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Roberto Bedoya: A New Face at LACE--and a New Direction : The arts: Director of L.A. Contemporary Exhibitions will expand the program to include ‘more people of color.’

TIMES STAFF WRITER

“I think my appointment is really a signal,” said Roberto Bedoya, the new executive director of Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, during his first day on the job. “It’s no longer a Euro-centric world, or a Euro-centric Los Angeles, and LACE has been behind in recognizing that. I think my appointment says, ‘Here is Roberto Bedoya, a person in charge of a multidisciplinary arts organization, and he’s a person of color.’ ”

Bedoya, 38, a native Northern Californian of Mexican descent, began his new post on a part-time basis May 3, and will take over full time June 1. He comes to LACE from the similarly programmed but smaller-budgeted Intersection for the Arts in San Francisco, where he was managing director and literary programmer for more than eight years.

“I think it’s remarkable that as a Chicano, I’m the head of an arts organization that is not ethnic-run,” Bedoya said. “I’m part of an organization that’s redefining a little bit, and . . . my appointment will mean expanding the program to include more people of color.”

Bedoya was chosen after a nearly three-month search to replace former executive director Joy Silverman, who resigned Feb. 1.

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Robert Walker, a former president of LACE’s board of directors, and the interim acting director, acknowledged that there was truth to Bedoya’s claims that his ethnicity was a determining factor.

“I think a person of color was a real consideration for the board with what’s happening in L.A.,” said Walker, noting of that the four final applicants interviewed for the position, two were of non-European descent. “We are aware of being a very white organization and of addressing that need.”

Walker noted that on LACE’s present board of directors, for instance, only two of 16 members are non-white. But, he said the board would like to change that factor when it fills its six vacancies, a matter in which Bedoya will have “a strong voice.”

“It has to do with giving more people access to the organization,” Bedoya said, noting that bringing more multicultural representation to both the board and LACE’s various programing committees, is a major goal. “If you want to have more (multicultural artists) represented in your programing, you do that by putting their peers in decision-making positions. . . . I think that’s what (LACE’s board of directors) were acknowledging in appointing me.”

Multicultural representation is not the only first that Bedoya brings to his position. He is also the first non-visual artist to run LACE, which consists of a fairly large gallery, performance space, video screening room and bookstore.

But while Bedoya may differ from past LACE directors in terms of his ethnicity and background, he says he plans to maintain the strong advocacy position LACE was known for under Silverman, who was a founder of the L.A.-based Coalition for the Freedom of Expression and who left LACE to do arts advocacy work on a national basis.

“We will be actively involved in defending our rights for freedom of expression,” Bedoya said. “That’s not going to change.”

Bedoya noted that through his work as president of the National Assn. of Artists Organizations, he has already “been actively involved in advocacy work, and I plan to remain so.”

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