Nikenna Smart-Benjamin, a Coconut Grove native, received her Bachelors of Science degree with Cum Laude Honors in Political Science and Public Administration from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) in Tallahassee, Florida. Prior to joining the staff of the Department of Cultural Affairs in 1999, Ms. Benjamin held the position of Public Affairs Assistant for the Miami Art Museum for two and half years.
Upon her arrival at the Department, Ms. Benjamin served as an administrator for the Performing Arts Center Trust during the design phase of the Performing Arts Center of Greater Miami. Ms. Benjamin was responsible for the development and administration of public information and presentations, budget operations, and design and implementation of programs such as arts education and community outreach. After the privatization of the PACT, Nikenna decided to return to the Department as an Administrative Officer, where she provided technical assistance to four grant programs: Community Grants, Festivals and Special Events, International Cultural Exchange and the Tourist Development Council.
In 2002, Ms. Benjamin became the Cultural Projects Administrator for the Tourist Development Council Grants Program (TDC). The TDC is a quarterly program which is responsive to significant cultural and/or special events that promote Miami-Dade County’s appeal as a tourist destination and stimulates tourism by increasing hotel occupancy and has a significant media impact for the destination.
In her current capacity as Cultural Projects Administrator, Nikenna also administers the Department’s Targeted and Service Organization Grants Programs, where she is the liaison to the Diaspora Arts Coalition, the Black Archives, History and Research Foundation of South Florida, Inc., Florida Memorial University, and the Miami-Dade County Department of Park and Recreation - Joseph Caleb Auditorium. Other responsibilities include consultations with potential applicants and the facilitation of technical assistance workshops for the TDC.
Ms. Benjamin is a member of the South Miami Alliance for Youth, an organization that was incorporated in 1995 by a group of concerned residents responding to a call for enhanced youth recreational programs. Its mission is to empower the youth of the South Miami and surrounding communities, to develop their fullest potential through building volunteerism, increasing parental and community involvement to build stronger families, and providing funding and assistance for local youth organizations. Ms. Benjamin assists this organization by sitting on its Special Projects, Event Planning, Grant Writing and Grey Ghosts Committees. Nikenna is involved in a host of community youth programs and events.
A former dance choreographer, Nikenna has received formal dance training in jazz, modern, and Afro-Caribbean dance.