On the Boards announces Rachel Cook as Artistic Director Nov 17, 2017

On the Boards’ new Artistic Director Rachel Cook brings long involvement in national and international art, connections to critical discourse, and deep commitment to investing in Seattle’s community of artists.

Rachel Cook

After a six-month search, On the Boards is delighted to welcome Rachel Cook as its fourth Artistic Director. “We had an incredibly talented pool of applicants—from Seattle and all over,” said OtB Executive Director Betsey Brock. “Rachel truly inspired us to think about how her experience and expertise would help us grow, build on what we’ve got, while pushing us in different directions. In our interview process, it felt like her questions led to new possibilities. I can’t wait to welcome her to OtB and to Seattle.” 

The search process, chaired by OtB Board President Ruth Keating Lockwood, involved artists, staff, legacy supporters, and funders in close collaboration. Many candidates and community members involved remarked on the transparency and clarity around the search. “We’re so excited to welcome Rachel!” exclaimed Lockwood, “She brings a history of impassioned work in contemporary performance and visual art. It’s rare to find a curator so equally conversant in both – I can already see a future for cool partnerships in our community.” 

“I am absolutely thrilled to be joining On the Boards as the new Artistic Director,” said Rachel. “The leadership team, staff, board, and artistic community in Seattle is inspiring in its support and dedication to experimental artistic practices and I’m honored by the opportunity to be a part of that energy. I am eager to begin getting to know everyone better and initiate collaborations with artists and the community to further re-imagine how a contemporary performing arts organization can contribute to the critical discourse about art and the world we live in today.”

On the Boards welcomes Cook as its fourth Artistic Director as it celebrates its 40th Anniversary. The 2017–2018 season was curated by Lane Czaplinski, who served as OtB’s Artistic Director for fifteen years, and launched  

Choreographer Heather Kravas, whose visions of beauty premiered last March at OtB, said, “I am thrilled that Rachel’s compelling, courageous, and generous curatorial voice is joining our vibrant community. I was so struck by her ideas about shifting existing structures so that we may experience different perspectives—as artists and audiences. I eagerly look forward to contemplating the precarious, beautiful risks of performance that her coming seasons will invite to On the Boards.”

“Rachel is one of those rare individuals who excels at both the day-to-day brass tacks that keep an organization running, and the philosophical questioning that is so vital to keeping an organization from becoming mired in business as usual,” said writer Claudia La Rocco, who is currently an artist-in-residence at On the Boards as part of a three-year Doris Duke grant to create context around contemporary performance. “The stakes for making artistic organizations relevant in our society feel really high right now. Rachel is keenly aware of those stakes; I’m excited to see what sorts of magic and mischief she’ll make in Seattle.” 

Rachel comes to OtB from her position as Curator at DiverseWorks in Houston, Texas. Cook joined DiverseWorks as Assistant Curator in August 2012, and was promoted to Associate Curator in August 2013, and Curator in January 2016. Major accomplishments include the commissioning of French artist Julien Previeux’s first staged dance work, What Shall We Do Next? (2016) and the organization of the group exhibition of the same name, featuring Previeux, Kristin Lucas, Danielle Dean, and Versace Versace Versace; and the commissioning and presentation of multidisciplinary performance projects including Takahiro Yamamoto’s Direct Path to Detour (2017), Wura-Natasha Ogunji’s House of Wahala (2017), Meg Wolfe’s New Faithful Disco (2016), taisha paggett’s The School for the Movement of the Technicolor People (2016), Tahni Holt’s Duet Love (2015), and Dean Moss’s johnbrown (2015). During her five-year tenure she also revitalized the Artist Advisory Board, developed and organized the Diverse Discourse visiting curators series, and managed The Idea Fund re-granting program. A native of Houston, Cook has played an integral role in the identity and overall artistic programming of DiverseWorks. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the National Performance Network.

Prior to joining DiverseWorks, Cook worked for dOCUMENTA(13)’s publication team, and was a fellow for the International Studio & Curatorial Program in  New York. Cook holds a MA from the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College and a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute.  Last year she received a Curatorial Fellowship from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts to research  a series of  Walker Evans’ photographs from the African Negro Art  exhibition at  MoMA  in 1935.   

Rachel will begin her work at On the Boards in January 2018.


On the Boards’ season is supported by the Boeing Company, Microsoft, ArtsFund, and the Tulalip Tribe Charitable Fund. Programs at On the Boards have major support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.