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STL’s Pulitzer names new director with ties to MoMA, Kara Walker

Cara Starke
Elisabeth Smolarz

Updated with personal interviews and audio.

St. Louis’ Pulitzer Arts Foundation has named a prominent New York City arts professional as its new director.

Cara Starkewill replace Kristina Van Dyke, who’s led the Grand Center institution since fall 2011.

Since 2011, Starke has worked as director of exhibitions atthe New York-based Creative Time arts organization. There, she managed a number of bold projects, including Kara Walker’s “A Subtlety,” the much-discussed, 35-foot tall sphinxlike sculpturedescribed as a “homage to the unpaid and overworked artisans who have refined our sweet tastes from the cane fields to the kitchens of the New World.”


Before joining Creative Time, Starke served as assistant curator for the department of media and performance art at New York's Museum of Modern Art. Her undertakings there included“Projects 97” by Mark Boulosand Francis Alÿs; “A Story of Deception.”

Even with her deep New York roots, Starke told St. Louis Public Radio that she believes she can do meaningful work in our Midwestern city.

“In a world in which we are increasingly global and people are working on important issues all over the country and all over the world, I certainly don’t believe that I would have to be in New York to do that," Starke said. "I actually think that some of the most important conversations in this country are happening in spaces outside of places like New York.”

In a news release, Starke noted The Pulitzer’s history as well as its recent expansion into alternative programming.

“The Pulitzer is a remarkable space that brings together intellectual experimentation and thoughtful contemplation with a commitment to local audiences and experiences that extend beyond the institution’s walls,” Starke said.

Pulitzer founder Emily Pulitzer told St. Louis Public Radio that Van Dyke resigned in January.

“Kristina leaves us with very good staff, with plans going into the future. I would say she has brought us from an adolescent institution into that of a young adult and I think Cara will take us further,” Pulitzer said.

Van Dyke will remain in place until Starke arrives in July.

In the news release, Pulitzer called Starke’s abilities “exceptional.”

“She has a keen understanding of the evolving role the arts play in our lives and in our communities — a vision that is well in line with the Pulitzer’s tradition of pushing the boundaries of the arts experience,” Pulitzer said.

William Bush, the president of the board of trustees, noted Starke’s history of working with a broad population.

“Cara’s leadership and commitment to working with communities with a diverse range of art and artists make her an ideal choice to lead the Pulitzer as it enters its next phase of development,” Bush said.

The Pulitzer Arts Foundation building
Credit The Pulitzer Arts Foundation
The Pulitzer Arts Foundation building

Starke will come to The Pulitzer on the heels of the re-opening on May 1 of an expanded foundation building. The underground additions effectively double the exhibition space in the landmark Tadao Ando building.

The news release stated that former director Kristina Van Dyke is leaving to pursue independent projects.

Watch this video of the making of “A Subtlety.”

https://vimeo.com/96102223">Creative Time Presents Kara Walker [Time-lapse] from https://vimeo.com/creativetime">Creative Time on Vimeo.

Emily Pulitzer is a contributor to St. Louis Public Radio.

Follow Nancy Fowler on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL

Nancy is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, and she particularly delights in the stories of people living and working in that intersection.