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eta Creative Arts Foundation announces new Executive Director

“The opportunity to lead the eta Creative Arts Foundation in developing their fullest potential as an iconic, creative arts institution is an honor,” Kai EL’ Zabar states. “I am excited about the endless creative possibilities to grow our audience. We have an important voice in the arts community. I am enthusiastic about the opportunities for expansion and the fresh contributions we can make to the creative world of art and theater.”

eta Creative Arts Foundation, Inc. announced Kai EL’ Zabar as the new CEO/Executive Director. EL’ Zabar has offcially begun her tenure at the 48-year old institution.

EL’ Zabar made history as the first female executive editor of the Chicago Defender newspaper in 2014. While at the iconic newspaper, she played an important role in breathing new life and interest in the 116-year-old paper. Prior to her appointment at eta, EL’ Zabar was editing manuscripts, screenplays and writing books at M2N Publishing. She has a Bachelor of Arts from Lake Forest College in English Literature and Journalism and her Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Arts from Columbia College.

With her appointment, EL’ Zabar serves as the third Executive Director in eta’s history. She was preceded by Philip Thomas and the founding CEO/Executive Director, the late Abena Joan Brown. She joins Producing Artistic Director Kemati Porter as eta’s leadership team.

Leveraging her editor/writing experience and extensive community network on behalf of eta are talents EL’ Zabar brings to her new position. “This is an exciting time for eta. We are uniquely positioned to play a larger role in the growing Chicago arts community. I have a talented team of artists who are looking forward to creating a season of compelling plays and thought-provoking artwork. My first task is to tell our story. And, secondly, to raise the funds to continue our growth.”

EL’ Zabar’s hiring comes as the foundation implements a plan of creative and strategic growth, outreach and increased funding. eta Board President Les Bond, CEO of Attucks Asset Management, LLC, says, “We welcome Kai’s leadership and look forward to the community’s support and interest as we blaze the trail to celebrate 50 years of the eta Creative Arts Foundation.”

The City of Chicago and the League of Chicago Theatres have designated 2019 as the ‘Year of Chicago Theatre’ making EL’-Zabar’s hire all the more timely at an important moment in history as eta participates in this citywide, year-long focus on theatre that is the first of its kind in the U.S.

The eta Creative Arts Foundation, Inc. celebrates its 50th year Anniversary in 2021.


eta Creative Arts Foundation, Inc. was founded to serve the Chicago community as a major cultural resource for preserving and promoting African American experiences. The main focus of the organization is storytelling. eta provides professional opportunities for youth and adults to master their craft as artists, actors, technicians and arts-in education leaders. Visual artists are showcased in eta’s gallery and their works are for sale to the general public. The eta stage is where authentic depictions of African American lifestyles, experiences and aspirations are presented.

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