Fort Greene

How Noreen Tomassi transformed The Center for Fiction into a Brooklyn cornerstone

June 16, 2020 Editorial Staff
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After 16 years of dedicated leadership, Noreen Tomassi, Executive Director of The Center for Fiction, has announced her retirement. In response, The Center’s Board of Directors expressed its heartfelt gratitude for Tomassi’s devotion to her work at The Center, including during the current pandemic.

In 2004, The Mercantile Library hired Tomassi as executive director. From then on, she worked tirelessly with the Board and staff to transform the historic institution into a literary center devoted to the art of fiction.

Under Tomassi’s leadership, the organization changed its focus, then changed its name to The Center for Fiction, then reconceptualized its programming, reading groups, writing programs, outreach, membership and audience.

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More recently, Tomassi managed the sale of The Center’s former headquarters at 17 East 47 St., and the acquisition and redesign processes that turned 15 Lafayette Ave. into The Center’s new home.

The Eagle covered the opening of The Center’s current location in February 2019, and, previously, its initial announcement that it would be moving to the BAM Cultural District.

The Center for Fiction opens today in Fort Greene, joining other big-name cultural institutions like BAM and the Mark Morris Dance Group. Photos courtesy of the Center for Fiction
The Center for Fiction, at 15 Lafayette Ave. Photo courtesy of the Center for Fiction

Under Tomassi’s leadership, The Center evolved from an under-utilized membership library to an acclaimed and nationally recognized literary organization, according to The Center’s Board of Directors.

Tomassi expanded The Center’s exceptional team to help serve increasingly diverse audiences with stellar programming and vigorous outreach, including KidsRead/KidsWrite.

She also engaged the literary community more fully not only through her programming skills, but through the creation of top-flight fiction reading groups, writing workshops, The Crime Fiction Academy, the Emerging Writer Fellowships, and the Maxwell. E. Perkins and On Screen awards.

Tomassi postponed her retirement to see The Center through its first year in Brooklyn, and delayed her departure again to guide the organization through the difficult early months of the current pandemic.

The Center for Fiction and its Board of Directors said they are supremely grateful for Tomassi’s leadership and wish her every happiness in this next chapter of life.

Tomassi leaves The Center in the hands of an extraordinarily committed and steadfast Board. Its appointment of an interim director will be announced shortly.


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