student, regardless of zip code or certain markers of identity, deserves access to a robust and well-rounded educational experience that is inclusive of the arts, especially visual art and design, during every year of their educational journey, PreK-16,” says Rossero, currently senior vice president of education at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

“Across the country we see an uneven landscape in arts education with pockets of high arts investments, areas that are struggling to include the arts, as well as everything in between,” he says. “Equitable access to arts education is necessary for every child to achieve their full potential. An education rich in the visual arts and in design provides a means to understand ourselves and the broader world around us, to unpack history and culture, and to express complex ideas, innovations, and solutions.”

Dr. Reeve has served as executive director and CEO since 2007. Under Reeve’s leadership, NAEA total assets have increased 46 percent, revenues have grown 62 percent, and the organization reached a number of milestones. NAEA launched a rigorous strategic planning process and employed new governance practices in an effort to create a dynamic and agile organization. NAEA developed new National Visual Arts Standards and introduced a broad array of professional learning programs, including NAEA’s landmark, School for Art Leaders.

“I could not be more excited for NAEA as Mario R. Rossero takes over the helm and shapes the next era guided by his rich experience and passion for visual arts education,” said Reeve.

“It can be said that Mr. Rossero is one of us,” said NAEA President Thomas Knab. “His foundation is strongly rooted in the classroom, previously serving as an elementary and middle school visual arts educator in Pittsburgh and Chicago. Mr. Rossero has participated in the NAEA community and credits NAEA as playing an important role in his personal growth and development as a leader.”

A practicing visual artist and former classroom and museum art educator, Rossero says an education that includes visual art is vital to give students of all ages the tools they will need to be successful and engaged in an increasingly visual society.

Rossero plans an extensive listening tour in his first year as executive director as a way to engage with members and ensure his vision for the organization aligns with member needs.

He is eager to support NAEA’s equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives and wants to be certain that members “don’t just see plans, but action around that.”

In March 2019 NAEA created a standing Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Commission to ensure the sustainability of the EDI work begun by the organization.

Among his priorities for NAEA are:

  • Putting a focus on social and emotional learning, trauma-informed education and evidence-based practices for classroom teaching;

  • Increasing and expanding policy work; and leveraging NAEA’s library of articles, papers, and research; and

  • Identifying ways that the organization can support visual art educators to become leaders within their schools.

Joining the Kennedy Center in 2015, Rossero was responsible for the overall planning, management, and supervision of the programs and operations of the Education Division, including career development programs, youth and family productions, educator training and professional learning, evaluation, digital activation, as well as collaborations and partnerships. During his tenure Mario launched the Citizen Artist Fellowship, transformed the annual Arts Summit, and contributed to the opening programming for the REACH expansion. Through its educational initiatives, the Kennedy Center works in all 50 states and 26 countries.

Rossero previously was chief of core curriculum for the Chicago Public Schools where he provided leadership and strategy to offer a robust education, including literacy, mathematics, science, social science, the arts, and global citizenship. Prior to this role, he was director of arts education for the school system, leading the effort to increase equity and access to all art forms through the first-ever district-wide Arts Education Plan for Chicago. The plan increased staffing and classroom time for arts education, added partnerships and funding, and provided thousands of students more regular and sequential arts instruction during the school day.

From 2010-11, Rossero was senior program officer for arts education for the Pittsburgh Public Schools. From 2004-10 he served in various roles in the Chicago public school system including director of magnet schools and programs. Prior to his administrative roles, Rossero taught visual art for nearly 10 years in Pittsburgh and Chicago, primarily in elementary and middle school. Known for large-scale student collaborations, of note is a multi-year interactive garden installation between Rossero’s fourth graders and the Mattress Factory Museum. During his teaching tenure, Rossero also worked as an artist educator at the Andy Warhol Museum. Rossero serves on a number of advisory boards.

“I will be building off a very strong foundation,” he says of joining NAEA. “Deborah is leaving the organization in very good shape.”

Read Mario’s biography here.

View the official press release here.

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Thank you to Arts Consulting Group for guiding this search and for their generous in-kind contribution.

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