UMass appoints new Fine Arts Center director

  • Jamilla Deria, who previously worked in the Valley and  grew up in Connecticut,  has been appointed the new director of the Fine Arts Center at UMass Amherst. Photo courtesy Jamilla Deria

Staff Writer
Thursday, March 28, 2019

 The University of Massachusetts Amherst has named a new director for the Fine Arts Center, one with an extensive background in producing and promoting a range of shows in historic New York City venues such as the Apollo and Beacon theaters.

Jamilla Deria is a graduate of Williams College and grew up in Hartford, Connecticut. Currently the program director of the Apollo Theater Foundation in New York, Deria will join the FAC in June. She succeeds Dr. Willie L. Hill, who retired in February after heading the FAC for nearly 20 years.

UMass Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs John McCarthy made Deria’s appointment, noting that the FAC has had just two previous directors since opening in 1975 and that he’s “confident Jamilla Deria will continue their tradition of excellence, inclusion and service to the campus and the community.”

Deria, who earned a master’s in media, culture and communications from New York University, has presented live music and theatrical and family entertainment to audiences for nearly two decades, according to press notes, promoting shows and arts organizations such as the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, Blue Man Group and Cirque du Soleil.

She’s also the founder of FeVA Productions, Inc., a nonprofit theater company that supports emerging playwrights of color. Since 2015, she has produced the Women of the World festival (WOW), a partnership with London’s Southbank Centre offering performances, talks, and other events to promote gender equality and celebrate the achievements of women and girls.

In a statement, Deria said she’s already a “direct benefactor” of the Valley’s arts community, as she previously worked with the former New World Theater at UMass and the annual Ko Festival at Amherst College and attended “many cultural programs and performances over the years.”

“I understand the transformative power of the arts and its ability to impact lives,” she added. “It is with great pleasure that I return to UMass, and I relish the opportunity to meaningfully support the arts community which helped shape me.”