Third Coast Festival names new executive director

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Shirley Alfaro is the new executive director of the Third Coast International Audio Festival.


Alfaro comes to the role with more than 15 years of experience in arts and media administration in the Chicago area. Previously she was an associate director at the Latino Policy Forum and the director of programming and engagement at the National Public Housing Museum. From 2013–17 she was the regional manager for StoryCorps Chicago.

Third Coast announced Alfaro’s appointment Tuesday following a nationwide search for candidates. Its founding director Johanna Zorn announced plans to step down in the spring after leading the organization since its 1999 inception.

“Third Coast is one of the original igniters of narrative audio as an artform, and now the organization is at the forefront of changing the audio field for the better,” Alfaro said in a statement provided by the organization. “I see this Third Coast team as fearlessly committed to craft and experimentation, and already in the past few years, making unprecedented strides to broaden access and inclusion to the audio field. I’m so excited to continue this work and build Third Coast’s next chapter!”

The Chicago-based arts nonprofit promotes and curates creative audio storytelling from around the globe, including at its annual conference and on its podcast and public radio program Re:sound. Third Coast is headquartered in the offices of Chicago’s WBEZ but has been an independent organization since 2009. Its conference in Chicago features lectures and panels by influential public radio figures. 

The nonprofit also administers the annual Third Coast/Richard H. Driehaus Foundation awards, which employees refer to as “the Oscars of radio,” and hosts an annual “Radio Residency” program for producers from underrepresented communities.

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