New leadership announced for Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, B&O Railroad Museum

Donna Drew Sawyer, newly named CEO of the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts.

Donna Drew Sawyer, an official at the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts since 2017 who formerly worked at the Smithsonian Institution’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, has been named to head the non-profit agency that produces Artscape, Light City and other local events.

“Donna has a strong diverse history in arts leadership, solid marketing and business acumen and a fierce commitment to equity and collaboration,” BOPA board chair Anana Kambon said in a statement announcing the appointment.


Sawyer, BOPA’s Chief of External Affairs, replaces Bill Gilmore, who retired in December after 27 years heading the office, which serves as the city’s official arts council, events agency and film office.

“BOPA’s mission is to make Baltimore a more vibrant city by promoting and supporting arts and culture,” Sawyer said in a statement. “As CEO of BOPA, I can contribute to the vibrancy and future of our city by helping to make Baltimore a unique and wonderful place to live, create, work and plan.”


In addition to BOPA and the Hirshhorn, Sawyer’s resume includes work with the Arts and Science Council of Charlotte-Mecklenburg (North Carolina), the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Va., and Sesame Workshop, producers of TV’s “Sesame Street.” She also helped launch the Virginia Waterfront Arts Festival as founding director of the Wilder Performing Arts Center.

A graduate of the New York Institute of Technology with an MBA from Texas Southern University, Sawyer, who lives in Baltimore with her husband, Bowie State University Professor and author Granville M. Sawyer Jr., is also a writer. Her first novel, “Provenance,” won the 2017 Maryland Writers’ Association Award for Historical Fiction and was a finalist for the same award at New York’s Harlem Book Festival.

Also Wednesday, the B&O Railroad Museum announced the appointment of Kris Hoellen as its new executive director.

Hoellen, currently senior vice president at Baltimore’s National Aquarium, had previously worked at the Transportation Research Board of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. She was also a senior executive at The Conservation Fund.

Hoellen will begin her work with the B&O in September. She replaces Courtney Wilson, who announced his departure in February after 20 years with the museum.