2014 LA Convergence Speakers

2014 LA Convergence Speakers

Learn more about the leaders, visionaries, and creative problem solvers who will speak at the LA Convergence on October 24.

Opening Plenary

   
Anat Shenker-Osorio  

Anat Shenker-Osorio
Owner, ASO Communications

Anat Shenker-Osorio is a language researcher and author of Don’t Buy It: The Trouble with Talking Nonsense About the Economy. As a strategic communications consultant, she has conducted multiple studies on how people reason about clean energy, sex education, economic justice, immigrants, and women’s rights. Past and present clients include: the Ford Foundation, America’s Voice, Opportunity Agenda, Ms Foundation, Open Society Foundation, and the Congressional Progressive Caucus, to name a few. Ms. Shenker-Osorio's writing and research has been in The Atlantic, Salon, Huffington Post, the Christian Science Monitor and the Boston Globe, among other publications.

     
"Catalysts"    
 Omar Brownson  

Omar Brownson
Founding Executive Director, Los Angeles River Revitalization Corporation

Omar Brownson started the LA River Revitalization Corp in January 2011 with a background in real estate private equity, project development, and public-private partnerships. The River Corp. acts as a hub to drive forward tangible change and sustainable real estate along the river. The LA River offers open space, recreation, and a continuous greenway for 51-miles across the heart of our city. He completed a joint-Masters in Public Policy and Urban Planning from the Harvard Kennedy School and Graduate School of Design where his team won the first ULI/Hines Urban Design Competition. He graduated from the University of California, Davis. He served as an Americorps Member through Public Allies before his Coro Fellowship.  He is currently a Senior Fellow at the USC Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab and a Stanton Fellow through the Durfee Foundation.  

 Rudy Espinoza  

Rudy Espinoza
Executive Director, Leadership for Urban Renewal Network (LURN)

Rudy Espinoza specializes in identifying profitable investment opportunities in low-income communities, researching the informal economy, building private/nonprofit partnerships, and training the working poor to participate in the socio-economic revitalization of their neighborhoods. LURN believes that the renewal, revitalization, and revival of low-income communities must be done responsibly, must be led by the community, and must leverage existing resources. He serves on the Board of Transportation Commissioners for the City of Los Angeles, the Advisory Board of the LA Development Fund, the Board of Directors for the LA Kitchen, Esperanza Community Housing Corporation, and the LA Food Policy Council. Rudy holds degrees in Business Administration and Urban Planning.

Michelle Rhone-Collins  

Michelle Rhone-Collins
Founding Executive Director, LIFT-LA

Michelle Rhone-Collins founded LIFT-LA, an organization working to bring holistic and enduring solutions to poverty alleviation that has been recognized by the New York Times and Fast Company as one of the most innovative and humanitarian approaches to building economic stability to struggling communities in the country. Michelle received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Duke University and Masters of Education in Psychological Counseling from Teacher's College/Columbia University with a focus on racism, racial identity, and mental health. She was recently appointed as a Senior Fellow for USC’s Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab.  She is also the proud mother of two beautiful children ages 10 and 14, her ultimate source for motivation and inspiration.

 Yosi Sergant  

Yosi Sergant
Owner, TaskForce PR

Yosi Sergant has worked in communications, public relations, brand management, marketing, community organizing and business development -- integrating art, music and culture into his work whenever possible. During the 2008 Presidential campaign, Sergant engaged artists in a vast viral movement, supporting candidate Barack Obama, the most prominent of which is the now ubiquitous "HOPE" campaign he created with artist Shepard Fairey. Following the election, Sergant served in the White House Office of Public Engagement before accepting an appointment as the Director of Communications for the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2010, Sergant launched TaskForce a Los Angeles-based independent agency that builds capacity and momentum for the most influential not-for-profits and change makers. 

 Amy Shimson-Santo  

Dr. Amy Shimson-Santo
Foundation & Government Relations, Art Center College of Design

Dr. Amy Shimshon-Santo coaches faculty and raises funds for sponsored research and educational projects. Facilitating funded community partnerships are crucial to her efforts. She serves on the Arts + STEM Collaborative for 21st Century Learning, and on Senator Carol Liu’s Green 21 Council. While at UCLA, Amy directed the ArtsBridge Program for the School of the Arts and Architecture. Earlier in her career, she co-founded the Brasil Brasil Cultural Center (BBCC), a non-profit organization that provides immigrant artists a broad platform to share their brilliance with the world. She was a founding member of a statewide inter-agency consortium, CREATE CA, serving on the CREATE CA Planning Committee for 3 years, and co-chaired the Equity and Access Policy Work group that contributed to the Blueprint for Creative Schools. She holds a doctorate in Urban Planning from UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs. 

Brenda Shockley  

Brenda Shockley
President, Community Build

Founded in response to the conditions that led to the Los Angeles Civil Unrest of 1992, Community Build’s mission is to revitalize low-income communities in South Los Angeles through human capital and community economic development, focusing on youth and families. Since opening its Youth and Community Center in 1994, Community Build has provided education, training, employment and supportive services to over 22,00 youth and young adults with emphasis on outreach and services for at-risk youth, out-of-school youth, foster youth, youth offenders, gang-involved youth, first-generation college bound youth, and families. Before joining the nonprofit sector, Brenda was in private law practice, a legislative consultant, Deputy City Attorney, and Vice President/Finance/Administration at Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science. She has served on numerous boards including the California State Personnel Board, Los Angeles City Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust, Los Angeles City Affordable Housing Commission, and Planned Parenthood Los Angeles.  Ms. Shockley is a graduate of Occidental College and Loyola Law School.

 Elizabeth Timme  

Elizabeth Timme
Co-Founder, LA Más

Elizabeth Timme leads the LA-Más office, working on projects that seek to establish the potential for design-based outcomes in the LA area. With a diverse background in designing for resource-limited environments, Elizabeth has managed numerous research and community immersion projects. Elizabeth teaches at Woodbury University's Architecture & Civic Engagement Center and serves on the Zoning Advisory Committee of ReCode LA, a city-led effort to transform its outdated zoning code. Elizabeth holds a Masters in Architecture from Harvard's Graduate School of Design. 

 Nguyen Tran  

Nguyen Tran
Owner, Starry Kitchen

After having graduated w/ a degree in Computer Science, going from a dot.comer to a dot.goner, working in TV syndication, then at talent agency (William Morris/WMA) and then going independent to produce films traveling to film festivals all over the world like Cannes, Sundance, Berlin and Toronto—the unlikely culmination of ALL that experience collided in May of 2009 when Nguyen started Starry Kitchen, an illegal + underground restaurant out of the back of an apartment in North Hollywood that eventually became the #1 Asian Fusion restaurant in all of L.A. on Yelp. Starry Kitchen's been featured in the New York Times, The New Yorker, NPR, KCRW, local+national television and the LA Times multiple times (including the Jonathan Gold 101 Best Restaurant list 2 years in a row). 

  

     
"Co-creation"    
Katie Burbank   

Katie Burbank
Los Angeles Community Director, Yelp

Katie Burbank educates the public on how to effectively use Yelp as a local resource, helps business owners navigate the free tools available through their biz owner accounts, and expands Yelp's presence as a go-to site for the most amazing local businesses in LA and beyond. In addition to providing support to the Yelp community online, Katie also compiles the Weekly Yelp (an email newsletter that features unique local hot spots), curates opportunities for partner organizations to reach a larger, more engaged audience, hosts events for the Yelp LA Community that encourage further exploration of the city's offerings, and manages the @YelpLA social media feeds. She also gives stellar hugs.

Mia Lehrer  

Mia Lehrer
Mia Lehrer + Associates

Born in San Salvador, El Salvador, Ms. Lehrer received her Masters of Landscape Architecture from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University. She leads the ML+A office through the design and development of a diverse range of ambitious public and private projects that include urban revitalization developments such as Hollywood Park and San Pedro Waterfront, large urban parks such as Vista Hermosa Park in Los Angeles, and complex commercial projects like a Bio-tech Corporate Campus in Thousand Oaks. In recent years, several interesting historic renovation projects have been added to her repertoire; these include Union Station in downtown Los Angeles, the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, and Santee Court, an urban housing development. Currently the firm is a consultant for the Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan currently leading efforts to identify and plan a comprehensive open space network that interfaces with channel restoration and urbanism.

Grayce Liu   

Grayce Liu
General Manager, EmpowerLA

Grayce Liu has been with the EmpowerLA for six years and was the Director of Policy and Communications for the Neighborhood Council system before being appointed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to lead the department in 2012.  Prior to this, she was the Community Program Director for the Center for the Pacific Asian Family (CPAF) and the co-chair of the Asian and Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Task Force in the San Gabriel Valley. She continues to teach classes on domestic violence, sexual assault, compassionate communications and self-defense in her free time. Grayce has been recognized for her work with the Valley Alliance of Neighborhood Councils “Got It” Award, Los Angeles County Domestic Violence Council Betty Fisher Award, California State Assembly Certificate of Recognition, California State Senate Certificate of Recognition, Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition, and the Garvey School District Certificate of Recognition. 

 Rosten Woo   Rosten Woo
Artist

Rosten Woo is a designer, writer, and educator living in Los Angeles. He produces civic-scale artworks and works as a collaborator and consultant to a variety of grassroots and non-profit organizations including the Advancement Project, the Black Workers Center, as well as the city of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County. He teaches at California Institute of the Arts, the Art Center College of Design, and Pomona College. His work has been exhibited at the Cooper-Hewitt Design Triennial, the Venice Architecture Biennale, Netherlands Architectural Institute, and various piers, public housing developments, tugboats, shopping malls, and parks in New York and Los Angeles. He is co-founder and former executive director of the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP), a New York Based non-profit organization dedicated to using art and design to foster civic participation. His first book, Street Value, was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2010.

     
"Connectivity"    
Jennifer Ferro  

Jennifer Ferro
General Manger, KCRW Radio/President, KCRW Foundation

In her four years heading the organization, Jennifer Ferro has transformed the institution from Southern California's flagship public radio station to a worldwide digital content distributor and source of arts and culture discovery featuring a global community of explorers, curators and creators. Ms. Ferro is currently vice chair of the AIR Board, an organization dedicated to supporting and promoting independent producers in public media. In 2011, she was chosen as one of Los Angeles’ Game Changing Women Leaders Who Make an Impact in LA by Los Angeles Magazine.  Ms. Ferro earned her Bachelor's degree from UCLA.

 David Andrés Kietzman  

David Andrés Kietzman
Executive Director, Youth Speak! Collective

David grew-up in Pasadena and has been involved in community and youth development projects across Los Angeles for the last ten years.  Mr. Kietzman’s professional career is focused on increasing positive opportunities for youth while revitalizing the community. Since graduating from Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego with his Bachelor’s of Art in Graphic Arts and Teaching Credential in Secondary Arts Education, he has been active leader in Southern California and abroad in the arts, education and nonprofit circles.  Before co-founding Youth Speak Collective in 2006, David was an art teacher at several Pacoima middle and high schools and ran afterschool programs for various Los Angeles based nonprofits. David believes in being “responsible for what you love” and is passionate about learning, coaching and turning ideas into action.

 Lucas Rivera  

Lucas Rivera
Director, Grand Park, The Music Center

In July of 2012, Lucas Rivera became the Director of Grand Park, a new Los Angeles County Park in Downtown Los Angeles. His vision for park programming is grounded in place making through arts engagement and artist development. Since its opening in late July 2012, Rivera has programmed over 150 events attracting more than 250,000 people. He works under the leadership of the Los Angeles Music Center who operates and programs the park. 

 

     
Pecha Kucha Presenters    
Krystee Clark  

Krystee Clark
Group Representative, Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council

Krystee Clark moved to Los Angeles at the precocious age of 16 with a high school diploma and a Hollywood dream. Attending the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, she became an emancipated minor and began a career full of memorable appearances on some of television’s most popular shows. Krystee’s talents led her to a diverse array of professional experience, including supervising a technology-based corporation, producing educational films for LAUSD, logo design, non-profit positions, marketing, and advocacy. Krystee has a unique understanding of the vital importance the entertainment industry has for our economy and job growth and is determined to keep the creative energy that drew her here alive. Krystee is a former candidate for Los Angeles City Council where she challenged City Hall's lack of technology, innovation, and communication. 

 Kai Flores-Emnace  

Kai Flores Emnace
Education Program Coordinator, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

Kai Monet Flores-Emnace is a native to Los Angeles and dedicated to a mindful, reflective and constructivist teaching practice. She is a Education Program Coordinator at The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) where she works with schools, teachers, students and families to engage critically with contemporary art. Kai serves as vice president for the Museum Educators of Southern California (MESC). In 2012, she was appointed as a member of the California Arts Council and State Superintendent’s Blueprint for Creative Schools Joint Task Force. Kai received her MA in Arts Management with a concentration in education from Claremont Graduate University in 2013 and holds a BA in Urban Studies and a BA in Art Education from Loyola Marymount University. 

Patricia Garza  

Patricia Garza
Artistic Development Program Manager, Center Theatre Group

Patricia Garza holds a MFA/MBA in Theatre Management from California State University, Long Beach with her undergraduate work completed at UC Berkeley. Patricia served as Assistant Department Director for Education and Community Partnerships for six years. Patricia has consulted on strategic plans for East LA Rep and El Teatro Campesino. She is a Theatre Communications Group Young Leader of Color where she works with theatre professionals nationally on issues surrounding diversity and inclusion with a particular focus on the LGBTQ community. She also was a fellow for the Salzburg Global Seminar on Young Cultural Innovators. She currently serves on the board for Get Lit, LA's leading non-profit presenter of literary performance, education, and teen poetry programs. Her work explores the question of how can we encourage dialogue between communities and create transformation through art.

Erin Harkey  

Erin Harkey
Civic Art Project Manager, Los Angeles County Arts Commission

Erin Harkey manages civic art projects and creative placemaking programs in conjunction with County-wide capital improvements, regional plans and strategic initiatives. This included the County’s first $1 million civic art allocation at the Martin Luther King Jr. Medical Campus in Willowbrook, CA, with artists Lawrence Argent, Dominique Moody and Dan Corson. Prior to joining the Arts Commission, Erin served as the Associate Director of Public Art & Design at the Arts Council for Long Beach where she initiated two award winning, temporary programs for vacant lots called the Urban Lab and the A Lot Series. Erin has also worked for the District of Columbia Arts Center, Washington, DC; the Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles, CA; the Music Center of Los Angeles County; and the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency, Cultural Planning Bureau. She attended Howard University Business School with a focus in Marketing and Communications and holds two masters degrees from USC in Urban Planning and Public Art Studies. Her ongoing professional interests center on public art as a tool for emotional reconciliation and community development.

Elena Muslar  

Elena Muslar
Professional Development Associate, Inner-City Arts

Elena Muslar supports the facilitation of professional development workshops at Inner-City Arts for teachers, teaching artists, and community members interested in exploring their own creativity and deepening their understanding of arts integration. She recently obtained her MFA from California Institute of the Arts in Theatre Management, specializing in Producing. With arts administration as her primary focus, she managed to balance her full-time graduate studies with valuable work experiences at the Music Center: Performing Arts Center Los Angeles, Center Theatre Group, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Theatre Bay Area, Teatro Verdi – Firenze, Performing Arts Abroad, Grand Park, and the Los Angeles County Arts Commission.  She holds a BA from Loyola Marymount University in Theatre with minors in Dance, African-American Studies, and an emphasis in Education. She was just elected to the Leadership Council of Emerging Arts Leaders/Los Angeles as an At-Large Member and is in the first cohort of the California Presenters Next-Gen Leadership Diversity Program.

Levi Ponce  

Levi Ponce
Artist

Levi Ponce is an artist from the San Fernando Valley. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Art with a concentration in animation from California State University, Northridge.  His murals are community projects that bring together artists, business owners, and local youth.  Together they transform defaced city walls into works of art that neighborhoods take pride in having on their streets.  His efforts to beautify and inspire communities have garnered local and international media attention.  Currently,  Levi works in the film industry as a digital and practical artist. 


Closing Keynote

   
Headshot  

Luis J. Rodriguez
Poet Laureate of Los Angeles

Luis J. Rodriguez has 15 published books in poetry, children's literature, short stories, the novel, memoirs, and nonfiction. He's best known for the 1993 memoir Always Running, La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A., with close to half a million copies sold. He is also founder/editor of the renown small cross-cultural press, Tia Chucha Press, now in its 25th year, and co-founder/president of Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural & Bookstores. He travels throughout the United States speaking at schools, colleges, universities, conferences, prisons, juvenile lockups, homeless shelters, migrant camps, Native American reservations, libraries, and more. He has also done talks, readings, workshops, and reporting in Mexico, Canada, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Peru, Argentina, Japan, England, France, Holland, Austria, Italy, Germany, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Luis work has been published in publications like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, U.S. News & World Report, San Jose Mercury, Philadelphia Inquirer magazine, The Nation, Grand Street, The Guardian, Christian Science Monitor, and Huffington Post, among others.