Ben Johnson is joining the City of Minneapolis as the first director of the recently created Department of Arts and Cultural Affairs. His decades of experience includes managing departments and programs focused on arts and culture across the nation as well as here in Minnesota. He begins his role at the City March 13
Created in July 2021, the Department of Arts and Cultural Affairs seeks to advance, support, stimulate and promote a diverse and active arts and cultural environment that recognizes and draws on the full potential of Minneapolis’ artists and arts organizations, reflects and responds to civic concerns and aspirations, and enriches the lives of all people living in and visiting Minneapolis. The department works with internal and external stakeholders to promote Minneapolis as a center for arts and culture and advance cultural equity, equality and inclusion through the arts.
Johnson comes to Minneapolis from Beverly Hills, California, where he served as arts and culture manager. Before that, he was the director of performing arts for the Los Angeles’ Department of Cultural Affairs, which launched several major initiatives during his tenure. Johnson’s experience includes leadership roles in arts and culture at UCLA, the nonprofit foundation United States Artists Inc., University of Minnesota’s Northrop Concerts and Lectures, the University of Michigan’s University Musical Society, and the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts. Johnson received BA and Master of Arts in Arts Administration degrees from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota in Winona.
“It’s no secret that Minneapolis is brimming with artists that set our city apart,” said Mayor Jacob Frey. “As our new Arts and Cultural Affairs director, Ben Johnson will galvanize the exceptional creative talent in our city and maximize its impact. I’m grateful Mr. Johnson is joining the City of Minneapolis and appreciate his commitment toward making the arts more equitable and accessible for all.”
“I’m really excited to have Ben join our team to make the Department of Arts & Cultural Affairs a reality,” said interim City Operations Officer Heather Johnston “His experience engaging cultural communities will be an asset to the City’s efforts to elevate the work of Minneapolis’ Black artists, Indigenous artists and artists of color.”
“I am thrilled to be returning to Minneapolis, which is a city I love deeply, and I am committed to creating an environment where all artists and diverse communities can thrive. Minneapolis is such an important arts city, both nationally and internationally, and it is a symbol of creativity and leadership throughout the world. It is my hope that we can come together to truly support and amplify artistic innovation and cultural legacies in profound, just and meaningful ways."