On April 12, Public Architecture announced that executive director John Cary is leaving after more than six years. The San Francisco–based organization is best known for its pro bono 1% program, which pairs nonprofits in need with firms ready to donate design services. Since launching in 2005 with the help of a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the program has grown under Cary’s leadership to include more than 750 participating firms.
Although Cary’s departure seems sudden, with the transition happening in just five weeks, roles at Public Architecture have been in flux since October 2008, when founder John Peterson joined the staff full-time as president. Previously, Peterson devoted his time to his own firm and served as chair of the organization’s board of directors. “We tried to make a dual leadership work, but it proved challenging,” explains Cary. “I realized that he is the founder and that it would be best for me to step aside.”
A forthcoming book by Public Architecture, The Power of Pro Bono, marks the culmination of Cary’s work at the nonprofit. Cary conceptualized and edited the Pentagram-designed volume, which features 40 projects and presents both clients’ and designers’ perspectives. He will head the book’s launch and promotion this fall.
Cary has yet to decide on his next move. Highly regarded within the profession, he is currently looking at number of job opportunities, from startups to more established nonprofits in both the design and the social entrepreneurial fields.
Asked about Cary’s departure, Peterson comments, “We’ve been fortunate to have had his expertise for six and a half years.”
Reflecting on the future of the 1% program under new leadership, Cary is cautiously optimistic: “The organization is truly on the brink of mobilizing the profession, and I hope it can in the future.”