Special/Signature Issues » Top 40 Under 40

Jordan Brown, 35

Interim executive director, Visual Arts Center of Richmond


It’s hard to believe, but the nonprofit VisArts is 60 years old.

Offering a wide variety of art classes, residencies and exhibitions to the public, the organization serves nearly 8,000 people a year through classes and 45,000 people through exhibitions and events. Jordan Brown became interim director in January after having a transformative impact on the organization over the past 11 years.

Brown says that she has always loved art, having studied painting and printmaking at VCU before interning at Quirk and 1708 Gallery, where she began learning about nonprofits. But she found a longtime home at VisArts, starting out as a part-timer at the front desk and working her way up. “I liked that it was a community space that was welcoming to everybody,” she says.

Under her direction, the education team has doubled the amount of classes VisArts offers to the public over the last 10 years, as well as growing its community programming by more than 30% in the last five years, she says.

“I’m most proud that we started to really find ways to be a supportive environment with resources for artists at every level, classes for kids and adults,” she explains, adding that new artist residency programs have expanded opportunities for local artists and a studio access program now allows empty studios to be used when they aren’t filled for classes.

She also expanded the nonprofit’s work with military veterans and people with disabilities. “We’ve done a lot of intentional and specific work to make our spaces welcoming to everybody and have greatly increased the diversity of our students and teachers,” she explains. “[Creating] residency programs that specifically prioritize BIPOC artists or artists from historically marginalized backgrounds.”

As far as the future goes for Brown at VisArts, she’ll only say there is a call underway for applications for a full-time director. But she explains that the nonprofit will need to grow to meet demand. Last year, they had 1,000 people waitlisted for classes and their summer camp sold out half its seats on the first day.

“We’re maxing out our space, so we want to expand and grow,” Brown says. “But find a way to do it the right way by maintaining our mission and creative spirit.”