News: Former White House aide to join Arsht Center leadership



Former Chief of Staff to Miami Mayor Manny Diaz
to serve as executive at Arsht Center


MIAMI, FL August 19, 2009 – The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County announced today that it has named Suzanna Valdez as Vice President of Advancement. Ms. Valdez comes to the Center after serving as Chief of Staff to City of Miami Mayor Manny Diaz for the past two years. Prior to her work at City Hall, Ms. Valdez served as Miami Program Director for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

In her new role as Vice President of Advancement, Ms. Valdez will be a hands-on, deeply involved fundraiser and will direct the Adrienne Arsht Center’s efforts to broaden its base of financial support among individual and corporate donors. Her work will include building and strengthening the Center’s relationships with the business community, overseeing institutional fundraising activities, and securing major gifts.

The announcement was made by M. John Richard, President and CEO of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.


“The Adrienne Arsht Center continues to make a positive impact in the Miami community. Now more than ever, individuals, corporations and foundations have an opportunity to make a real difference through their support for the Center, helping to ensure we sustain and maximize that impact. Suzanna’s background in the public, private, and non-profit sectors will provide her with a strong foundation for her work here,” said Mr. Richard. “Suzanna possesses many leadership qualities and joins a senior management team that has a track record of uncommon accomplishment. She sets the bar high for herself, making her a perfect fit for the Arsht Center’s goals and aspirations.”

Prior to her work in the Office of Mayor Diaz, Ms. Valdez gained extensive experience in the Miami arts community as Miami Program Director for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. During her tenure there, she managed and directed an annual grants portfolio of $6 million for the Community Partners Program. A key factor in her success at the Knight Foundation was her role directing an advisory board of key business, media and community leaders.
“Suzanna’s commitment to Miami, passion for the arts, and experience building bridges between government, businesses, and community organizations – not to mention her managerial track record – is what excites me most about her potential to be a game-changer for the Adrienne Arsht Center,” said J. Ricky Arriola, Chairman of the Performing Arts Center Trust board of directors.“I’ve long been a big believer that the performing arts are an essential pillar of any community, both from a cultural and economic development standpoint. Now, as Vice President of Advancement for the Adrienne Arsht Center, I look forward to solidifying the Center’s position at the forefront of Miami’s emergence as an arts destination,” said Ms. Valdez.
Mayor Diaz believes Ms. Valdez’s move to the Adrienne Arsht Center is a natural extension of her work under his administration. “Suzanna’s extensive experience and deep commitment to public service has been instrumental in advancing key policy initiatives for the city as well as advancing the urban and environmental goals of my administration,” said Miami Mayor Manny Diaz. He added that “While I’m delighted that she will continue working to develop our community’s arts and culture agenda at the Arsht Center, she will be greatly missed at City Hall.”

In addition to her work at Miami City Hall and at the Knight Foundation, Ms. Valdez has held several prominent roles within the federal government. She served as Deputy Chief of Staff for the U.S. Department of Labor from 1997 to 2000 and worked in The White House as Special Assistant to the President from 1993 to 1997. She also served as a Special Assistant in the office of U.S. Senator Albert Gore, Jr.

Ms. Valdez attended the Columbia University School of International Public Affairs, where she earned a master’s degree in public administration. She received her bachelor’s degree in management at the University of Texas at Pan American.

An active participant in the Miami community outside of her career, Ms. Valdez is currently a member of the board of directors for the Miami Science Museum, as well as the City of Miami Arts and Cultural Commission. She also sits on the board of directors for the Community Partnership for the Homeless. She has previously served as a board member for Breakthrough Miami, a peer-to-peer mentoring program for high school students.

Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County is made possible by the public support of the Miami-Dade County Mayor and the Board of County Commissioners, Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council, and Miami-Dade County Tourist Development Council. Education & Outreach is funded in part by The Children’s Trust. The Adrienne Arsht Center also receives generous support from private contributions to the Adrienne Arsht Center Foundation, Inc. through its Visionary Society membership program and its Encore Circle major gifts program; City of Miami Omni Community Redevelopment Agency; American Express Company; Arison Arts Foundation; Dade Community Foundation; the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Arts Council; the National Endowment for the Arts, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

About the Adrienne Arsht Center for Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County

The Adrienne Arsht Center for Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County is Miami-Dade County’s largest ever public/private-sector partnership, comprised of an $150 million private capital campaign conducted by the Performing Arts Center Foundation and public funding drawn primarily from the County’s Convention Development Tax revenues, as well as the City of Miami Omni Redevelopment District Community Redevelopment Agency. Greatly enhancing the artistic and educational opportunities in South Florida, the Adrienne Arsht Center will have significant and long-term economic benefits for the city and the region.

The Adrienne Arsht Center, designed by world-renowned architect Cesar Pelli of Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, includes the 2,400-seat Sanford and Dolores Ziff Ballet Opera House, the 2,200-seat John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall, a 200-seat black box Carnival Studio Theater, the Peacock Education Center, a restored Carnival Art Deco Tower, and the Parker and Vann Thomson Plaza for the Arts, which unites the Center buildings across Biscayne Boulevard, providing a magnificent setting for outdoor entertainment and informal gatherings. The key members of the design team include theater planning and design consultant Joshua Dachs of Fisher Dachs Associates, Inc. and acoustician Russell Johnson of ARTEC, Inc., both of whom worked on the project since its inception.


The Adrienne Arsht Center is a Miami venue not only for its three resident companies (Florida Grand Opera, Miami City Ballet, and New World Symphony), but also for many smaller South Florida arts organizations that will perform in its theaters on a regular basis, as well as for the finest popular and classical performances from around the world. With state-of-the-art performance facilities in Miami for the first time, the Adrienne Arsht Center offers South Florida audiences the best and most diverse theater, music, and dance—with a dedication to entertain, challenge, and educate all segments of the community. For more information, visit


About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of the U.S. communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Knight Foundation focuses on projects with the potential to create transformational change. For more, visit