SF Camerawork Welcomes New Executive Director

Aay Preston-Myint brings leadership and a wealth of experience to the distinguished center for photography recently relocated to Fort Mason.

Aay Preston-Myint, a Bay Area-based artist, educator, and curator with deep experience in arts administration, justice and equity work, and programming is now heading up SF Camerawork.

Preston-Myint comes to SF Camerawork from the Headlands Center for the Arts, where they had served as Senior Manager of Public Programs and Fellowships since 2018.

“Aay Preston-Myint brings to the table the background, mindset, knowledge, and energy of a seasoned cultural leader,” says SF Camerawork President Jonathan Calm. “As Executive Director, they will combine these assets to build and transform our new Fort Mason space into a vital center of creative programming and practice as well as community outreach and connectivity for everyone in the Bay Area who is invested in photography. I am confident that Aay’s exceptional range of personal and professional qualities will usher our organization into an era of unprecedented achievement and appeal.”

Preston-Myint stewarded Headlands’ Bay Area Fellowship, a program that radically shifted the organization’s focus to artists rooted in the Bay Area. They also oversaw residencies and grants and produced public programs for over 60 local and international artists that Headlands serves annually. Preston-Myint was a leader of Headlands’ diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, and for the policies they developed to transform organizational culture, they received the Alliance of Artist Communities’ Diversity and Leadership Fellowship in 2019.

Preston-Myint is currently Adjunct Faculty of Curatorial Practice at California College of the Arts. They are also on the Board of Directors of Small Traffic Press and a member of Southern Exposures’ Curatorial Council as well as Oakland’s Real Time and Space collective art studio. Recently, they curated Southern Exposure’s 2022 exhibition Dewdrops in the Garden. Valerie Imus, Artistic and Co-director of Southern Exposure, says of Preston-Myint, “Aay Preston-Myint’s deep commitment to artists, to community, and to dialogue are central to their approach. Aay will bring so much intelligence and grace to the role of SF Camerawork Executive Director, as they do to everything.”

“As an arts professional, Aay Preston-Myint works thoughtfully and diligently to cultivate community and foster meaningful dialogue about how we can all be accountable for driving social change and supporting cultural diversity,” concurs Christina Linden, Director of Academic and Public Programs at Stanford University’s Cantor Arts Center. “In this new role, I know Aay will lead with integrity, empathy, and a demeanor that is both calm and compassionate, as they do in all contexts. I am consistently inspired by the original and thought-provoking artwork Aay champions, and I am excited to see how this next chapter unfolds under their leadership at SF Camerawork.”

“It really feels like a homecoming to be trusted with the leadership of an organization as beloved as SF Camerawork,” says Preston-Myint about his new Executive Director role. “I'm delighted to be at the helm of an organization that began as an institution for and by artists almost half a century ago. Since arriving in the Bay Area, I have been impressed by the future-facing changes happening at SF Camerawork, as it invests in critical thought and artist leadership to sustain and grow a distinguished, accessible art space for the region and beyond. I am excited for the opportunity to leverage my career experience in community and non-profit work, my life experience as a queer artist of color, and the legacy and resources of SF Camerawork to build a world that is better equipped to serve and represent contemporary artists and their respective communities.”

Previous to their time at Headlands, Preston-Myint was based in Chicago, where they were a founder of No Coast, an artist partnership that prints and distributes affordable contemporary artwork. They founded and co-directed the Chicago Art Book Fair, a national arts event dedicated to showcasing emerging directions and diverse legacies within small press arts publishing. They were Studio Manager and Equity Committee member at ACRE Residency, as well as DJ and organizer for Chances Dances, a party supporting and showcasing the work of queer artists in Chicago. They hold an MFA in Studio Art from the University of Illinois at Chicago (2011) and a BFA in Studio Art from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2006).

Founded in 1974, SF Camerawork stands for discovery, experimentation and exchange for all who value new ideas in photography. Over the decades, SF Camerawork has provided a launching pad for many artists' careers, supplying invaluable financial support, exhibition space, curation and patronage. In its early years, SF Camerawork was the first organization in the Bay Area to host exhibitions and lectures by controversial, yet ultimately highly influential artists such as Sally Mann, Robert Mapplethorpe, Susan Meiselas and Joel-Peter Witkin. More recently, the organization has presented the first West Coast exhibitions for John Chiara, Binh Danh, Erica Deeman, Jennifer Karady, Jason Lazurus, Chris McCaw, Wang Ning De and Meghann Riepenhoff—artists who have emerged as leaders of a new generation gaining international prominence. The organization also offers a rich array of programming beyond artist exhibitions. An annual calendar of critiques, workshops, lectures, panel discussions, and curator-led museum and gallery tours offer unique insight in and access to San Francisco’s local photography network.

For more information, visit sfcamerawork.org.

There's still time to check out the fabulous current exhibition, Kija Lucas's A Taxonomy of Belonging which has been extended to December 23.

A Taxonomy of Belonging includes work from Lucas’ nine-year project In Search of Home, and consists of photographs of plant clippings, rocks, and other objects that explore the emigration patterns of her family, and Carl Linnaeus’ racial taxonomy. This body of work questions how the scientific frameworks society has inherited from Linnaeus misrepresents Othered communities, while specifically addressing the invention of race in his taxonomy of man.

Kija Lucas, In Search of Home, Bay Area 009, 2013.

Main image: Aay Preston-Myint. Photo by Ryan Edmund Thiel.

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