Celeste C. Smith was named senior program officer for arts and culture in January 2021. Celeste provides leadership for the arts and culture portfolio and engages collaboratively with other members of the arts and culture team to ensure that grantmaking reflect rigorous quantitative and qualitative research into the cultural sector. She has principal responsibility for shaping grant-making, convening and support strategies, including the development and oversight of special initiatives. She works closely with department leaders to establish goals and regularly monitor outcomes of the arts and culture portfolio.
Celeste first joined the Foundation’s staff in 2018 as program officer for arts and culture and has been a significant contributor to the Program team’s efforts to advance racial equity by responding to critical community needs by centering the voices of people and communities most impacted by the issues the Foundation seeks to address. She brings her deep experience as a nonprofit and community leader, arts administrator, artist and activist to her role and has increased the reach and impact of grantmaking and special initiatives, including two joint arts programs with the Heinz Endowments. She is also adept at leveraging diverse local and national networks and cultivating new partnerships to evaluate current strategies and inform new approaches.
Celeste’s “more than money” mindset creatively brings people together for shared learning, collaboration and celebration. She helped developed the Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh toolkit in response to a direct request from the field for examples of grant applications, budgets, curricula vitae and artist statements for successful funding requests. She also engages arts institutions in critical discussions about their role in creating a thriving and equitable arts ecosystem. She led efforts to document and elevate the impact of COVID-19 on the arts sector, ensuring their inclusion in the criteria for the Emergency Action Fund. She also organized a nine-person advisory committee to inform the design of the Grantmaking for Racial Justice Fund.
Celeste is a graduate of Chatham University and has served on numerous boards and committees including the Grantmakers in the Arts Independent Artists Support Committee, COVID Artist Working Group Philanthropic Member, CYD Youth Funders Forum, Reimagine Pittsburgh Public Schools Arts Team Member and Justice Funders. She has served as a panelist and presenter at dozens of local and national events and conferences. She was a 2018 SXSW Community Service Award honoree.
Celeste is also a literary artist. Her writing was published in the 2019 literary anthology, "TENDER a Literary Anthology and Book of Spells: evidence," which was edited by vanessa german, award-winning visual and performance artist, and Deesha Philyaw, national book award finalist. She lives with her husband and three children in East Liberty.