WORCESTER, MA — City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. today announced that Cultural Development Officer Erin Williams will step aside from her duties in June after serving the city for 18 years.
Williams concurrently served as the executive director of the Worcester Cultural Coalition (WCC), a public private partnership that advocates for the creative community throughout the region. Under her leadership, the Coalition has grown to include 89 cultural organizations, including museums, festivals, performance venues, artist collectives, and educational institutions.
In 2018, Williams and the WCC founded the Worcester PopUp, a mixed-use creative space. The second phase of creating accessible community space, construction of the Worcester BrickBox Theater behind the PopUp, was completed in 2019 thanks to a $2 million donation from the late Jean McDonough, a long-time supporter of local arts. In McDonough’s honor, the PopUp and the BrickBox function as the Jean McDonough Arts Center (JMAC), which has hosted over 400 events.
“Erin has been a tireless advocate for the arts and cultural community,” said Augustus. “It’s no coincidence that Worcester’s rise in cultural prominence has occurred during Erin’s tenure. In addition to lifting up diverse artists and championing creative campaigns, she has established the arts as an essential component of the economic engine that powers our thriving city. We can’t thank Erin enough for all she has done for Worcester and the cultural renaissance of Central Massachusetts.”
Through her work with individuals and institutions across the city and the region, Williams has been instrumental in embedding art into everyday life and a variety of sectors. Some of her additional accomplishments include the City’s first Cultural Plan – the first cultural plan to be included in its city’s masterplan nation-wide, the Poets Laureate program – including the first Youth Poet Laureate in the Commonwealth, the I Am Worcester campaign, substantial growth of the Worcester Arts Council, a voting awareness and advocacy initiative, the Culture LEAP program with Worcester Public Schools, the #MakeArtEverywhere campaign, and a city-wide wayfinding system. In the early days of the pandemic, she began hosting the Cultural Task Force to help the arts community navigate the many challenges COVID-19 presented, and she shepherded the Give Me a Sign campaign, which featured billboards and street signs with uplifting messages by a wide variety of artists.
“It’s time to pass the baton and make space in leadership for others,” said Williams. “It’s been a privilege working on behalf of the creative community. Together we have accomplished so much and put talented artists, and the big and small c cultural organizations, in a position to thrive in the years to come. I’m excited to see what comes next for artists and cultural organizations in Greater Worcester.”
Prior to her role for the city, Williams’ roles included working as a field representative for the Mass Cultural Council and service as the founding executive director for 1794 Meetinghouse Inc., a nonprofit cultural center dedicated to cultural programming serving north-central and western Massachusetts.
“Worcester is a better place to live, work, and create because of Erin and all she has achieved with the City,” said Eric Butler, board chair of Worcester Cultural Coalition. “Erin’s vision has taken Worcester arts to the next level and our sector is now positioned with an unrivaled cultural plan to continue to thrive in the years ahead.”
In the coming months, the cultural development officer position will be posted and the search for Williams’ successor will begin.