Transition Leadership: Meet Dee Dunn

We are thrilled to welcome Dee Dunn, who with Saundra Thomas joined the Open House New York team as an Interim Co-Executive Director in September 2020. As we search for a new executive director, this appointment assures a seamless transition, as Dee and Saundra have been members of OHNY’s Board of Directors for a combined total of 16 years.

What brought you to Open House New York?

When I was Director of Education at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, I met Scott Lauer, founder of OHNY. He had recently moved to NYC from London, where he had experienced Open House. At that time, New York was reeling from 9/11. It felt like a bunker city, defined by physical barriers and high security. Open House New York could challenge fear and suspicion through the generosity of opening doors. This inspired me. Nothing brings people together like a shared adventure. Through positive engagement with architecture, neighborhoods and communities, OHNY participants share in the boundless adventure that is New York.

Under your leadership, what can the Open House New York audience look forward to in the coming months?

It’s exciting to lead OHNY through a transition when New York, our country, and the world are facing unprecedented challenges. More than ever, we need to redefine challenges as opportunities and embrace forces of change as accelerators for better social, economic and environmental conditions. This year’s OHNY Weekend will demonstrate the creativity, vibrancy and resiliency that has always defined New York. In partnership with more than 100 sites throughout all five boroughs, OHNY Weekend will feature both virtual and outdoor experiences and engage participants around the world.

Engaged communities are informed communities. Gregory Wessner, former Executive Director, led OHNY on a trajectory of growth. He initiated Urban Systems, a series that promotes awareness about systems that are crucial to how New York works. Urban Systems themes, including Making it Here (manufacturing), Getting to Zero (waste), The Final Mile (food), and Spaces of Justice (criminal justice) are timely and consequential. I look forward to producing the next Urban Systems that will explore the history and future of the City’s educational and cultural institutions, including libraries and museums, and the challenges of access, equity and social justice relevant to life-long learning.

From OHNY Weekend to Urban Systems, OHNY invites everyone to participate in an exploration and celebration of New York – its architecture, parks, streetscapes and dynamic neighborhoods. Through this shared adventure, we can better understand and shape our great opportunity that is New York.

What’s your most memorable Open House New York experience?

OHNY Weekend is a great date. From the Gould Memorial Library and Hall of Fame in the Bronx, to the Hindu Temple in Queens, to the Eldridge Street Synagogue on the Lower East Side, OHNY has been the context for some favorite times with family and friends. Also, during OHNY Weekend, I just fall in love with people and places I encounter along the way. OHNY Weekend is a NYC-sized hug.

After visiting the Hall of Fame on the Bronx Community College campus, formerly NYU’s campus, I ventured to the Eldridge Street Synagogue. There, a volunteer, who was a senior, asked me what other sites I had visited. When I mentioned the Hall of Fame, she exclaimed, “I used to go to there to neck with my boyfriend!” She then described other sites in upper Manhattan and the Bronx that brought sparkles to her eyes and memories of NYC in the 1950s. Like all OHNY volunteers, this lively woman was a treasure.

I’m an Open House New Yorker because …

I believe that adventure is all around us and that NYC is the great adventure. I believe that direct experience is the foundation for learning. I enjoy how serendipity and surprise is integral to the OHNY experience and I enthusiastically invite everyone to become part of the exploration, discovery, and community that is OHNY.