Stephanie Ybarra, Veteran Theater Leader and Champion for Equity in Arts, Joins Mellon Foundation as Program Officer in Arts and Culture

None Stephanie Ybarra

Ybarra will join the Foundation in April to help shape grantmaking initiatives in Arts and Culture, bringing a special focus on performing arts.

(NEW YORK, NY – January 11, 2023) – The Mellon Foundation today announced the appointment of theater veteran and advocate for equity and justice in the arts, Stephanie Ybarra as Program Officer in its Arts and Culture program area, effective April 3, 2023. As part of her role, she will help shape individual grantmaking and launch philanthropic initiatives in the performing arts, leveraging the grantmaking, convening, and research assets of the Foundation.

Ybarra joins Mellon following her tenure as Artistic Director of Baltimore Center Stage, where she broke ground as the country’s first Latina artistic director of a League of Resident Theaters (LORT) member theater. Over four seasons, she was instrumental in leveraging powerful artistic works as a catalyst for conversation, reflection, and action. 

“Over two decades, Stephanie has boldly charted a path in which the fight for equity and her roles as a creative force and leader in the arts are inextricably linked,” said Elizabeth Alexander, President of the Mellon Foundation.  “A talented artist, strategist, and a passionate advocate for social justice, Stephanie embodies Mellon's core values, and we are excited to have her join our Arts and Culture program area.” 

With more than 20 years’ experience in nearly all aspects of the theater both on stage and behind the scenes, Ybarra has established herself as a leader in the field and a preeminent voice in the fight against racism and inequity in theater—having established the Artists’ Anti-Racism Coalition in 2016 to uproot the systemic racism in New York’s off-Broadway theater community. In addition to staging compelling works, she has been instrumental in closely examining demographic data on playwright commissions, director hiring patterns, fighting for change related to pay equity, tiered fee systems, and even reviews—all of which embody Mellon’s ongoing commitment to centering social justice in its work and grantmaking.

“As a lifelong arts practitioner, Stephanie has been committed not only to staging compelling works but also to being an outspoken advocate and changemaker working to ensure true equity in the stories told on and off our stages and also across our nation’s performing arts sector,” said Emil J. Kang, Mellon Foundation Program Director for Arts and Culture. “Her tremendous artistic and administrative insight will be invaluable as we at Mellon continue our efforts to seed and cultivate the related conditions that enable performing artists to center contemporary performance as a primary vehicle for their creativity.”

“I’m humbled and honored to have the chance to serve the arts and culture sector during this moment of enormous challenge and opportunity,” said Ybarra. “The vision and values driving the Mellon Foundation forward are a source of fuel and inspiration. I’m grateful to Elizabeth, Emil and the entire Mellon Foundation team for their faith in my ability to contribute to their tireless support of our national arts community.”

Prior to taking on the role of Artistic Director of Baltimore Center Stage in 2018, Ybarra served as the Director of Special Artistic Projects at The Public Theater where she led the Mobile Unit and Public Forum programs. She first launched her career in her home state of Texas at the Dallas Theater Center and Dallas Children's Theater, later transitioning to institutions including the Yale Repertory Theater, Two River Theater Company, and Citizen Schools, a national after-school program based in Boston.

While in New York, she co-founded the Artists’ Anti-Racism Coalition, a grassroots organizing effort to dismantle systems of oppression in the Off-Broadway community. Ybarra’s work has been widely recognized, with awards including the Josephine Abady Award for producing from New York's League of Professional Theatre Women, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) 100 in 2019, the Congressional Award for Achievement in Excellence from Zara Aina, an international nonprofit dedicated to community-engaged artmaking, and for her sustained work around diversity and inclusion, she received the prestigious Nation Builder Award from the National Black Caucus of State Legislators in 2018.

Ybarra serves as a faculty member at The Juilliard School and New York University. She’s currently on the board of Citizen University, Make Believe Association and Maryland Citizens for the Arts, as well as the Artistic Council for the People’s Theatre Project. She holds her Master of Fine Arts from the Yale School of Drama and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Baylor University.


About The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the nation’s largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Since 1969, the Foundation has been guided by its core belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. The Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity, and that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom that can be found there. Through our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive. Learn more at


Photo: Courtesy Stephanie Ybarra

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Tonya Bell
Director of Media and Public Relations