Mayor Bill de Blasio today appointed Gonzalo Casals as Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA). Casals currently serves as Director of the Leslie-Lohman Museum in Manhattan. As Commissioner, Casals will lead the Administration’s efforts to foster a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive cultural sector.
“Art and culture should enrich the lives of all New Yorkers – not just a select few. From his work with at the Leslie-Lohman Museum to El Museo del Barrio, Gonzalo understands how to uplift the experiences of New Yorkers from all five boroughs. As Commissioner, he will continue to ensure New York’s vibrant culture is accessible and meaningful to all,” said Mayor de Blasio.
“I came to New York City nearly 20 years ago, drawn by the opportunity to be a part of the world’s greatest cultural community, one as diverse and vibrant as nowhere else,” said Gonzalo Casals. “Since then, my admiration and respect for the people who drive this incredible cultural sector has only grown. I’ve seen firsthand how New York City’s cultural sector so profoundly shapes the lives of residents in every neighborhood. Art and culture don’t just contribute to New York’s communities – it is the foundation of so many of our communities, and so central to what makes our city great. I thank Mayor de Blasio and Deputy Mayor Vicki Been for giving me this extraordinary opportunity to continue the work of building a more equitable, vibrant, and inclusive cultural sector for all New Yorkers.”
Casals has sought to tap into the transformative power of art and culture to bring people from all backgrounds together, give them a voice, and encourage civic participation. As Commissioner, Casals will lead the Administration’s efforts to foster a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive cultural sector as mapped out in CreateNYC. He’ll also be charged with stewarding the largest local funder of arts and culture in the United States.
Casals came to New York City from Argentina in 2002. Before being appointed the Director of the Leslie-Lohman Museum in 2017, he was Vice President of Programs and Community Engagement at Friends of the High Line, where he led the team in a process that shifted the focus of the organization to equitable cultural practices to impact surrounding neighborhoods. For over seven years, Casals held various roles at El Museo del Barrio. His tenure as Director of Education and Public Programs focused on cultural production as a vehicle to foster empowerment, social capital, and civic participation.
Casals was part of the team of cultural experts who led public engagement for CreateNYC, New York City’s first comprehensive cultural plan. He was also a member of the New York City Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments, and Markers, which developed guidelines on how the City should address controversial monuments. The Monuments Commission’s work continues to shape the City’s approach to fostering a public art collection that better reflects the diversity of New York. He is a member of the Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts New York (NOCD-NY), a citywide alliance to revitalize New York City arts and culture from the neighborhood up.
A regular guest speaker on arts, culture, equity, and inclusion, Gonzalo teaches at the University of the City Of New York (CUNY), New York University, and Yale University. He has been a resident of Jackson Heights since 2002.
“For more than 20 years, Commissioner Casals has worked to bring attention to the arts and culture of marginalized communities, and to ensure that those communities were included in, and benefitted from, the City’s cultural institutions, said Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Vicki Been. “Gonzalo brings a passion and expertise that will advance the Mayor’s mission to increase diversity at every level of the City’s cultural institutions, and to ensure that all neighborhoods are enjoying rich cultural experiences.”
“New York City’s cultural scene is unparalleled. Arts and culture are a key part of our economy and help make up the fabric of the five boroughs. Leading DCLA is a big job and I am thrilled that Gonzalo Casals will be our new commissioner. He has done a fantastic job at several cultural gems in our city and I look forward to working with him in his new role,” said Speaker Corey Johnson.
“Our cultural sector is woven into the fabric of our communities and makes New York the most vibrant and dynamic city in the world. I wholeheartedly congratulate incoming Cultural Affairs Commissioner Gonzalo Casals, and look forward to working together to support the arts and culture across the city and to continue making them accessible to all New Yorkers,” said Senator José Serrano, Chair of the Senate Committee on Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation.
“Gonzalo Casals is a thoughtful, energetic, creative and progressive voice for culture. He will bring a spirited approach to equity and diversity to ensure access to the arts for all communities. I’m thrilled to see a proud Queer man from the great borough of Queens become the new Commissioner for the Department of Cultural Affairs!” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, Chair, Cultural Affairs Committee.
“The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the City have long enjoyed a strong partnership, and we’re thrilled to welcome Gonzalo Casals as Commissioner,” said Dan Weiss, President and CEO of The Met. “New York City’s rich cultural landscape offers inspiration, knowledge, and insight into the world’s shared history for both local residents and visitors from around the world, and we look forward supporting Commissioner Casals and his leadership in this important work.”
“Gonzalo Casals is a passionate advocate for the arts and extraordinary appointment as the new DCLA Commissioner. I am thrilled with the announcement and look forward to his vision of an equitable, diverse and inclusive agenda to make the arts accessible to all,” said John Hatfield,
Alex Poots, Artistic Director and CEO of The Shed, said, “Gonzalo is a thoughtful and inspired appointment for DCLA Commissioner. He brings an equitable and progressive vision to the job and the city’s cultural sector. I’m also very much looking forward to working with Gonzalo in his capacity as an ex officio board member of The Shed.”
“New York’s Cultural Institutions Group extends a warm welcome to DCLA Commissioner Gonzalo Casals. The CIG is committed to ensuring that all New Yorkers have access to cultural institutions and are represented in our work. Commissioner Casals has been an extraordinary advocate for diversity, equity, access and inclusion. We look forward to working with him to promote these shared values throughout our organizations and beyond, and continuing to partner with the Administration,” said Queens Theatre Executive Director and Cultural Institutions Group (CIG) Acting Chair Taryn Sacramone.
“It is wonderful news that Gonzalo Casals has been announced as the New Commissioner of Cultural Affairs. He has a proven commitment to equity, social justice and civic participation and has done impactful work as a cultural leader an educator with queer and immigrant communities. We at the Queens Museum are excited by his appointment and are looking forward to working with him to continue to make New York the most exciting cultural city in the world,” said Sally Tallant, President and Executive Director, Queens Museum.
“Throughout his career, Gonzalo Casals has been deeply committed to encouraging inclusive, public participation in the arts—the same goal that is fundamental to New York City’s Department of Cultural Affairs. Whether as a leader in New York City museums, an advocate for community engagement through Friends of the High Line, a cultural advisor for CreateNYC, or a mentor to the next generation through his academic work, Gonzalo has been a champion for education, public involvement, community improvement, and personal enrichment through the arts. I join with my colleagues in offering Gonzalo congratulations on this very welcome appointment,” said Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator of The Studio Museum.
“WCS welcomes Gonzalo Casals as the new Commissioner of Cultural Affairs. As a long-time friend of and advocate for the city’s cultural community, we look forward to working with him to deepen our partnership with the city and ensure that the cultural sector reaches and reflects all New Yorkers,” said Sara Marinello, Vice President, WCS Government & Community Affairs.
Robert Hammond, High Line, Executive Director and Co-Founder, said, “I’m excited that Gonzalo Casals has been appointed Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs. His commitment to fostering social empowerment, interpersonal relationships, civic participation, and community development through arts and culture is exactly what our city needs right now. The invaluable connections he made between the High Line and NYCHA and other neighbors helped make our community as dynamic as it is today.”
“A warm, generous, seasoned, and passionate arts advocate, Gonzalo Casals is a brilliant choice for the position of cultural affairs commissioner,” said Adam D. Weinberg, the Alice Pratt Brown Director of the Whitney Museum of American Art. “Strong values have always driven Gonzalo’s work and his core principles surrounding inclusion and equity have deeply influenced all his endeavors to date. His priorities, energy, talent for leadership, and commitment to bringing people together will be a boon to all art-loving New Yorkers.”