ADV – Leaderboard

New Leadership Seals Penumbra’s Evolution Into Racial Healing Center

The historic Minnesota org has added 3 new leaders: Chris Berry as arts director, Christine Smith as equity director, and Camille Cyprian as wellness director.

SAINT PAUL, MINN.: In 2020, Penumbra Theatre announced its name change to Penumbra Center for Racial Healing, and now a new leadership team is in place to guide the arts organization’s development of innovative programming in arts, equity, and wellness. The team’s newest members are Chris Berry, who will serve as the new arts director; Christine Smith who will serve as the equity director; and Camille Cyprian, who will serve as the wellness director.  

The theatre is revising their mission statement to include their goal to deepen their impact from their local community to become a national leader in racial healing. 

“Penumbra is in the process of becoming,” said Penumbra president Sarah Bellamy in a statement. “There is hard work ahead to realize our ambitions, and the path opening up at our feet is exciting yet uncharted. With the addition of these three leaders, we have a tremendous team in place to innovate our way forward. Each step takes us further into a future that is vital for our organization and hopefully vitalizing for the people we serve.” 

Newly appointed arts director Chris Berry plans to uphold and continue to expand his vision of provoking change within audiences for Black theatre. Prior to Penumbra, Berry served as the president of the Black Theatre Network, as director of education and humanities for the Billie Holiday Theatre, and as a judge for the August Wilson Monologue Competition.

“What brought me to Penumbra was the organization’s long history of centering, celebrating, and preserving Black stories,” said Berry in a statement. “I am excited to join this team, and to build upon Penumbra’s strong foundation to help rethink what an artistic institution can be.” Berry holds a BFA in acting from North Carolina A&T State University and an MFA in acting from Brown/Trinity University.  

Christine Smith, Penumbra’s new equity director, plans to design an extensive plan for equity programming that expands on the theatre’s current equity training, speaking engagements, workshops, and curated experiences. “At Penumbra, we aim to create values-driven programming that centers the Black experience and supports healing for all,” said Smith in a statement. “I am thrilled to expand on the tremendous resources that already exist to develop a trauma-informed and healing-centered approach to our equity work.” Smith previously worked for the Minnesota Department of Human Services as a policy consultant and tribal liaison for the Minesota Family Investment Program. She holds a B.A. in organizational communication and an M.A. in family life education, and is currently working toward her second M.A. in holistic health science.

Camille Cyprian will launch the theatre’s first comprehensive wellness program as its new wellness director. The wellness program aims to support individuals and communities heal from the negative consequences that BIPOC communities face from racism. “Healing isn’t a product, it’s a practice—and practice is something that happens continuously and deepens,” said Cyprian in a statement. “Wellness has always been an intuitive part of Penumbra’s work, but it is a new area of focus for us, so we’re being thoughtful and deliberate about what and how we begin to bring that work forward with community.”  Cyprian is a graduate instructor for the social justice minor at the University of Minnesota and serves on the on the advisory board of the Funders Network P.L.A.C.E.S. Fellowship, as well as the governing boards of Headwaters Foundation for Justice and Maji ya Chai Land Sanctuary. She holds a masters in nonprofit management from Hamline University.  

Penumbra Theatre was founded in 1976 by artistic director emeritus Lou Bellamy as a center for Black arts. Its mission remains to nurture Black artists, promote racial equality, inspire creative resiliency. In recent years, their mission has expanded to be a center for racial healing particularly in the historically Black neighborhood of Rondo in Saint Paul, Minn. As of 2020, the organization had an annual budget of approximately $1.9 million.

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ADV – Billboard