Coggins to join Conservancy staff in Fall 2018
July 2, 2018 (Ha‘ikū, HI) – Following a nationwide search process, The Merwin Conservancy Board of Directors announced today that Sonnet Kekilia Coggins will be the new Executive Director of the Maui-based nonprofit organization founded by renowned poet W.S. Merwin and his late wife Paula Merwin. Coggins will begin work for the Conservancy in September part time and move to Maui to begin full time work in late October. She comes with a wealth of experience working in program development, public engagement and leadership at art museums, and will relocate to Maui from Massachusetts.
Coggins joins the Merwin Conservancy at a time of considerable growth and success at the organization, which is providing imaginative programming and educational offerings across Hawai‘i and the continental United States that inspire innovation in the arts and sciences by advancing the Merwins’ ideas and values. Notably, its “Green Room” literary and environmental salon series has recently expanded to include regular events in Honolulu.
Coggins is currently Deputy Director of the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) in Massachusetts where she is responsible for outreach, donor relations and developing innovative programs, including an exciting new exhibition on the historical connections between Williams College and Hawai‘i. Prior to her five years at WCMA, Coggins spent nearly a decade at the Denver Art Museum, where she directed and helped to fund a range of educational initiatives related to modern and contemporary art. Coggins has a Master of Arts degree and a Master of Teaching degree from the University of Virginia, where she studied French cultural history, museums, and education.
Coggins stated, “the Merwin Conservancy’s singular capacity to connect us, in a tangible, visceral, beautiful way, to the truth that a creative gesture can have profound impact, is poignant and urgent. It invites us all to steward the generative possibilities of nature and of our own imaginations.”
Conservancy Board President Matthew Schwartz said “Beyond the depth of her professional experience in the nonprofit arts world, Sonnet impressed the search committee with her ability to articulate a deep passion for our mission and with her ideas for expanding our programs and network of supporters both in Hawai‘i and nationally. That Sonnet’s family has deep roots in Hawai’i was an added serendipity.”
Schwartz continued, “The board believes that Sonnet will be a great partner for Sara Tekula, who has so ably led the Conservancy these past few months as our Interim Executive Director while also carrying out her regular work. Sara will return to her role of Director of Communications and Outreach in September once Sonnet starts work, with our deepest gratitude for a job well done and expectations of more great things to come in partnership with Sonnet and the rest of the Conservancy team.”
Coggins added, “I am honored to join the Merwin Conservancy. To steward William and Paula’s vision, and to amplify its impact in partnership with the Conservancy’s board, staff, and friends is a privilege beyond measure. Rarely in life is one able to align one’s mind, body, and spirit behind something so profound and grounded. This is one such opportunity, and I am deeply committed to it.”
About the Merwin Conservancy
The Merwin Conservancy’s mission is to inspire innovation in the arts and sciences by advancing the ideas of W.S. Merwin – his life, work, house and palm forest – as fearless and graceful examples of the power of imagination and renewal.
To fulfill this mission, the Conservancy maintains the house and palm forest as a place of stillness and reflection for retreat, study, and contemplation through a residency program for creative visionaries and thought leaders from Hawaii and across the world. We engage both local and global communities through our Green Room literary and environmental salon series, through dynamic multimedia storytelling projects, and through innovative collaborations with various artistic, scientific and educational leaders and institutions. For more information, visit http://www.merwinconservancy.org
Sara Tekula, Interim Executive Director
The Merwin Conservancy
P.O. Box 809, Ha‘ikū, HI 96708