Rialto Director Leslie Gordon Named Knight of Arts and Letters

ATLANTA — Leslie Gordon, director of the Rialto Center for the Arts at Georgia State University and one of Atlanta’s most noted cultural connoisseurs, will be recognized on March 27 as a Knight in the National Order of Arts and Letters by Consul General of France in Atlanta Denis Barbet.

Leslie Gordon

“With over 27 years of experience in cultural affairs, Leslie Gordon has raised the bar of the artistic scene in Atlanta, notably by bringing a French flair to the city,” said Barbet.

“Her sensitivity, fine taste, enthusiasm and extraordinary competence has not only helped establish the Rialto as one of the most distinguished cultural institutions in Atlanta, but has also played a significant role in strengthening cultural relations between France and the American Southeast.

”The National Order of Arts and Letters was established in France in 1957 to recognize eminent artists, writers and people who have contributed significantly to furthering the arts in France and throughout the world. Gordon joins the distinguished list of other Americans with the rank of Knight, including George Clooney, Tim Burton and Malcom Rogers, director of Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Atlantans who have received this honor include High Museum of Art Director Michael Shapiro and the Honorable Anne Cox Chambers.

Gordon regularly invites to the Rialto French and French-speaking artists, such as Philippe Decouflé, Les Yeux Noirs, Angélique Kidjo and Angelin Preljocaj, who performed as part of the inaugural France-Atlanta 2010. Following the outstanding reception of Pierre Rigal and his contemporary dance group, the Compagnie Dernière Minute, during France-Atlanta 2011, the Rialto welcomed them back in 2012 to further solidify relations with Toulouse, Atlanta’s sister city in France, as well as give Atlanta a dynamic array of contemporary French hip-hop and street dance during France-Atlanta 2012.

“It’s a great honor and a big surprise,” Gordon said of the award. “We all work very hard, but it’s rare, especially out of the blue, that you get some recognition for work that’s been done over a period of years. It’s quite thrilling.”

Gordon began her career in arts management in 1985 as the director of cultural affairs for the city of Savannah. In 1992 she moved to Atlanta to become one of the producers of the Cultural Olympiad, the four-year celebration leading up to the 1996 Olympic Games. Following the Cultural Olympiad, Gordon worked as artistic director of the 1997 Arts Festival of Atlanta. She then went on to work as manager of humanities and education for the National Black Arts Festival, where she developed innovative programming for the 2000 and 2002 festivals. She joined the Rialto Center in 2003.

“It is fitting that she should receive the honor for her commitment to diversity during the university’s centennial year, especially since Georgia State has recently received national attention for its ranking as one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse campuses in the United States,” Barbet said.