Welcome, Christopher Campbell

by Janet Zahn, Director of Communications

Congratulations and a hearty PCYC welcome to our new executive director, Christopher Campbell. As most of you know, he succeeds Anne Long, who served PCYC for 47 years, including over two decades as Executive Director.

Chris comes to his new job with great enthusiasm and energy, humility and curiosity. His passion for youth, education, community and the arts will be at the center of his work at PCYC. 

Throughout his career he’s placed a high value on listening to and engaging with youth and community members, seeking solutions, creating positive spaces, and making an impact. 

We spent some Q&A time with Chris last week.

JZ: What excites you about running this youth, arts and education organization?

CC: This is where my heart is — working with youth and children in the educational space; listening and learning from that “youth voice,” and nurturing their potential.  …I believe that every child has the ability to learn. Everyone has a story to tell. And we have a responsibility to provide an equitable, safe, responsive space for those stories to be told and that learning to happen.  

JZ:  I understand you have a deep appreciation for the arts and artists, and music especially.

CC: My parents played bluegrass, gospel, all sorts of music. I remember my mom had this big, huge record player with an 8-track tape player, and Al Greene was always in high rotation at our house. …I believe that art represents the human condition. It fills us with questions and challenges our perceptions. It gives us a space to cry, laugh, love and explore. The Capri is a place where art flows freely. It’s where we’ll learn from our past, challenge our present and confront our future. The Capri is a light that will always shine on West Broadway.  

JZ: This is an extraordinary time in our nation’s and city’s history. As we watch the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis and relive the tragedy of the murder of George Floyd, and witness yet another killing of a Black man by a white police officer in Brooklyn Center, and as we begin to turn the corner on the horrific COVID-19 pandemic, how do these times influence how you view the role of PCYC and the Capri in the community?

CC: We need to listen carefully and work closely with people in our community.  We need to hear each other out and understand the action that’s called for. We need to find the healing spaces; to warmly welcome our youth, families and community members back to this safe and extraordinary place for education and the arts in North Minneapolis, and bring people together at the Capri for some life-giving art, solace and joy.

Mr. Campbell brings to his position more than 15 years of executive experience in the fields of education, youth and community development. He most recently served as the Department of Defense Division Chief for Child, Youth and School Services (CYSS) at Fort Detrick, Maryland.  While at CYSS, he was awarded the Achievement Medal for Civilian Service, and the Commander’s Award for Civilian Service for demonstrating outstanding qualities of leadership.

JZ:  How would you describe your leadership style?

CC:  I want our staff to know that I rarely close my door. I want people to come in and I want to know what they have to say. I want to hear creative ideas, and create an open space where we can work together, collaborate and be successful.

As Executive Director of PCYC, Campbell will oversee the operations of three dynamic programs: PYC Arts & Technology High School, a contract alternative program managed in partnership with Minneapolis Public Schools; Bright Futures: K-5 Enrichment at PCYC, and the newly renovated and expanded Capri Theater.  

JZ:  How do you see these three programs intersecting?

CC:  Staff members in each program will always be engaged in their own space, but PCYC is one. If one part is struggling, then we’re all struggling. We must uplift and support each other. …If there’s one thing COVID taught us, it’s that we need each other, our community, our leadership, our board, our front desk worker.  We need everybody to work together. 

“The PCYC board and I are very pleased to welcome Mr. Campbell as our new Executive Director,” said Karen Polzin, PCYC Board President.  “He’s a very talented, thoughtful leader who comes to PCYC with a fervent passion for youth, education and the arts. We’re excited to work with him as PCYC moves forward in ever more effective and creative ways, building on the legacy of Anne Long’s leadership,”

JZ: Any final thoughts?

CC: I’m very excited for what the future holds, the friendships we’ll make, the partnerships we’ll have, and for all the scholars we’ll see walking proudly through the halls of PCYC and the Capri.


Chris Campbell can be reached at CCampbell@pcyc-mpls.org.

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