AHCMC Welcomes Marisa Benson

Marisa Benson is an arts manager with a passion for cultivating sustainable arts ecosystems, championing equity, and connecting artists to opportunities and one another. Originally from New Jersey, she started her career in the DMV and is delighted to return to support the arts and humanities scene in Montgomery County. 

AHCMC: So, tell us about yourself and your background in the arts. 

Marisa: My journey in the arts began at an early age. I took classes in dance and origami and started writing and performing songs, spoken word and poetry. During my university experience, I researched the role of the arts in contributing to economic development, public policy, and the preservation of indigenous cultural traditions. My master’s degree is in Arts Administration from Drexel University, where I focused on the sustainability of mid-sized performing arts centers, and my undergraduate degree is in Diplomacy with a focus on arts policy and the impact of cultural exchange. 

AHCMC: Can you share a little more about your experience in grants management? 

Marisa: Grants management is the central focus of my career. At the U.S. Department of State, I managed a range of cultural exchange programs between U.S.-based artists and arts organizations and their global counterparts across artistic disciplines, including the humanities. Next, I transitioned to working on the international internship program at Princeton University, where I created a program management system from the ground up, managed individual grants, and created opportunities in the arts for students. I also wrote grants for local arts organizations in my community and directed arts festivals during this experience. Following Princeton, I became the grants manager for the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, overseeing systems, operations, and the grants management cycle for five years. Then I took a Grants Manager role with the New Jersey Department of Health for a couple of years.  

AHCMC: What led you to work for AHCMC? 

Marisa: Beyond my combined passion in both arts and grants management, I enjoy impact assessment and am greatly impressed by the work of AHCMC to increase both funding and visibility of the arts sector over time. The diversity of arts organizations and the impact each organization makes on improving the lives of its staff, board, and community is inspirational, particularly on the local level. 

AHCMC: Tell us a little about your passion for creating transformational experiences.  

Marisa: One thread that connects each experience be it work or volunteering in my community is fostering transformative experiences. This thread reflects efforts to secure funding, make funding processes more equitable, recommend strategies to further multiply impact and ensure experiences are memorable and impactful.  

AHCMC: Do you still perform spoken word? 

Marisa: I was very active in the spoken word scene while I worked in the DMV and continued that passion in New Jersey, as well as in my travels. I look forward to re-engaging in this scene soon and continuing to write new work that focuses on issues of global importance. 

AHCMC: What are you most looking forward to as the Grants Manager? 

Marisa: I look forward to engaging with the staff of grant recipients and learning about their challenges, successes, and ways we can further support their work for them to thrive. I’m also excited to learn more about the inner workings of AHCMC and its role in local economic development and public policy.