Courtesy of Bret Hartman

Last month, Madeline Sayet, executive director of the Yale Indigenous Performing Arts Program, was appointed to the New England Foundation for the Arts Board of Directors.

NEFA is a nonprofit that supports artists and communities in New England through grants and community events. Sayet, who is a director, writer and performer, is one of three new members of the NEFA Board of Directors, a group responsible for the organization’s strategic direction, ethical governance and sound financial management.

“[Sayet’s] perspective as a theater artist, an Indigenous woman and as the executive director of Yale Indigenous Performing Arts Program brings a unique and powerful voice to the board of directors,” said Ann Wicks, NEFA communications director.

Wicks noted that NEFA board members exhibit exceptional leadership and experience in the creative sector. The board is made up of members from all six New England states. NEFA strives to appoint members who represent the artists and communities it serves — especially BIPOC community members.

Sayet, who is a member of the Mohegan Tribe in Connecticut, has dedicated her work to promoting Native art in New England. She recognized the importance of Indigenous representation on the NEFA Board of Directors, and said that Native artists are often left out of conversations about cultivating art in the region.

Sayet has been selected as a TED Fellow, MIT Media Lab Director’s Fellow, Forbes 30 Under 30 in Hollywood & Entertainment and Native American 40 Under 40. Sayet also received the White House Champion of Change Award from President Obama in 2011. Last year, she was appointed executive director of YIPAP.

Sayet worked to support Native theater artists by expanding on YIPAP’s core programming, which includes events such as the Annual Yale Young Native Playwright’s Contest and the Annual New Play Festival. Under Sayet, YIPAP established two national youth awards and organized an increased number of free workshops led by accomplished Native theater artists for people of all ages. Sayet said she hopes YIPAP will continue to bring youth and professional Native theater artists together and work towards removing barriers to access for young people interested in theater. 

“My goal is to create a community at Yale where every Native student knows that theater can be a core part of how we make change,” Sayet said. “I know there are playwrights in every Native nation across this land and they all have the right to be the ones telling their own stories — the world will be better for it.”

Professor Ned Blackhawk, faculty coordinator of YIPAP, said that Sayet brought “a wealth of experience and insight” to the role. Sayet oversaw a storytelling festival last spring and organized various workshops and performances during the pandemic.

Sayet explained that the board of directors oversees NEFA’s efforts to fulfill its mission, and promote equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility in its operations. Additionally, the board supervises financial decisions, supports NEFA’s executive director and identifies and develops opportunities for NEFA’s growth.

“I am honored to be following in the footsteps of previous Native board members at NEFA to continue the push not only for equitable representation and policies for Native artists but also reframing and decolonizing how we think about arts policies as a whole,” Sayet said.

NEFA was founded in 1976.

Marisol Carty |

Marisol Carty was Arts Editor from 2021-2022 and previously covered Music. She double majors in Economics and Philosophy.