Dance partners

Stephanie Pacheco, new executive director of the Yard, wants to expand community partnerships.

Stephanie Pacheco —Rob Strong

Stephanie Pacheco, who arrived as the new executive director at the Yard in June, had to jump right into the full-on wild ride of the summer season. However, her extensive background in presenting organizations allowed Pacheco to seamlessly step into her position in this up-Island creation and performance platform for artists, offering performances, paid artist residencies, and community education for youth and adults founded by late choreographer Patricia N. Nanon in 1973.

Pacheco came to the Yard after working in both large and small institutions. She speaks about the common threads throughout her career, “I think what makes me tick is community partnerships that are needs-based and reciprocal and where everyone comes to the table, and you’re not forcing agendas but mutually identifying resources and relationships. And also, artist residencies and creating and developing new work.”

Pacheco began, she says, straight out of college. “I worked for a touring producing ensemble theater company for a few years. But I quickly made my way into presenting, sometimes with small and sometimes large organizations,” she says. Asked about the difference between presenting and producing, Pacheco explains, “The Yard is an arts presenting organization where we have a venue and different companies and artists come through on tour and residency, and we present them for the local community. Producing companies would be an ensemble such as the Martha Graham Dance Company or Alvin Ailey that are creating and producing their own work.”

Pacheco spent about 11 years in New York City, including running the theater at BRIC in Brooklyn, launching the BRIClab artist-in-residence program, championing the development of new work in dance, music, and theater, and advancing partnerships with venerated arts organizations such as Danspace Project and Dance Theater Workshop (now NY Live Arts). She also spent a year at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., primarily working with community engagement.

Pacheco also spent almost a decade in northern New England working at the Hopkins Center for the Arts at Dartmouth College as the head of the community engagement and arts education department, which, like The Yard, included artist residencies and community partnerships in a rural area. Just before arriving on the Vineyard, Pacheco was in Chicago for about four years as the executive director of Links Hall, which, like the Yard, was artist-founded in the 1970s. The two also share a mission of looking at supporting the creative process, developing new work, and identifying the tools and resources artists need to create a thriving, sustainable practice.

Having steered the organization throughout the pandemic, Pacheco says, “It was great work, but I came through knowing that I needed to come home. I needed access to nature, to be closer to the ocean and woods. And closer to my family and my communities. The Yard was just one of those next steps.” Part of the allure of the Yard was the similarity in conversations she had been having in Chicago around pay equity, curatorial models, long-term support of artists over many years, and investment in the community. “All that really resonated with me,” Pacheco shares, as well as the draw of the Yard’s high-caliber artists who, she says, “are digging into how society operates and how we function in our world through exciting creative work. The quality of the programming and impact of the artists coming through has really been consistent.”

In terms of the near future, Pacheco says, “The Yard right now is in a very concentrated summer season, and then there are these threads of education programs and other residencies coming throughout the year. I’m thinking a lot in the near future about relationships, partnerships, development, fundraising, and the best operational structure to serve this organization.” She recognizes that the philanthropic landscape has changed some coming out of the pandemic. “We know that there are a lot of needs on this Island, such as housing and the environment. I know from conversations with the leadership of nonprofits here that there is a fair amount of collaboration and cross-talk. In the fall, it’s important to me to learn more about what is being done by the year-round community,” Pacheco observes.

This aligns with the Yard’s strategic planning for a building project to revitalize its campus and extend its full impact beyond the summer season. “The vision is to build a campus that can serve the community and artists year-round, where we don’t have to cram everything into two months,” Pacheco says. “This will open so much opportunity for the community and us as an organization. Ultimately, the goal is to be more deeply rooted in the civic life of the Island year-round.” And Pacheco, along with her staff, is hard at work creating just this sort of future for The Yard to fulfill Nanon’s founding vision of “a playground…to explore, to experiment, [and] construct.”