Farewell to Toccarra A. H. Thomas

Christa Blatchford

Toccarra A. H. Thomas speaking at Joan Mitchell Center Open Studios, 2019. Photo by Cfreedom Photography.

As many in our community have heard, Toccarra A. H. Thomas will be departing her role as Director of the New Orleans-based Joan Mitchell Center at the end of January. Toccarra has served as the residency center’s Director since Fall of 2019, guiding the program through a range of changes and challenging times. I hope you will all join me in thanking Toccarra for her years of leadership.

During her time at the Foundation and the Center, Toccarra oversaw all elements of the residency program and operations on the Center’s campus with her characteristic thoughtfulness and integrity. She has further established and refined the residency structure and the effective running of operations on campus, while also responding to significant external factors including the pandemic, hurricanes, and other challenges—all the while remaining deeply committed to her team and the artists-in-residence.

Notably, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Toccarra led the implementation of a temporary shift, from Fall 2020 to Spring 2022, to make studio space and professional resources available to an expanded pool of New Orleans-based artists through hybrid remote and in-person residencies. Following the successful run of this program, which hosted 50 New Orleans artists, Toccarra and the team at the Joan Mitchell Center returned to the traditional residency model in Summer 2023, hosting both national and local artists, with slots reserved for deferred artists to complete their residencies.

Toccarra Thomas with 2022 Artist-in-Residence Josiah Gagosian. Photo by Kendra Thompson.

In her role, Toccarra also served as the key liaison between the New Orleans-based team and New York-based Foundation leadership. She has played a critical role in ensuring alignment between the two locations. As a member of the Foundation’s senior leadership team, Toccarra’s embodiment of the Foundation’s values has shown through in her commitment to equity, to her team, and to an artist-centered approach.

Toccarra’s long-term impact on the Center will be the work she did to strengthen and align the Center’s residency program with the Foundation’s mission and values. Over the last year, she worked with the Center’s team to plan out and implement the residency program calendar to better facilitate equity and community building among seasonal artist cohorts.

As an extension of her role at the Joan Mitchell Center, Toccarra has also been an active member of the New Orleans arts and culture community, including serving on the steering committee for Creative Response, an emergent and collaborative resource and advocacy hub led by a consortium of local arts leaders representing diverse, critical, and justice-focused arts-organizing efforts in New Orleans.

It is with deep gratitude that we thank Toccarra for her many contributions to the Joan Mitchell Center and to Joan Mitchell’s legacy of supporting today’s artists. We are excited to see this next chapter for her and know she will be missed.

Toccarra Thomas with AIRs and staff at the Joan Mitchell Center studios. Photo by Kendra Thompson.

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