Silver Spring Town Center, Inc.’s new executive director has helped organize festivals in Estonia and Ireland, international experiences she hopes to draw on for Silver Spring.
Lisa Martin, 44, became the first executive director for Silver Spring Town Center, Inc., a nonprofit organization that coordinates events on Silver Spring’s Veterans Plaza, including the popular Blues Festival.
“This was like a dream job for me,” she said. “I love creating memories and experiences in people’s lives through the arts.”
Martin became executive director Nov. 22 and since has started reaching out to the Silver Spring community.
“[Martin’s] a tremendous optimist and, for her, the glass is always half full and she sees the sunny side and she brings out the best in people,” said Alan Bowser, president of Silver Spring Town Center, Inc.
Since its creation in 2004, Silver Spring Town Center, Inc. has been run by a board, Bowser said. Board members divide the duties of organizing plaza events, communications, and fundraising. While most of the organization’s revenue comes from fundraising, Bowser declined to provide details about the organization’s budget or revenue.
The nonprofit sprang up during the redevelopment of Silver Spring as a way to ensure Veterans Plaza would be a community-focused space, Bowser said.
“Having a full-time executive director will let us act more as a governing board and bring a focus to fundraising activities as well as community outreach,” Bowser said.
The group organizes weekly performances and hosts monthly arts discussions and annual events like the Silver Spring Blues Festival and the Veterans Tribute Concert.
Martin has worked on many festivals, she said, an activity she finds more gratifying than any other job.
“These types of events end up standing out in people’s memories,” she said.
She has worked on the International VSA Festival at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., which hosts visual and performing arts by people with disabilities. She has also worked on the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C.
“We think Lisa has a great sensitivity to the different cultures that make up our Silver Spring community,” Bowser said. “We are excited about the festival experience she brings to Silver Spring Town Center.”
Originally from San Diego, Martin attended San Diego State University, achieving bachelor’s degrees in cultural anthropology and journalism. Bowser declined to say what Martin will be paid.
Afterward, she got a job working at the San Diego Opera in the public relations and marketing department.
A few years later, Martin joined the Peace Corps and travelled to Estonia, where she taught English from 1996 to 1998. During the summer, she helped organize the Pärnu International Documentary and Anthropology Film Festival.
In 1999, Martin moved to the Washington, D.C., region and worked as a researcher for a museum consulting firm.
She went on to get her master’s degree in performing arts management from American University, writing her thesis on an art festival in Ireland, living there in 2000 to research the paper.
A few years ago, Martin started her own business, researching and evaluating events and festivals. With the struggling economy, the business was not doing that well, Martin said. While keeping an eye out for new jobs, she stumbled across the ad for the opening at Silver Spring Town Center, Inc.
Martin said she hopes to showcase performers from all around world. One of her main goals is to increase communication between the nonprofit and the surrounding community and businesses.
“Even just locally, we have such a diverse array of people in the community,” Martin said. “We are kind of building everything from the ground up.”