Kwayera Archer-Cunningham is the Founding President and Chief Executive Officer of Ifetayo Cultural Arts Academy, Inc. from inception in 1989 to June 2014. Kwayera is a former professional dancer and choreographer, an experienced arts educator, and a seasoned administrator who has developed innovative programs and techniques that combine performing and visual arts with core principles and traditions of African culture. She strategically combined arts and African culture to create programs that enable youth and families to gain heightened self-awareness and confidence, improved health and wellness, increased financial knowledge, and academic success to the benefit of themselves and the communities in which they reside and beyond.
Under Kwayera’s leadership since 1989, Ifetayo has grown from providing 10 students with free dance classes to serving more than 20,000 youth through six integrated arts and culture programs. She was also able to build her organization’s capacity from one teacher with a minimum budget to 10 full-time staff members and 33 part-time faculty members with an operating budget of 2 million and a steadily growing cash reserve. In recent years Kwayera has created an extension of Ifetayo aimed at strengthening cultural organizations globally by using strategies that genuinely reflect each community’s cultural and ethical value structure.
Kwayera holds a master of science in community economic development with a focus in community organizing and a master of arts in nonprofit management from Southern New Hampshire University. She is also a graduate of Columbia Business School’s Executive-Level Training program with the Institute for Nonprofit Management. Kwayera has been extensively recognized for her service to the community through local, national, and international awards for arts, culture, civic engagement, and entrepreneurship.
In 2001, Ifetayo received the prestigious Union Square Award for “visionary organizations responding to society’s most pressing social, political, and economic issues.” In 2008, Kwayera’s devotion to integrating traditional African concepts in every aspect of the organization, including its management structure, resulted in Ifetayo’s receipt of the coveted New York Times Company Nonprofit Excellence Award for Excellent Culturally Based Management Strategies. In 2013, she accepted the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award in recognition of the Ifetayo Youth Ensemble from First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House. She has also served on several boards to provide organizations with in-kind technical assistance for strategic planning, board development and identity development. She has served as a panelist for New York State Council on the Arts and a trustee for the National Guild for Community Arts Education. Currently she serves as a core member on the advisory board of Ifetayo and works internationally in non profit executive and cultural community development.