California Arts Council

State of California

Press Release Detail

January 28, 2015Caitlin Fitzwater

Donn K. Harris New Chairman of the California Arts Council

Head of renowned Oakland School for the Arts to lead state arts council

Sacramento -

 On Tuesday, January 27, the members of the California Arts Council unanimously elected Donn K. Harris as their new Council Chair. Harris was appointed to the Council by Governor Brown in January 2014, and has been Artistic and Executive Director of the Oakland School for the Arts since 2007.

"I am honored to join the statewide conversation about the role of the arts in the creative economy at this exciting time," said Donn K. Harris. "Building on the work of my predecessors as council chairs from Peter Coyote through Wylie Aitken, I am committed to leading the efforts, along with my Council colleagues and staff, to ensure that the inherent creativity of Californians is reflected in programs that support artists and arts patrons statewide in diverse, groundbreaking ways."

"Donn Harris brings invaluable expertise to the California Arts Council through his extensive experience in arts education and the creative process," remarked Craig Watson, Director of the California Arts Council. "Donn has demonstrated his sharp leadership in many ways during his tenure on the Council. We are thrilled to welcome him as our new Chair, and are confident he will be a stalwart leader of our Council."

On January 27, Susan Steinhauser was re-elected Vice-Chair of the Council, remaining in a post she has held for two years. Harris succeeds Wylie Aitken, a passionate arts supporter who served as Council Chair for two years. The Council also bade farewell to Charmaine Jefferson and William Turner -- two members who rotated off the Council after seven dedicated years of service.

About Donn K. Harris

Donn K. Harris is the Executive and Artistic Director of The Oakland School for the Arts (OSA), a public charter school serving over 650 students with an immersive arts program. He also serves on the leadership council of CREATE CA, California's statewide arts education coalition. Harris has been a member of the California Arts Council since January 2014, serving as the chair of the Council's arts education committee.

Prior to his tenure at OSA, Mr. Harris was the principal of the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts (RASOTA) in San Francisco. Mr. Harris holds an MA in Theater Arts from California State University at Los Angeles and received his teaching, Special Education and Administrative Services credentials from San Francisco State University. In 2005, Mr. Harris helped create The Academy of Arts and Sciences, a San Francisco Unified School District school designed to serve underrepresented students with comprehensive and unique arts programs, including a ground-breaking World Music program still thriving today.

Mr. Harris is committed to the arts and arts education as one of the key leverage points from which students and citizens can be propelled into the new creative economy. As a member of the Board of Directors with the national Arts Schools Network (ASN), Mr. Harris has served as the chair of the Arts Leadership committee, which has engaged arts leaders throughout the country in professional development and creative programming around arts environments throughout the country. Mr. Harris served as the ASN treasurer from 2012-2013 and is currently the organization's second Vice President.

Innovation, creativity and access to the arts continue to be a key thread in Mr. Harris' ongoing work. The Circus Arts program at The Oakland School for the Arts won the Arts Schools Network's 2011 Innovation Award. As a board member of The Engineers' Alliance for the Arts, Mr. Harris has helped to bring creative interdisciplinary programs to schools throughout the Bay Area. At OSA, an innovative recruitment initiative was launched to pair younger students at schools without arts programs with OSA students, who mentor and prepare students for entry into arts schools. A similar program at RASOTA from 2005-2008 resulted in increased diversity at the school.

Photos: Donn K. Harris


Harris with Jane Chu, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts; Libby Schaaf, Mayor of Oakland; and Craig Watson, Director of the California Arts Council on January 13, 2015 at Youth Radio in Oakland, CA.

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The Mission of the California Arts Council, a state agency, is to advance California through the arts and creativity. Members of the California Arts Council include: Chair Donn K. Harris, Vice Chair Susan Steinhauser, Michael Alexander, Christopher Coppola, Kathleen Gallegos, Jaime Galli, Nashormeh Lindo, and Rosalind Wyman. Learn more at

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