18th Street Arts Center Names 18 Fellows to Drive Statewide California Creative Corps Project
After a six-month rigorous search and project development process—work that yielded 375 inspiring proposals from artists and cultural practitioners in communities throughout California—18th Street Arts Center announces its first California Creative Corps cohort, an incredible pool of 18 change-makers and community builders. (Read more about the process here)
The corps of fellows will receive a year-long $65K salary plus benefits and a production budget up to $50,000 and execute year-long creative interventions across the state from Yreka near the Oregon border to City Heights in San Diego. Projects are designed to reduce the barriers to health and well-being in communities that demonstrate the highest level of need. Creative practices include filmmaking, poetry, graphic novels, photography, dance, and traditional art. Place-based art-making projects will engage diverse communities, including Native peoples, migrants, LGBTQIA+, POC and long-time residents. The projects explore a broad range of systemic challenges including pollution, gentrification, healthcare, wellbeing, cultural identity and community/belonging.
Mark Oliver: Voices of the Golden Ghosts
Dunsmuir, Siskiyou County
By 1852, over 2000 African American men and women participated in the California gold rush. Some came as free men and women, and some as property of their gold-seeking masters. Mark Oliver, artist and filmmaker living in Mt Shasta says his new film project Voices of the Golden Ghosts will tell the story of a group of African Americans who traveled to the second largest gold strikes in California along the Klamath and Salmon rivers bordering Oregon. This 30-minute film project is aimed at telling this forgotten history of African Americans who came to California to better their lives and their story has escaped the written word of historians.
The project will be filmed in actual historic locations of the African American mines and hamlets which Mark rediscovered in Siskiyou County. The film also portrays the first meetings of Karuk people with Black Americans and their interactions with each other. Hence this project will bring awareness of the historical presence of African Americans in far northern California during the gold rush showing the importance of this northern region as a significant multi-cultural zone.
For more information, visit markoliver.org.
Mark Oliver is an award-winning artist and filmmaker. His projects reference aspects of cultural experience or history as they shift between Documentary, Narrative, and Experimental. He has received numerous residencies, grants, and awards for his films, theater and art. Mark produced and directed over 7 films while living in the Mount Shasta, Northern California area since 2000. His 2011 documentary From the Quarters to Lincoln Heights about the African American community of Weed, Ca. won awards both nationally and internationally. His film Viajero a poetic interpretation of poet Joaquin Miller took awards in Italy. Since 2019 he has directed the performance collective Voices of the Golden Ghosts and edited the book of the same name. His films, videos, and art have been exhibited in the US and abroad.
Miki'ala Catalfano: Rolling Acorn Art Lab
Bella Vista, Shasta County
The current challenges of climate change, and racial and social inequalities are interconnected. Navigating an uncertain future and building our ability to adapt requires re-membering and demonstrating collective and critical relationship with each other, and as part of environment so we can meet our community needs.
Rolling Acorn Art Lab is a mobile “gathering place” that will travel to different locations, providing pop-up space and materials to conduct arts and culture-based community relationship and knowledge building. Our primary goals are to leverage Indigenous knowledge and the arts to create a culture of connection and a sense of belonging in a mutually-respectful community that takes care of people and the earth, and to learn sustainable and regenerative methods to restore and utilize the abundance of the land.
We will host arts & culture-based workshops based on community assessments from the communities we serve. We foreground Indigenous life ways as an essential and critical component to build a foundation for contemporary adaptations and systems as keepers of knowledge that can restore our living ecosystems. The community will be invited to connect and create art to articulate values and support community connectivity as we learn to build a more equitable and sustainable community together.
Miki’ala began her life in art as a child, drawing portraits of anyone who would sit for her (and often convincing them to purchase them afterward). She worked as a Graphic Designer and Art Director in advertising and design agencies in Honolulu. After moving to California, she worked as a Creative Director at a marketing & database agency, overseeing a staff of designers and web developers. She then managed all aspects of in-house design as Creative Director for a regional museum, botanical gardens and wildlife & forestry center. Miki’ala is currently in the role of Chief Marketing Officer at a regional office of a worldwide social service agency leading a marketing and development team.
Miki’ala is a Native Hawaiian mother, wife, sister, aunty, began her life in art as a child, drawing portraits of anyone who would sit for her (and often convincing them to purchase them afterward). She is a fine art painter, and her artwork has been commissioned and purchased for private and university collections. Miki’ala has recently been studying & practicing the art of tattoo and has begun giving folks their ancestral markings. She is also enjoying singing and writing songs on her ‘ukulele, with an aim to write diddys that uplift - or at least get real - about our current moment.
Miki’ala is also trained as a traditional hula dancer (Hawaiian dance), recognizing the importance of her Indigenous roots in how she conducts herself and how she shows up in the world.
A good deal of her time includes community organizing. For nearly 20 years, she has been a co-director of Native Roots Network, applying Indigenous pathways in her community organizing work to achieve a more equitable world. In this role, she has been an artist, co-creator, administrator, coordinating multiple, month-long pop-up Native art exhibitions, coordinated and collaborated with a diverse arts consortium and completed a large scale mural, and more, with most recent work incubating an intercultural and solidarity economy community and collaboratively forming a permanent real estate cooperative.
Miki’ala believes art transcends mere aesthetics and believes that every (r)evolution in life requires art.
Nyingv Jae: ISEA Us
Sacramento, Sacramento County
ISEA Us (working title) is a multifaceted community art and storytelling project amplifying the stories and lived experiences of LGBTQIA+ women, femme, and/or non-binary community members of indigenous Southeast Asian (iSEA) diaspora with ancestral roots in Laos, who call California home. This project uses visual art and various methods of storytelling to engage the community while offering opportunities for connection, celebration and healing through creative workshops, an artist catalog/editorial zine publication, a culminating public showcase and gallery exhibition. Through ISEA Us, participants and community members will be able to explore safety and belonging in relationship to our personal and collective histories while reimagining our futures in solidarity with one another, ultimately shifting cultural traditions/practices around how we combat culture loss in our respective communities without erasing or leaving some of our most impacted community members behind.
Nyingv Jae Saechao is an artist, storyteller, community educator and culture worker. They were born and raised on occupied Ohlone lands (East Bay Area) as the first child of Iu Mien + Khmu refugees from the U.S. Secret War, and currently based on Nisenan territory (Sacramento, CA) while calling Laos their motherland. As an intergenerational bridge-builder, artist-apprentice to the ancestors and a word-weaver of divine, diasporic wisdom, Jae’s art/work centers around belonging, culture-keeping + culture-shaping, ancestral healing, and community liberation with emphasis on fat, queer, Indigenous Southeast Asian femme and gender-expansive issues. Through visual art, poetry, teaching and advocacy, their practice and full breadth of offerings reflect their belief in the power of creativity x culture as direct catalysts for community healing, autonomy and overall social change. Jae’s work is guided by their dreams for a future that sees our collective communities safe, abundant and free.
Janine Mapurunga: Bien Juntitos
Sacramento, Sacramento County
Bien Juntitos is a community-centered art project that focuses on collaborating with a group of elders to create a book about their community. Manitos y Manitas del Sur is a self-organized group of Spanish-speaking elders that meets weekly, rain or shine. The year 2023 marks the group’s 23rd anniversary.
Spanish speakers have been historically marginalized in California. Older folks often fall through the cracks in our ever faster lives increasingly mediated by technology. It’s remarkable that this diverse group has thrived for over 20 years. Their resilience is graceful. Faced with a lack of cultural spaces, this email-less bunch created their own.
They want to memorialize their stories and celebrate the spirit of their vibrant community. Here is an opportunity for them to represent themselves in their terms. Bien Juntitos is grounded on a mixed methodology approach that combines arts and social sciences. The lead artist is a documentary photographer and the team includes a teaching artist, an artist activist and a linguistic anthropologist. This bilingual art project includes surveys of community members, video interviews, working with archival photographs and documents, and community engagement activities. The goal is to facilitate the creation of the book and in the process, collect a variety of cultural assets.
This process will be documented with still photography and video. Reciprocity, equity, and collaboration are core values at work here.
"As a documentary photographer, I look for moments that are un-mistakenly human, those universal emotions we can all relate with. I observe life unfolding and use the camera to capture that which is easily felt but difficult to portray: the aliveness of the human spirit.
I create art that addresses universal themes like food, family, place, history, work, transportation, and cultural traditions. I approach these big themes from an intimate point of view, creating works that tell stories.
My intention in displaying such imagery in the public realm is to anchor the viewer to some of the fundamental elements that all humans share, and, as such, bring about a sense of connection, kindness, and joy.” - Janine Mapurunga
Cecilia Cassandra Peña-Govea: Auditory Culture Mapping of Young Peoples’ Fruitvale
Fruitvale (Oakland), Alameda County
In the 2023-24 scholastic year, Cecilia Peña-Govea aka La Doña will create auditory maps with middle school students in Fruitvale, Oakland that explore their relationship to their cultural roots and community. Through generative writing and zine workshops, we will examine themes of belonging and place-making in Fruitvale. They will create culture maps that chart the trajectories of different musical traditions as well as family migrations. This thorough, maker-centered exploration of the diaspora of music and people will deepen partcipants' connections with their ancestral practices and foster cultural pride.
Cecilia will work with students and local musicians to compose auditory maps that integrate instruments and practices from the youths’ homelands, like marimba, corrido sierreño and cumbia. Students will take field recordings of their neighborhood, and contribute to the auditory maps musically and lyrically. This process will deepen youths’ connections with their neighborhood, as well as with local legacy musicians. Participants will present the project both on their school campus and at Josie de la Cruz Park for maximum accessibility to students and visibility by community.
This project is urgent for the spiritual health and cultural vitality of youth in the Fruitvale, many of whom face traumas of pandemic-spurred isolation, financial insecurity, gang and police violence, and the complexities of growing up as first generation or migrant students. This project will use writing, mapping, and music-making as tools for socialization, self-expression and mentorship through maker-centered learning and trauma-informed practices.
La Doña, born Cecilia Cassandra Peña-Govea in San Francisco, California, is a solo reggaeton singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. The Chicana artist began her career at age 7 playing trumpet, and later strings and percussion in her family’s conjunto. She also played in a youth salsa band and a Balkan fusion band before synthesizing her unique upbringing in her original compositions. La Doña combines her deep roots in Latin folk traditions like corridos and rumba with the propulsive modern sounds of reggaeton, cumbia, and hip hop.
La Doña coined the term “Femmeton” to describe her auto-referential songs about love, sex, gentrification, and the radical joys of being a queer brown woman in the Bay Area. An activist and educator, she holds her community close- her father, childhood friends, and partner layer live instrumentation, intimate harmonies and driving percussion over a thick reggaeton beat. Influenced by local muralismo and hyphy sensibilities just as much as global diasporas and climate catastrophes, La Doña’s catalogue is eclectic, fresh, and urgent.
La Doña was chosen as one of YouTube’s Foundry Artists (2019) and she has performed recently at ACL, Lollapalooza, and Format Fest. Her song, “Quién Me La Paga” was the first of the New York Times Magazine’s “19 Songs that Matter Now,” for 2020, and her EP, Algo Nuevo, was selected by the San Francisco Chronicle as one of the 6 best albums of 2020. La Doña was awarded the 2020 San Francisco Artists Grant, participated in the 2022 Yerba Buena Guaranteed Income Program for artists, opened up for Duran Jones and the Indications on their U.S. tour and recently embarked on her own headline run in November 2022, which included a sold out show at The Independent in San Francisco. She is now slated to release her debut album in Spring 2023.
Oakland, Alameda County
Sanctuary is a musical and theatrical production reimagining church through the experience and expression of the Black trans and queer community. Curated, written and directed by interdisciplinary artist ASTU, the performance is an ode to their experience growing up as a minister’s child and past life spent as a worship leader and preacher in the South combined with their newly found freedom in the Black trans and queer community. Using music, art and storytelling to provide a platform for marginalized voices, Sanctuary features an all Black trans and queer cast and production team who will co-create the production alongside ASTU. This story of Black queer fantasy and ever-evolving spirituality, explores themes of ancestral spiritual practices, “God” as the embodiment of change, and pleasure as birthright. Sanctuary employs the expressive arts as a medium for healing, inviting the Black trans and queer community to indulge in the fullness of their being and to create a new and intentional congregational space centering Black trans and queer joy, healing, power and spirituality.
ASTU is a Black, queer and gender expansive interdisciplinary artist - vocalist, songwriter, composer, actor and film director. They left life as a minister and found themself in R&B, expressing their sexuality, identity and life experience in their music and art. Part retro soul, part nineties R&B pastiche, part New Wave synth-pop, ASTU’s music refuses to pledge allegiance to a single vibe, garnering them critical acclaim from Afropunk, Earmilk, KQED and more.
ASTU has composed and written songs for Disney, Pixar and other artists, and is the voice of ‘Miss Motors’ on 3 time Emmy award winning animated Netflix series “Go! Go! Cory Carson.” An organizer and mentor in the Bay Area art and LGBTQIA+ communities, they are co-founder of Boyish, a community-powered and artist-led organization based in Oakland, California with a mission to build sustainable lifestyle pathways and safe spaces that inspire creative freedom for artists, with an emphasis on Black queer and trans artists.
They believe in their rich community of artists and are committed to providing space and opportunity to imagine a radical ecosystem of creative freedom and financial sustainability powered by community. Their dedication to their artistic craft and mission to lift up their community, in particular Black queer + trans people and artists, has earned them trust and respect among their peers. ASTU lives and breathes the artist’s journey.
The QTViệt Cafe Collective: Nguồn Bóng/Queer Roots: A Queer & Trans Việt Earth School
Fruitvale (Oakland), Alameda County
The QTViệt Cafe Collective is a creative cultural hub dedicated to Queer and Trans Việt liberation through ancestral practices, the arts, and intergenerational connections. For the past seven years, we've worked with hundreds of individuals and families in the queer and trans Việt community, hosting intergenerational workshops and community events. We seek to build and strengthen community through our inaugural QTViệt (Queer and Trans Việt) Earth School as a catalyst for collaboration among QTViệt people to decolonize, heal, and transform the ways we view the land, our bodies, and each other. We believe the answers to our healing as diasporic people can be found in bringing back to life and organizing our ancestral wisdom and Earth-based practices. We are attempting to fill the gaps of traditional ecological and cultural knowledge lost amidst generations of displacement and war. We are guided by the Vietnamese proverb “uống nước nhớ nguồn ăn quả nhớ kẻ trồng cây” – when drinking water, remember the source and when eating fruit, remember who planted the tree. We're inspired to gather three cohorts rooted in Earth, Food, and Medicine and share lessons and learnings with the community during culminating cultural holidays throughout the year.
QTViệt Cafe Collective is a creative cultural hub dedicated to Queer and Trans Việt liberation through ancestral practices, the arts, and intergenerational connection. For the past 7 years, the QTViệt Cafe Collective has worked with hundreds of individuals and families in the queer and trans Việt community, hosting intergenerational workshops and offerings that include elder organizing, hosting a QTViệ Artist and Healers residency, and showcases and exhibits that consistently range from 50-200 people.
Many people make up the collective and this important healing work! Two of the principal organizers of this project are Lan Ngô and Hải Võ.
Lan is a Bay Area leader who guides earth-based healing practices through ancestral gardening.
Hải was raised by parents from two delta villages in southern Việt Nam - Mỹ Tho and Chợ Gạo (Tiền Giang). Hải identifies as a queer 2nd generation Việt Southeast Asian cook, seed saver, cultural artist, writer, and community organizer of the diaspora and is passionate about ancestral foodways, decolonization, and homeland connections.
Catherine Herrera: The Martins Beach Project
South San Francisco, San Mateo County
The Martins Beach Project maps a fresh view of California’s ironic coastal culture, bringing to light and celebrating the stories, history, and contributions of California Native peoples and BIPOC communities. The project spotlights contemporary California Native coastal stewardship programs addressing coastal climate change, employing ancient coastal management science in partnerships with local organizations and state/federal agencies, to restore and make sustainable California’s coast for future generations. The Martins Beach Project follows several BIPOC youth and community oriented projects designed to educate about coastal health, introducing coastal stewardship concepts, and educating a whole new generation on public access rights and the California Coastal Act, celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2025. As the Coastal Story Map grows, the project invites BIPOC communities and the public to upload and add their own coastal stories to assist in mapping areas of coastal access successes and areas for improvement to help inform policy makers and community leaders. The final Martins Beach film and statewide culture map will be available for screenings, exhibit and community dialogue throughout California in 2024-2025. Learn more at www.martinsbeachproject.com
Catherine Herrera creates impactful art that inspires dialogue and action by sharing unique stories withbroad audiences. Coastal climate change is the focus of Catherine's current public art and documentary project Martins Beach, highlighting today's collaborative California Native Coastal Stewardship programs inspiring hope for mitigation and renewal. Catherine is a professional documentary filmmaker and photojournalist, with a body of personal art/films/installations reflecting on themes of belonging, identity, memory and notions of 'home,' including: Bridge Walkers, created on commission and exhibited at the de Young Museum; art installations: Feast of Beams, Sitting Ohlone I, Open Doors to a Healing; several short films: Witness the Healing, Transition, From the Same Family: An Intimate View of Globalization and Alphabet People; and, her first feature documentary, Transition. In September 2023, Catherine will exhibit photographs selected by curator Elizabeth Hawley from Catherine's series, Landless Indians, for a group show featuring contemporary Native American artists. Catherine Herrera is the third generation of photographers in her family. www.catherineherrera.com
Xavier "Xico" Garza and Mehmet McMillan: Annual Two-Spirit-Xochipilli Event
Porterville, Tulare County
The annual Two-Spirit-Xochipilli Event is a multi-day event that brings diversity, equality, inclusion and the preservation of traditional arts and ceremony by offering safe spaces to practice, experience, and explore traditional indigenous rituals and art. (Two Spirit is a term encompassing indigenous LGBTQIA+ peoples.) Supplemental activities, cultural workshops, ceremonies, ensayos, and Temazcals create further opportunities to deepen connection and expand outreach. All cultural events are designed and facilitated by Culture Bearer Xavier Garza and create experiences of indigenous art and culture for over 250 persons.
Place-based events like this are completely absent in the regions we serve, making our project a unique, effective and beautiful way to reconnect all peoples to nature, empower marginalized BIPOC and foster the well-being of Two Spirit peoples. This project will lift up indigenous cultural practices, empower Two Spirit people and their allies, and foster community wellbeing in regions that are located in some of the regions most marginalized places.
The 3-day Two Spirit-Xochipilli event plus other activities are held on sacred Yokut land on the Tule River and provides safe places to host 100+ families. The medicine, traditions and practices of indigenous people are at great risk of being lost through decolonization and genocide. Two Spirit peoples of indigenous descent are even more at risk of losing cultural identity, physical and mental safety, and access to creative programming. Project provides opportunities for exposure, observation, or active participation in traditional indigenous ceremonies through love.
Mr. Garza is a culture bearer for indigenous and Two Spirit art, culture, traditional practices in California with emphasis in the Great Central Valley and southern Sierra Nevada mountains. He is a student of the lineage under Maestra Macuil Xotchitl from Sacramento Ca since 1994 and teaches basic Danza Azteca, drumming, regalia, and ceremonies to his pupils in central California since 2009. He has made substantial headway as culture bearer in numerous presentations, ceremonies, and events that include:
- Goldman Environmental Prize Ceremony at the San Francisco Opera House in 2016
- Burning Man Temple blessing annually since 2019
- Rick Owens Men’s Couture “TECUATL” Fashion in Paris, France in 2019
- Microsoft LGBTQ+ Pride commercial in Los Angeles in 2020
- Hollywood Forever Cemetery Día de Los Muertos annually since 2017
- Presentations for many SGI-USA Buddhist events since 1994
- Two Spirit Xochipilli Ceremony annually since 2017
Xavier studied culinary arts and hospitality at San Francisco City College and resides on his private homestead directly adjacent to the Giant Sequoia National Monument in Springville, CA.
There with his life partner, he lives in a farm-like environment surrounded by a nature sanctuary next to the Tule River. He currently serves as Cultural Bearer Coordinator for the non-profit organization WildPlaces. Xavier founded the Aztec Dance group called Calpulli Tepeyollotl Cuahuitlan, offering much desired teachings and activities for Mexica culture to the peoples of central California. The name of the Danza group can be broken down as follows:
Calpulli - large house/unit
Tepeyollotl - heart of the mountains
Cuahuitlan - place of the trees
We named our group Calpulli Tepeyollotl Cuahuitlan because we share this mountain land with all sentient beings, including the Giant Sequoia, therefore, our dance pays homage to our great mother with each movement holding a deep meaning of respect and reverence for our mother.
In summary, Xavier says, “Every living and non-living being on earth is an example of the Great Spirit; whether it is a plant, flower or tree, a stone, fire or water, ancient indigenous communities from every race see them as significant and have their own creation stories that teach this truth and have a place in our shared beginnings.”
Elizabeth Spavento: Border Patrol
Bakersfield, Kern County
Border Patrol is a curatorial collective that explores the intersection of contemporary art and capitalist aesthetics. Its members include lead artist Elizabeth Spavento (Bakersfield, CA), Meg Hahn (Portland, ME), Jared Haug (Bakersfield, CA), and Baxter Koziol (New Haven, CT). Border Patrol values modes of presenting artwork that incorporate the architectural cues and hidden political histories of the spaces we inhabit. We seek to create spaces where voices on the fringe are centered. With 18th Street funding, we will rent a space at the Brundage Swap Meet, an indoor flea market in Bakersfield, CA, to host exhibitions, discussions, workshops, and reading groups with the public. The yearlong program will feature three major projects: an in-depth reading of khaki's material and political history; the R.I.P. residency series in which artists are invited to make artwork with community members about the aesthetics and politics of grief; and through ongoing collaborations with former detainees of the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center and youth impacted by the carceral system in Kern County. Border Patrol's programming increases cultural opportunities available to Bakersfield residents and supports local, regional, and national artists, with particular attention to genderqueer and non-binary artists, Indigenous culture bearers, and artists that are currently detained or formerly imprisoned.
Elizabeth Spavento is curator and artist living in Bakersfield, CA. Together with Jared Haug and Meg Hahn, she started the curatorial collective, Border Patrol which examines the relationship between contemporary art and corporate aesthetics. Border Patrol has staged exhibitions and events in a former dentist's office, burrito shop, shopping mall, and cemetery.
From 2016 - 2019 Spavento served as the Visual Arts Programmer at SPACE in Portland, ME where she curated exhibitions, oversaw the Kindling Fund Grant as part of the Warhol Foundation's regranting network, and ran a residency program dedicated to highlighting the contributions of queer artists and artists of color. From 2015 - 2016, she co-curated ALL RISE with Meagan Atiyeh, a two-year temporary public art program for an empty acre of land in downtown Seattle. Americans for the Arts Public Art Network recognized ALL RISE as one of the nation's outstanding public art projects two years in a row. Previous curatorial projects include exhibitions with Oregon Contemporary Art Center (Portland, OR), Open Source Gallery (New York, NY), and Interstitial Gallery (Seattle, WA). Most recently she served as the Executive Director of the Arts Council of Kern from 2021 – 2022.
Elizabeth Spavento is a recipient of an Ellis-Beauregard Foundation Project Grant and has been awarded residencies with Iris Project (Los Angeles, CA); ACRE (Steuben, WI); and the Centre for the Study of Substructured Loss (London, England). She has lectured about curatorial practice and artist-centered systems at institutions such as Alfred State University, the Maine College of Art, the Portland Museum of Art, and Henry Art Gallery. Spavento served as a juror and panelist for the Brink Award, Creative Time and Charlotte Street Foundation, among others. She currently runs Palm Galerie out of her garage, a contemporary art space dedicated to emerging and underrecognized artists.
Michelle Glass: Water Diaries/Diarios de Agua
Arvin, Kern County
Public Practice artist, Michelle Glass, works alongside BIPOC/LGTBQIA communities to reclaim our stories and deepen our connection to the land, waterways, and each other. Her work utilizes the ancient tradition of natural dyes to test the water quality in California’s Central Valley, the most polluted region in America. Advanced Water Lab Tests conducted on water used to irrigate crops, showed large levels of Arsenic, almost twice the federal limit, a signature of oil and gas activity. Using natural dyes along with scientific data empowers community members to learn firsthand about water toxins and increases awareness of health effects and higher prevalence of symptoms associated with pollution. Water Diaries/Diarios de Agua, a participatory-cultural mapping, art project addresses the environmental justice issue of water quality in Kern County, builds people power to fight for policy change and other systems level solutions, provides opportunities for people to develop resources to protect themselves, confronts the foundational disconnection and dehumanization that racial capitalism and colonialism produce to disconnect us from our land and waterways, and creates space for healing. The project expands on the community’s own knowledge of local water issues and builds connections to biological and ecological roots through community engagement workshops, water testing, fiber arts, and water diaries that record peoples’ lived experience of living in a toxic environment. The artist hopes to use our findings as a platform for meaningful social discourse between rural small towns and the larger urban areas to build awareness around the issues we face on a national and global level.
Michelle Glass is a Public Art and Social Practice artist that works alongside BIPOC communities to reclaim our ancestral histories and deepen our connections between the land and each other. She creates community engaged art that considers the geographic and social/historic attributes of the community, acknowledges the contributions and histories of diverse groups, amplifies the voices of the people, and provides an opportunity for collective actions. Her work is site, engagement, and community based and is deeply rooted in her personal history. She is a third generation Chicana with Indigenous Yaqui roots that comes from a legacy of ancestors that were land stewards. As a young child, she moved from urban East Los Angeles to the rural, agricultural town of Moorpark, CA where everyone knew their neighbors and generations of families nurtured the land. Throughout the years, relatives shared stories about their lives living on a ranch or in wooden farmworker carriages as they followed the crops. This was a time when people realized that all life is interconnected and interdependent. Growing up within these two perspectives, she witnessed firsthand the contradictions between the wealth and poverty of communities and inequities around race, bureaucracy, language barriers, and culture. This experience prompted her to use art as a tool to bring disparate groups together in an effort to build equity and social justice. Her methodology embraces research, arts education, community building, and community engagement. She holds a BA in Art Education/Single Subject Teaching Credential with an emphasis in Art Studio Photography from the California State University, Los Angeles and a MFA in Public Practice from Otis College of Art and Design.
Carlo & Ethel Zafranco: Brushstrokes of Resilience
Palmdale, Los Angeles County
Brushstrokes of Resilience is a transformative mural project aiming to empower and inspire the Palmdale community through the creation of four unique murals in a 4 block radius.
Central to the project is the professional training and mentorship of a dedicated cohort of 6 local students. Participants will have the opportunity to work alongside experienced artists, honing their skills and fostering their artistic growth. This alternative learning experience will help develop a sense of pride and accomplishment within the participants, empowering them to positively impact their community through art.
The project will include community workshops and mural paint days. The workshops will provide a platform for community stakeholders to contribute their insights, stories, and historical context, ensuring that the murals authentically reflect the rich tapestry of Palmdale. These collaborative sessions will gather valuable input, fostering a sense of ownership and cultural representation within the artwork.Community paint days will invite community members of all ages to actively participate in the mural installation process.
Brushstrokes of Resilience not only aims to deter vandalism but also seeks to instill a renewed sense of pride, unity, and resilience within the Palmdale community. By leveraging the power of art and community collaboration, this project will leave a lasting impact, inspiring a shared vision of strength, beauty, and collective ownership.
Ethel and Carlo Zafranco are multimedia visual artists and art educators collaborating as a muralist duo under the alias of AQMNI (Aquarius + Gemini). Ethel is first-generation Mexican-American and received her BA from Loyola Marymount University and has worked 10+ years as a corporate creative professional providing her photography and cinematography services. Carlo is first-generation Filipino-American and is an art director and animator that's worked with companies like Disney, Marvel & Hulu.
Together they facilitate an immersive mural program for BIPOC youth in underserved communities in which participants are included in the process of conceptualizing, designing and installing a large-scale art piece on their school campus or recreational space. The program has been run in partnership with non-profit organizations Arts Bridging the Gap, Angel’s Gate Cultural Center, The Boys and Girls Club and the LA County School District and Parks and Recreation. They aim to use the arts as a method to bring opportunities for healing and empowerment to their program participants by amplifying their voices and providing them with a creative outlet for self-expression and exploration.
Public Matters: A Good Mischief Toolkit for Neighborhood Self-Determination
City Terrace (Los Angeles), Los Angeles County
A Good Mischief Toolkit for Neighborhood Self-Determination is a project led by Public Matters (Reanne Estrada and Mike Blockstein) in partnership with Visión City Terrace (VCT). It takes place in the City Terrace neighborhood of East Los Angeles.
City Terrace stinks.
Its residents deserve better.
For decades, community members have endured noxious smells from the industrial zone abutting residential areas, air and noise pollution from the 10 freeway, lack of greenspace and tree canopy, and chronically unmet service requests for basic maintenance like trash pick-up. Persistent underinvestment, neglect, and explicitly racist urban planning and land use policies such as redlining have had a devastating impact on residents’ health and well-being.
Good Mischief will playfully deploy that most bureaucratic problem-solving medium – the toolkit – to spark public participation among residents who are unfamiliar with or put off by the governmental apparatus that is supposed to serve them. Good Mischief weaves social practice, education, and communication strategies into items and actions that make participation less “soul-suck” and more “conspiratorial joy.”
The project will amplify VCT’s reach among its neighbors and help build its capacity to more effectively inform, empower, and mobilize them to achieve a collective vision for their neighborhood.
Reanne Estrada (she/they) is a public artist based in Los Angeles whose work takes many forms. Their poly-disciplinary practice explores how bodies negotiate their identities, navigate shared and at times contested spaces, and reimagine their power within and outside existing systems.
With Mike Blockstein, Reanne is Co-Principal of Public Matters, a Los Angeles-based creative studio for civic engagement that uses socially engaged art to leverage greater inclusion, public participation, and transformative change. Public Matters commits to neighborhoods and relationships; its projects often endure and build over years. It has worked extensively with communities in Boyle Heights, Historic Filipinotown, South LA, and East LA.
Since 2007, it has embedded artistic practice and creative expression in projects that have addressed active transportation and traffic safety; park access; healthy food access; tobacco control; arts, culture and equitable development; urban planning; and leadership development. Public Matters has worked with the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, LA County Public Works, LA County Public Health, USC, UCLA, Pilipino Workers Center, East Los Angeles Renaissance Academy at Esteban Torres High School, Roosevelt High School, Los Angeles Walks, USC Kid Watch, and LA Freewaves.
Public Matters has:
- Orchestrated crosswalk choreography (with props) to address traffic safety in South LA
- Hosted conversations about community cohesion, gentrification, and displacement over fried pork skin
- Created a blinged-out, DIY people-powered transit fleet with East LA residents
- Created tours featuring hidden immigrant stories of Historic Filipinotown, experienced on a vintage 1944 Sarao Motor Company jeepney
- Developed a public campaign to promote healthy eating, featuring local residents from East LA and Boyle Heights, including vegetarian zombies
- Transformed existing corner stores to increase access to healthy fresh produce in South LA, East LA, and Boyle Heights.
Its work has been funded by the California Arts Council, California Humanities, National Institutes of Health, Truth Initiative, Southern California Association of Governments, USC Good Neighbors, two LA2050 Awards, and two MacArthur Foundation-HASTAC Digital Media and Learning Awards, among others.
Reanne does individual projects. She is one-third of "Mail Order Brides/M.O.B.” a Filipina-American artist girl gang. She also collaborates with artist C. Ree. Their work includes social practice, sculpture, performance, audio tours, ridiculous outfits. Reanne has bought and sold lucky dreams in South Korea; developed “Privacy Prophylactics” using “People Who Don’t Exist”; been a professional bridesmaid for hire. Their work has been funded by the 2022 California Community Foundation Fellowship for Visual Artists, California Arts Council Artist Fellowship Award for the Visual Arts, Durfee Foundation, and the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Visual Art Award.
Suchi Branfman and Dancing Through Prison Walls: DHS: Dancing Sustenance
Desert Hot Springs, Riverside County
DHS: Dancing Sustenance is a one-year project, designed to facilitate activated, engaged community conversations, through dance, storytelling, gesture, and personal narrative, resulting in the creation of movement-based performative community Interventions.
The project centers on the question “what sustains us?”; exploring and addressing the ways that sustenance is nourished, prevented, and denied to individuals and the community. Community knowledge is rich when it comes to finding the force to keep going, living, and thriving through deep adversity.
Desert Hot Springs (DHS) is a hard-working, economically challenged community confronting a growing crisis of policing, houselessness, food insecurity, and lack of healthcare. It is imperative that we utilize our art to activate and engage our community members towards collective impact in building a more just and equitable community together.
Telling and reflecting on personal stories through dance, creation, performance and embodied convenings, we will amplify, archive, and map the year. A map of a community dancing their stories, their lives.... we are here, we are valuable, we are essential, we are seen. Dance as a radical act of making one’s mark... on a community, on a map, on history.
Suchi Branfman, choreographer/curator/performer/educator/activist, has worked from the war zones of Managua to Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre and Kampala’s Luzira Prison to NYC’s Joyce Theatre. From street to stage, her work strives to create an embodied terrain grounded in storytelling, dialogue, listening and action. 2023 marks year seven of Branfman’s ten-year choreographic residency inside a medium security state men’s-prison in Norco, California. She is Artistic Director of the multi-faceted Dancing Through Prison Walls project, choreographing and curating performance, film, and written works in deep collaboration with current and formerly incarcerated movers, including the recent project “Undanced Dances Through Prison Walls During a Pandemic.” Her writing is published in The Nation, The Dancer-Citizen, Dance Education in Practice and Sming Sming Press. Branfman serves on faculty at Scripps College, striving to create an inclusive pedagogy that democratizes the studio. Recent awards include City of Los Angeles 2021-22 Master Artist Fellowship, Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Funds Grant, The Art of Recovery Grant from the City of Santa Monica in 2020-21, The Mary W. Johnson Faculty Achievement Award for Excellence in Teaching and Research 2021-22 and 2020-21. Branfman is also a community gardener and prison abolition activist.
Ann Kaneko: Land, Labor and Logistics
San Bernardino, San Bernardino County
Land, Labor and Logistics song/poetry workshops empower Inland Empire community members impacted by Amazon warehouse expansion to find a voice and heal through creativity. Workshops uncover challenges, affirming resilience and allowing participants to process impacts while having fun. These mostly BIPOC working class communities are disenfranchised and need outlets to validate their courage, express difficulties and visualize change. Music is a powerful salve, and many suffer from respiratory illness and stress caused by air pollution and truck traffic. Others are unseen, working in automated warehouses, struggling against repetitive stress disorders and dehumanizing work conditions. Many mourn the loss of culture as lands are leveled to develop warehouses.
We aim to support local residents and activists by creating materials that can mobilize and inform community partners and fight impacts. Through public presentations and videos that promote dialogue and engagement, communities will be seen and heard. This project strives to empower this coalition of community, labor unions and environmental justice groups, resisting Amazon and other warehouse expansion and fighting for health, labor and community equity. It creates space to envision and mobilize action while heightening awareness of over consumption, logistics growth and sustainability in the face of a climate crisis.
Ann Kaneko is known for her personal films that weave her intimate aesthetic with the complex intricacies of political reality. An Emmy Award winner, her poetic feature, MANZANAR, DIVERTED: WHEN WATER BECOMES DUST, premiered at the 2021 Big Sky Film Festival and broadcast on PBS POV’s 2022 line up. She is currently in development on 45/45, a personal film about multigenerational families and the beginning and ends of life. She has screened internationally and been commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Endowment and the Skirball Cultural Center. Other films include A FLICKER IN ETERNITY, based on Stanley Hayami’s diary; AGAINST THE GRAIN: AN ARTIST’S SURVIVAL GUIDE TO PERU, highlighting Peruvian political artists; OVERSTAY, about Japanese undocumented workers, and 100% HUMAN HAIR, a musical for the AFI Directing Workshop for Women. Fluent in Japanese and Spanish, Kaneko has been a Fulbright, Japan Foundation Artist, Film Independent Doc Lab fellow and Jackson Wild Multicultural Fellow. She has been funded by JustFilms/Ford, Doc Society, the Redford Center, CAAM, Vision Maker Media, Firelight Media, Chicken and Egg and Hoso Bunka Foundation. She is a member of BGDM, A-Doc and New Day Films, a distribution coop. She teaches at Pitzer College and was the artist mentor for Visual Communication’s Armed with a Camera Fellowship.
Audrey Chan: A FORCE FOR CHANGE
Long Beach, Los Angeles County
A FORCE FOR CHANGE is a multi language political education comic book about AAPI communities fighting back against harm perpetuated by corporate interests through grassroots organizing and civic and electoral participation. The comic book is a strategic part of AAPI FORCE-EF (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders for Civic Empowerment Education Fund)’s statewide “Corporate Hall of Shame” campaign leading up to California’s 2024 elections. AAPI FORCE-EF is a state-wide network of grassroots organizations building progressive AAPI political power in California to advance racial and economic justice for all. AAPI immigrant and refugee communities have historically been underserved and marginalized by a lack of culturally and linguistically specific political education materials and campaign messaging. This lack of political and electoral outreach hinders AAPI communities’ political power as a voting bloc and limits their influence on policy makers. AAPIs are poised to make a critical impact on upcoming California elections, particularly around the issues of the environment, housing, and economic justice. A FORCE FOR CHANGE will be published in multiple language editions: English, Chinese, Hmong, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Punjabi, Samoan, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. The comic book will be mobilized by organizers and distributed to AAPI community members statewide in 2024.
Audrey Chan (b. 1982, Chicago, Illinois) is a Los Angeles-based artist, illustrator, and writer. Her research-based projects use drawing, painting, public art, and video to challenge dominant historical narratives through community-based allegories of power, place, and identity. She received an MFA from California Institute of the Arts and a BA with Honors from Swarthmore College. Public art commissions include Will Power Allegory at the future LA Metro Little Tokyo/Arts District Station and The Care We Create at the Los Angeles offices of the ACLU of Southern California, where she was the organization's inaugural artist-in-residence. Chan has been awarded fellowships with the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy at the Japanese American National Museum, California Arts Council, and California Community Foundation. She has been an artist-in-residence with OxyArts’ Encoding Futures Summer Residency (with Monument Lab and the Mellon Foundation), Sam Francis Gallery, and l’école régionale des beaux arts de Nantes. She was recognized as a DCA Cultural Trailblazer by Los Angeles’ Department of Cultural Affairs. audreychan.net
Alicia Rojas: Las PODEROSAS de Latino Health Access
Santa Ana, Orange County
“Las Promotoras'' de Latino Health Access, is a group of community health advocates who took on the urgent work of reducing the spread of COVID-19 by advocating for the health of their ostracized community in one of California's most rapidly gentrifying cities — one with crippling, historical health and wealth inequities. Through “Las Promotoras,” we can provide greater visibility and accessibility to the amazing efforts of everyday women who, although not not trained as medical professionals, nevertheless fought for the survival of their communities with incredible heart and determination.
Through a collaborative process with Latino Health Access (LHA) and their “Promotoras” an arts and culture project will be produced that will include collecting, digitizing and archiving community/family-based oral histories of these front-line responders that advocated fiercely for the survival of their marginalized communities during the worst times of the pandemic. These community assets will also help create a data visualization process with culture mapping, and their stories will inspire the creation of a public art installation at LHA headquarters located in Santa Ana, CA.
We celebrate these first responders as PODEROSAS (powerful women) asserting them as heroes in American history.
Alicia Rojas (1976) is a Colombian-born artist, living in Orange County, CA. She participates in movements of immigrant rights, anti-gentrification, social economic equity and ecology. Alicia’s artistic practice starts as an exploration of self expression and healing, which led her to paint almost 100 self-portraits in one year. Her practice has a collaborative and storytelling process in which paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures and murals are not the end result but rather part of her art making pedagogy. Her work contributes to the historical memory of the collective and facilitates placemaking within communities of color. She is currently an artist-in-residence at Grand Central Art Center, funded through a grant by the Andy Warhol Foundation. Rojas is a California Arts Council, established artists fellow grantee, she has received funding from the City of Santa Ana Arts and Culture Department, Community Engagement and local non-profits.
She is the Director and Co-founder of the Santa Ana Community Artis(a) Coalition, an organization founded with the mission to connect local artists to their communities in a collaborative process to create art that transforms public spaces, generates civic engagement, and promotes personal and social change. Rojas was a founding member of the City of Santa Ana arts steering committee and a participant of the Occupy movement.
“I am shaped by my experiences and relationships with others but I am an artist because of my own immigrant experience. My story is not unique, quite the contrary it’s very common in many immigrant children. What we do with that is what is extraordinary. We are extraordinary Americans.”
Shinpei Takeda: MEMORIA TERRA
City Heights (San Diego), San Diego County
“MEMORIA TERRA” is a collaborative storytelling project that invites young adult residents of City Heights to reckon with and respond to the social, cultural and economic impacts of gentrification on their own lives and community histories. Across one year, a series of writing workshops and a public art installation will engage 10-20 youth fellows in the “Back Alley Poetry Club” fellowship to not just tell their stories, but to literally inscribe them on the ground, reclaiming the “back alley” of the neighborhood as it changes beneath their very feet. The result will be a half-mile of back alley completely filled with a semi-permanent weaving of poetry, image and voice. The project will serve as a semi-permanent inscription of the narratives that are historically pushed off the main street but that continue to pulse on the margins. In this way, the ground will itself speak back as the neighborhood continues to change, refusing the erasure of those who have shaped it.
Shinpei Takeda is a visual artist working in a wide array of mediums including installations, film, text, public projects in order to shift perceived history by materializing forgotten personal memories. Shinpei is a co-founder and artistic director of The AJA Project , a nonprofit working with marginalized youth using a photography and story-telling in San Diego. He also founded Ghost Magnet Roach Motel, a noise punkformance unit in Tijuana, Mexico. His films and installations have been exhibited in many places in Germany, Mexico, Japan and US. He has been doing public art projects in San Diego since early 2000s, and have carried out other public art projects in Japan and Germany most recently using Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality.