Media Contact:

Communications & Education Coordinator 

Martina LaVallo 

 Squeaky Wheel Film & Media Art Center

August 16, 2021

Squeaky Wheel announces departure of Executive Director

Maiko Tanaka will be stepping down from her position as Executive Director of Western New York’s Squeaky Wheel Film & Media Art Center 

BUFFALO, NY — After five years of outstanding service to Squeaky Wheel and the Western New York community, Maiko Tanaka is leaving Squeaky Wheel. The board and staff at Squeaky Wheel are extremely thankful for Maiko’s work, which has included overseeing the expansion of Squeaky’s budget by over 40% and deepening Squeaky’s commitment to equity.  Her tenure, which oversaw the expansion of the Artists in Residence Program, as well as new educational initiatives in communities throughout the city, leaves our organization poised to move boldly into its next phase of growth. In the last five years, Squeaky Wheel has quadrupled its cultural offering with 250 off- and on-site screenings, gallery exhibitions, and workshops serving more than 10,000 artists and community members from Western New York and from around the world. Under Maiko’s leadership, Squeaky Wheel’s educational programs have expanded significantly, with new initiatives serving refugee and neuro-diverse youth. Maiko, whose previous experience includes work as a curator both in Utrecht, Holland, and Toronto, Canada, brought poise, intelligence, and sophistication to her leadership role at Squeaky Wheel. She leaves the organization stronger than ever before, with an unwavering commitment towards equity while serving Buffalo and Western New York with education and exhibition of culturally relevant and artistically excellent media art.

One of Maiko’s big accomplishments has been planning a new Hub and Spoke model for the organization. This plan will keep an established location through which “spokes” connect sites and programs throughout the city. Jordan Geiger, a member and architectural consultant whose firm Gekh is helping Squeaky to design this model, praised Maiko for her work. “She initiated conversations that led to the conception of a Hub and Spoke model for Squeaky Wheel’s space programming and planning. This new vision is as much spatial and economic as it is driven by a renewed alignment with Squeaky Wheel’s mission and priorities to give equity and access to the widest range of stakeholders.”

Beth Gosch, Executive Director of the Western New York Foundation, no doubt speaks for many in the cultural  community when she observes: “As a foundation representative, it has been an honor to work with Maiko over the past several years as she has guided Squeaky Wheel to new heights and brought innovation and matters of equity to the forefront in WNY. She is a talented leader with a steady hand, an inquisitive mind, and a commitment to inclusivity. Maiko has taught us much about authenticity, integrity, and kindness. She leaves our community better off than when she came and I believe her commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, of significant importance and  evidenced from the day she arrived in Buffalo, will have an impact on all future nonprofit work. It is my hope that we have shown our appreciation for all she has accomplished and have left her with a lasting fondness for our people and our place!” 

We are especially grateful for Maiko’s leadership during that last year of COVID restrictions. Despite extraordinary limitations, Squeaky found new ways to run screenings, artists’ talks, and educational programs. Board of Directors president Dillon Joseph appreciated Maiko’s focus and adaptability: “Maiko has always kept the mission of Squeaky Wheel at the fore, yet has been nimble enough to respond to changing circumstances without losing that vision.”  

Maiko will continue to serve through September. In the meantime, the organization has begun the process of seeking a new Executive Director and is looking forward to continuing its mission of providing access, education, and exhibition. Maiko leaves Squeaky Wheel at a time of strength and growth for the organization. The new Executive Director will be welcome by a passionate media community, a hard-working and committed board of directors, and a dedicated and talented staff ready to tackle the challenges the future may bring. 

Squeaky Wheel looks forward to continuing and building on Maiko Tanaka’s terrific work as Executive Director. Our organization, and the City of Buffalo, have been lucky to have her here, and we wish her well as she moves to New York City.