Johnette Isham has announced her retirement from her role as executive director of Realize Bradenton, effective at the end of October 2022. Ms. Isham developed this award-winning nonprofit organization in 2009, and has served as the organization’s executive director since that time.
Upon Johnette Isham’s departure, Karen Corbin, current Realize Bradenton director of community partnerships, will assume the role of executive director. The entire Realize Bradenton team is dedicated to ensuring a smooth transition and will carry on the legacy established by Johnette.
The concept of Realize Bradenton, initiated by the Bradenton Cultural and Business Alliance, resulted in a cultural master plan in 2007 to pursue arts as an economic catalyst. In 2009, Johnette Isham was selected from a national search to form a nonprofit organization focused on achieving the goals set forth in that plan. Working closely with the City of Bradenton, Downtown Development Authority, Bradenton Community Redevelopment Agency, Manatee Chamber of Commerce, Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, local cultural organizations, donors, business sponsors, and the community, Isham assembled strategic alliances to celebrate, promote, and expand the arts, culture, and heritage of Downtown Bradenton.
Johnette has an extensive list of accomplishments during her tenure at Realize Bradenton. Some of the most notable include; collecting community input for the development of the Riverwalk Park and the recent Riverwalk East expansion, growing the Bradenton Farmers’ Market (now known as the Bradenton Public Market), creating the Bradenton Blues Festival, increasing public art, and the recent addition of the Start-Up Circle entrepreneurship program.
Mayor Gene Brown of Bradenton says, “It’s easy to think that Johnette has single-handedly made downtown Bradenton what it has become. But she would be the first to say that many others were involved and she’d want to give credit to them as well. She really does embody the motto of Realize Bradenton: “We Bring People Together.” We would not have the Public Market or the Blues Festival, Long Table, or ArtSlam if it weren’t for her. She will be sorely missed, but I wish her all the best, everything she deserves, in her retirement.”
Isham utilized placemaking, place branding, and civic engagement best practices to connect people, promote Bradenton, and develop public places in order to stimulate economic growth and civic pride in Downtown Bradenton. While she was at the helm, the Realize Bradenton team was awarded with many accolades including; American Planning Association Outstanding Public Interest Group, Manatee Chamber Nonprofit Organization of the Year, and the Knight Cities Challenge Award. In addition, Isham and her team secured over $3.4 million in grants to assist in the renaissance of Downtown Bradenton. “Bringing people together” has been Ms. Isham’s mantra as she understands the power of people to make a difference.
Carrie Price, chair of the Realize Bradenton Board of Directors states, “Johnette is a community hero. Through her work at Realize Bradenton she has helped Bradenton’s citizens and leaders work together to create a vibrant downtown with an authentic local quality. Her legacy goes beyond her role spearheading projects like Riverwalk, Blues Fest and the beautiful Public Market. Her most important contribution is in the way she has always encouraged and inspired others to help make Bradenton an enterprising and friendly city. She has helped infuse our downtown with a sense of unity, vision, and accomplishment and her impact will be felt well beyond her 13 years of service with Realize Bradenton.”
Prior to her time with Realize Bradenton, Johnette worked at the Ringling College of Art + Design, Rhode Island School of Design, and Rhode Island State Council on the Arts. Her expertise derived from degrees and certification in graphic design, education, organizational development, and Appreciate Inquiry are infused in Realize Bradenton Strategies.