Art Is Her Sanctuary

Story by: ALEXA HICKLIN / Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush

Photo by: IMANI FOREMAN / Parkway West High School

Valerie Gay: “I know the importance of art and the world and in people’s lives. All of this is really close to my heart.”

Valerie Gay recently took a big career step moving from being Director of Development & Alumni Affairs at Temple University to Executive Director at the Art Sanctuary, a multi-faceted facility located on the corner of 16th and Bainbridge Streets.

“Any new job can be scary,” Gay said. “It’s a little nerve-wracking.”

When recruiters called Gay to offer her the Arts Sanctuary job, she quickly turned it down. “I initially said this is not really for me, I wasn’t looking. I was very happy at Temple University.”

But as she began to learn more about the organization using art and education to transform people’s lives, Gay had a change of heart.” As a performer, I’m a singer,” she said. “All of my degrees are in music, so I know the importance of art and the world and in people’s lives. All of this is really close to my heart.”

As the new Executive Director of Art Sanctuary, Gay hopes to contribute her years of experience and potentially help Art Sanctuary, which was founded by author Lorene Cary in 1998, grow.

Throughout the year a large number of composers and artists from around the Delaware Valley region take part in events at the Art Sanctuary. “We pride ourselves on paying artists because we value the art and we want to make sure that the artists know that they are valued, Gay stated.

The Sanctuary’s instructional events include a program for teaching artists called Class Acts, which brings writers and artists of color into workshops, lectures and performance matinees.

Recently, Art Sanctuary celebrated the 28th Annual Celebration of Black Writing. Many writers from Philadelphia and other parts of the U.S came out to showcase their talents. Poets Nikki Giovanni and Sonia Sanchez and Pulitzer -prize winning playwright Charles Fuller were among the people who have attended this event and have been honored with the Sanctuary’s Lifetime Achievement Award.


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