Ella Baff is Senior Program Officer for Arts and Cultural Heritage. Her areas of grantmaking responsibility include art museums, performing arts organizations, art and conservation centers, and arts programs within institutions of higher education and culture. She works with colleagues across the Foundation on programs and initiatives that aim to strengthen the ecosystem for the arts and cultural heritage.
Before joining the Foundation in 2015, Ms. Baff was the executive and artistic director of Jacob's Pillow, the oldest dance festival in America. Under her leadership, Jacob's Pillow was designated a National Historic Landmark, and in 2011 received the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama at the White House. During Ms. Baff's tenure, Jacob's Pillow expanded its artistic, education, and community programs as well as its archives and scholars, fellows, and preservation programs. She established a digital media division as well as the organization's first endowment, cash reserve and capital reserve, and expanded the campus to its current 225 acres.
Ms. Baff has received several awards in the cultural field including a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters from the French Ministry of Culture, honorary doctorates from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and College of the Holy Cross, and the William Dawson Award for Programmatic Excellence from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters. Ms. Baff has twice co-chaired the International Society for the Performing Arts (ISPA) Congress in New York. She is currently the chair of The Gish Prize, and serves on the board of directors of MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art). She is the executive producer of Never Stand Still, an award-winning documentary aired on PBS Great Performances series and released worldwide.
Ms. Baff was born and raised in New York City. She has studied classical music and dance, and is a graduate of UC Berkeley. Her work in the cultural field has included developing arts programs and teaching theater in juvenile prisons. She became a literacy instructor and taught children and adults to read. Some of her past positions have included program director at Cal Performances at the University of California, Berkeley, where she commissioned and presented music, dance, and theater from all over the world; and project director of national outreach for an arts series on WNET public television in New York. She has been a consultant for foundations, government, and not-for-profit organizations and has been invited by US and international government agencies and arts organizations to be a speaker and panelist.