João Ribas Tapped to Head REDCAT

Ribas will take over on June 1. 

For the first time since it launched 17 years ago, the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater has a new executive director.

After a nine-month search, the California Institute of the Arts, which oversees REDCAT, announced last week that João Ribas has been picked as the new Steven D. Lavine Executive Director and Vice President for Cultural Partnerships. He will take over for interim Executive Director Edgar Miramontes, who himself was asked to step in when founding executive director Mark Murphy stepped down last year. Ribas’ new role is effective June 1.

Ribas will be tasked with running the multidisciplinary and experimental performing space at the lower level of Walt Disney Concert Hall, including overseeing programming of more than 150 events a year at the compact theater.

“I’m absolutely thrilled,” Ribas told Los Angeles Downtown News by phone. “REDCAT has been a place that I have kept coming across over the years, not only because we have worked with some many artists in common, but of course the legacy of CalArts and its mission and focus on creativity and experimentation.”

Ribas will serve as just REDCAT’s second Executive Director since it opened in 2003.

Ribas said that he was well aware of REDCAT prior to applying, due to its diverse and eclectic offerings.

“It’s really interesting to me,” Ribas said. “One of the things that’s really special about REDCAT is that it is a space for experimentation. It’s a very diverse space that really reflects what’s going on in L.A. and really is a portal to the world.”

In the 17 years under Murphy, REDCAT showcased performers from a variety of disciplines, including dance troupes, local theatre and musical acts, bringing in a collection of budding and established acts, such as the Wooster Group, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Ronald K. Brown. It also has been the home of regular film series, such as the International Children Film’s Festival and Dance Camera West. Murphy went on to oversee programming across the United States and a slew of international cities.

Ribas said that he is interested in continuing the work that REDCAT has promoted since opening, but also forming new partnerships with cultural and artistic institutions across Los Angeles.

“I feel like it’s a very exciting time, and I look forward to learning from some of those communities,” Ribas said.

Ribas was born in Braga, Portugal, emigrating to Newark, New Jersey when he was 8 years old. He would live in the United States for 26 years before returning to Portugal in 2014.

Prior to joining REDCAT, Ribas worked in Porto, Portugal as Director of the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art. He also worked in New York, holding a curatorial position at both the MIT List Visual Arts Center and the Drawing Center.

In a prepared statement, CalArts President Ravi Rajan lauded Ribas’ attention to diverse, new works.

“João brings a deep practice of working directly with artists on presenting new work and has been a great champion of free expression and diversity, values, made important to him from his own experience growing up as an immigrant in Newark, New Jersey,” Rajan’s statement read.

Tim Disney, chair of the CalArts Board of Trustees, echoed Rajan’s sentiment.

“We look forward to João expanding Cal­Arts’ impact and reach through our programming, through increased partnerships with local communities, and by being an advocate for artists internationally,” Disney said in a prepared statement.

The announcement of Ribas’ new role was not the only shake up at the REDCAT last week.

On the same day, it was also announced that Miramontes would be promoted to Deputy Executive Director of REDCAT, working closely with Ribas under his new role. Miramontes has worked for REDCAT since 2008, serving in a range of management and curatorial positions.

Provost Tracie Constantino welcomed the new pairing in a prepared statement.

“We are incredibly excited to welcome João to CalArts given the incredible sweep of his work, his prescient vision, his collaborative spirit, and advocacy for artists,” Constantino said. “And we are thrilled to promote Edgar, a lifelong Angeleno who has continued to push REDCAT forward with his dedication to providing a space for opening and inclusivity.”

Dohee Lee’s Goddesses will be the first production showcased under Ribas on June 5-6. The International Children Film’s Festival, one of the theater’s most popular events, will be held just a week later, starting on June 13.

sthomas@timespublications.com.