"Opportunity begins with education, but San Francisco's education system is divided. More than one in four students opts out of the San Franciso Unified School District. Yes, we need to address today's problems and we can't stop there. We also need to celebrate the many successes of our school communities. If we dream big and envision a truly unified school district where all children flourish, we can build a better future."
Lex is a public school mom, seasoned leader, and experienced educator who works to protect critical services and resources for San Francisco’s most vulnerable residents. She leads the City and County of San Francisco's Nonprofit Sustainability Initiative, a multi-agency collaboration to protect child care, after school programs, youth job training, healthcare, housing support, counseling and cultural resources by helping nonprofits address systemic challenges such as real estate and the high costs of doing business. Since 2015 the NSI has helped nonprofits explore strategic partnerships and seeded the creation of new, nonprofit-owned space throughout the city.
Lex has a proven track record leading community collaborations and transforming organizations. Before stepping into her current job, Lex was executive director of SOMArts Cultural Center (2008-2015). Lex has been widely recognized for revitalizing the cultural center, which serves over 30,000 residents annually, despite limited resources and the challenges of the great recession. She started by listening to the community in a series of "town halls," by responding to the most urgent community need such as the loss of LGBTQ nightlife space in SoMa, and by establishing no-nonsense evaluation strategies to measure progress. Lex leveraged national grant programs to increase staff and forged new and lasting partnerships with local universities and nonprofits such as the San Francisco Art Institute, Youth Art Exchange and Bay Area Video Coalition. Working with the dedicated and diverse SOMArts staff and board, she launched Flag Stories: Citizenship Unbound, an international exchange program to promote understanding of Islamic heritage, culture and scholarship between Muslim and non-Muslim youth, and expanded free access for youth to attend SOMArts’ annual Día de los Muertos exhibition, curated by legendary San Francisco artist and activist René Yañez and his son Rio Yañez. The first exhibition Lex brought to SOMArts was "What Cannot Be Taken Away: Families and Prisons Project," a partnership between artist Evan Bissell and Community Works that addressed the seven million youth nationwide with parents in the legal justice system, and resulted from eight months of intergenerational, creative dialogue between Bay Area youth who have incarcerated parents, and fathers who were incarcerated in San Francisco jail.
Lex has fought for cultural equity and cultural affirmation. In 2014, Lex co-founded Arts for a Better Bay Area with Ebony McKinney. The network was established to build bridges between large and small arts organizations and to build public will for the arts. In its first year ABBA engaged more than 500 arts allies and secured a $7 million commitment from the City and County of San Francisco, including an ongoing increase of $1m to the Cultural Equity Endowment, an historic 50% increase and the first such increase in the 20 years of the endowment. One of Lex's key roles was to design the framework for the Arts Budget Coalition, which was informed by successful youth advocacy efforts and interviews with youth allies such as Coleman Advocates.
Lex has been nationally recognized as an innovative leader. Among other honors, she was one of 50 international CEOs selected for National Arts Strategies’ Chief Executive Program, an honor she has paid forward as a mentor in leadership development programs such as the Creative Community Fellows program and programs for young professionals that prioritize racial, gender and economic justice. She has been a guest lecturer, speaker and panelist for University of San Francisco, California College of the Arts, Emerging Arts Professionals, and the Foundation Center, and is currently a member of Northern California Grantmakers’ working group on nonprofit displacement.
Supporting teachers and schools has been a family effort
Lex has been a San Francisco resident for almost a decade. Her husband, Dan, serves as Secretary on the Family Council at her son's public school. She attended early neighborhood meetings for the future site of affordable educator housing and has volunteered with her family over the past two years to help the site become temporarily activated as a community skate park and garden, and to engage the surrounding community in public meetings about plans for the site's development.
Lex holds a Master of Arts Liberal Studies from Wesleyan University, and a BFA from Drake University. Before coming to SOMArts she was the assistant director of Wesleyan University’s Green Street Arts Center, where she taught low-income youth and worked with a team of teachers and students to triple the enrollment in evening and weekend classes. Her belief in the essential role of teachers is rooted in 11 years' experience teaching and running education programs.