Karen Abrams is The Heinz Endowments’ program officer for equitable development, a role that focuses on infusing equity into the foundation’s redevelopment funding initiatives in the Pittsburgh region. Since joining the Endowments in 2017, her work has included development of a grant-making portfolio that supports sustainable investments in neighborhood-level projects, as well as city and region-wide initiatives.
Ms. Abrams oversees the articulation and implementation of the foundation’s vision for a public realm investment strategy. She advances the Endowments’ aim of fostering vibrant public spaces throughout the Pittsburgh region where people of difference find themselves in proximity to one another – either anonymously or by intention. Her work considers spatial justice aspects of the public realm, as well as other essential elements including intentional consideration of programming, wellbeing, quality of aesthetics, and diverse participation in planning and use.
In helping to advance the Endowments’ aim of cultivating a more sustainable, diverse and inclusive Pittsburgh region, Ms. Abrams collaborates with her Endowments grant-making colleagues in supporting the foundation’s three strategic areas — Creativity, Learning and Sustainability – giving particular attention to the work of nonprofits that incorporate two or more of the areas.
Before coming to the Endowments, Ms. Abrams was the community and diversity affairs manager at the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh. Her responsibilities included ensuring that disaffected residents of Pittsburgh’s historically African American neighborhoods were engaged in the decision-making processes of real estate and economic development activities that impacted their lives. While at the URA, she initiated the African-American Neighborhoods of Choice research group to attract and retain newly arriving African American residents in Pittsburgh, as well as their Equity Working Group, which entrenched economic justice and inclusion principles into the agency’s policies and practices.
A native of Harlem, Ms. Abrams holds Bachelor of Arts degrees from University of Virginia, one in African and African American Studies, and one in History, as well as a Master of Science degree in sustainable systems from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania
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