Alumnae: Alumnae Profiles

Alumnae Profiles: Laurie Cumbo, C'97

Spelman Alumna Laurie CumboLaurie Cumbo, C'97, has won a seat on the New York City Council in District 35. Cumbo will be responsible for expanding and developing arts and cultural tourism in the 35th district and making better use of public spaces including parks. In addition to her city council duties, Cumbo is founder and executive director of the Museum of Contemporary African Diaspora Arts.  

Born and raised in Brooklyn, Cumbo graduated from Spelman with a degree in Fine Art. She returned to Brooklyn and received her master’s degree in visual arts administration from New York University in 1999. As a cultural leader, entrepreneur, activist, college professor, educator, lecturer and small business owner working in the not-for-profit sector, Cumbo has dedicated her life to community development and to preserving the dynamic elements of diversity in the city.

Cumbo’s educational career has been bolstered by her extensive work experience as well as her travels abroad. She has worked at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, WNET Channel 13, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Grey Art Gallery. She has studied at the Utrecht School of the Arts in the Netherlands and the Fuji Studios in Florence, Italy. Moreover, her travels throughout North America, Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean have given her a global perspective on city planning and development, specifically on how cultural tourism revitalizes and fuels urban areas socially, aesthetically and economically.

At the age of twenty-two, while pursuing her graduate studies at NYU, Cumbo used her course work and thesis as a guide for developing the business plan for MoCADA, Brooklyn’s first Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts. She incorporated MoCADA as a 501c3 non-profit institution with enthusiastic support from the Brooklyn community of Bedford Stuyvesant and surrounding neighborhoods.

Cumbo works to bring people of all backgrounds together to discover their commonalities. Her brainchild has become the “Town Hall” institution of Brooklyn collecting thousands of diverse local and international visitors together to discuss challenging and provocative issues, such as:

  • Gentrification,
  • The Atlantic Yards Project,
  • The rebuilding of Haiti,
  • The war in Iraq,
  • Occupy Wall Street
  • Gun violence and
  • Women’s reproductive rights to name a few.

Most importantly, under Cumbo’s leadership, MoCADA has become the institution for emerging Museum professionals who are eager to have a voice in shaping our local global community.

Cumbo served as a graduate professor in the School of Art & Design at Pratt Institute from 2001 – 2011 in the Arts and Cultural Management Program. She is also a member of ARTTABLE, the American Association of Museums, the National Alliance of African and African American Art Support Groups, the Cultural Equity Group, the Downtown Brooklyn Arts Alliance and the Spelman College Alumnae Association. She is also an alumna of Achieving Leadership’s Purpose (ALP), Jack and Jill of America Brooklyn Chapter and Delta Sigma Theta Brooklyn Chapter Teen Lift.