Why BRIC’s New President Believes in Brooklyn

Lured from Connecticut, Kristina Newman-Scott aims to bring innovation to the downtown cultural hub

Says Newman-Scott of her family of four: "We're going to be rolling deep in Brooklyn" (Photo by Chion Wolf)

Brooklyn has a new cultural curator, events impresario, and booster. BRIC, the downtown arts organization, announced yesterday that Kristina Newman-Scott, currently the director of culture for the state of Connecticut, will be the Brooklyn non-profit group’s new president.

Newman-Scott will be taking over for Leslie Griesbach Schultz, who stepped down as president in June after serving for 13 years, during which time she greatly expanded its programming and moved the organization into BRIC House, its 40,000-sq.-ft. home. 

BRIC’s new president speaks of her future home with the zeal of a convert. “Brooklyn is literally the most dynamic city in the world,” Newman-Scott told The Bridge. “I’ve never lived there, so I’m definitely still learning, but anytime I went to visit friends, this fantastic mixture of authenticity and focus on culture has stood out. And that’s pretty amazing.”

from day one

BRIC House is situated in the heart of the Brooklyn Cultural District (Photo courtesy of BRIC)

Newman-Scott will have a sturdy stage to build upon. BRIC offers major music festivals including the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival (in the summer) and BRIC JazzFest (fall) as well as the Emmy-winning BRIC TV network, art exhibitions, and educational programs.

When the BRIC executive-search team reached out to Newman-Scott, she was skeptical at first, she told her hometown newspaper. But after finding out more about the organization, she realized it was a great fit. “In this one organization, every single area that they’re touching, producing, presenting,” she told The Bridge, “is in alignment with all the work that I’ve done in my career.”

Originally from Kingston, Jamaica, Newman-Scott was a painter during her time as a BFA student at Kingston’s Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts. Upon graduating, she moved to New England and went into arts management, serving as director of programs at the Boston Center for the Arts and as director of marketing, events and cultural affairs for the city of Hartford, among other roles.

BRIC president

Newman-Scott will lead a staff of more than 175 people (Photo by Adam Coppola)

What her recent posts have had in common, she said, is working “at the intersection of art, community development, and government.” Newman-Scott believes that her new role will be liberating. “There’s not much agility in government,” she said. In order to be innovative, “you have to be open to taking risk and in government, risk is not a thing that anybody is comfortable with.”

Among her initial goals at BRIC is raising the organization’s profile and expanding its reach. “I am committed to ensuring that in the future, there will not be one person in Brooklyn who won’t know what BRIC is,” she told the New York Times. “Everyone–whether it’s the guy that developed the building down the block or the woman who has the bodega–should feel like BRIC is the place that they get to see authentic Brooklyn through arts and culture.”

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Newman-Scott will be breaking ground as “one of the very few women of color to lead a major New York cultural institution,” the Times noted. She’ll lead a staff of more than 175 people, 58% nonwhite, a notably high proportion for such an organization. BRIC has operating revenues of nearly $16 million.

Newman-Scott and her husband, co-owner of Scott’s Jamaican Bakery in Hartford, plan to move to Brooklyn soon with their two daughters. “So watch out. All four of us,” she said. “We’re going to be rolling deep in Brooklyn. We’re loving the idea of it.”

Arden Phillips is a New York-based writer and a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, where she received a degree in Television, Radio, and Film.

  • Debussy Fields

    BRIC is an amazing organization. They present bigtime artists for free or cheap, curate the best jazz festival in NYC and provide a platform for marginalized voices who just need a vision without all the networking bs. So much respect for the vibrance that BRIC provides to Brooklyn.