On Saturday, December 5, cohorts from both the Arts Education and Cultural Policy tracks of Art for LA’s ACTIVATE Arts Advocacy Leadership Program gathered at the Los Feliz Charter School for the Arts for a day-long Leadership and Taking Action seminar.
The seminar featured six guest speakers and four workshop sessions. ACTIVATE participants were given the opportunity to refine their leadership skills, discuss barriers and solutions to equity issues, practice communication strategies, and learn about community organizing. The session helped to lay the foundation for the ACTIVATE action projects set to begin in Spring of 2016.
Session 1: Leadership Practice
Guest Speaker: Janet McIntyre, Director of Programs & Training, Executive Service Corps of Southern California + Consultant, Janet McIntyre Consulting
In session one, Janet McIntyre described the qualities of leadership, emphasizing the importance of being an adaptive leader: “Leadership is bringing the best of ourselves into alignment with something important to us, which makes a positive change in the world.”
“I loved the presentation by Jane McIntyre… going over the material with her and my peers was very informative and motivational. Not just for my arts advocacy group, but in my personal life.” - ACTIVATE Participant Addy Gonzalez-Renteria, San Fernando Valley.
Session 2: Communication Strategies
Guest Speaker: Charlie Jensen, Managing Editor, Colburn School
In session two, Charlie Jensen led a seminar about effective and strategic communication in arts advocacy titled, “How to Convince Anyone to Support the Arts.” Through a series of examples such as marriage equality and a wage strike by the San Francisco Symphony, participants discussed the importance of positively framing communication efforts to achieve desired outcomes.
“I really loved the session on communication. It has helped me think about how I communicate with patrons, donors, students, and funders” - ACTIVATE Participant (Klarissa Leuterio, SMMUSD, LAUSD)
Session 3: Educational & Cultural Equity
Guest Speakers: Shelby Williams-Gonzalez, Artistic Director, ArtworxLA, and Luis-Genaro Garcia, Art Teacher, Nava College Prep Academy + PhD Student, Claremont Graduate University
Moderator: Cristina Pacheco, Director of Programs, Arts for LA
Session three began with Williams-Gonzalez and Garcia sharing their personal and work experience in addressing issues of equity. ACTIVATE participants were then invited into a discussion about how equity barriers can affect advocacy work and the actions they can take towards change. Sample questions of inquiry included:
How do you define equity? What does achieved equity look like? ACTIVATE participant responses:
“Students should walk into an environment that encourages learning and creativity.”
“Same education opportunities regardless of economic or social abilities.”
“Embracing our differences”
“Not just a seat at the table, but a voice.”
Thinking about your work, what driving question keeps you up at night? ACTIVATE participant responses:
“How do we diversify the arts to bring in the next generation of arts professionals?”
“How do you cultivate the value of the arts so we don’t have to justify them constantly?
“How do we collectively heal as a community?”
Session 4: “Engaging & Empowering Your Community”
Guest Speakers: Omar Ramirez, Artist, Boyle Heights Conservatory + Youth Leadership Coordinator, Mexican American Legal Defense & Education Fund (MALDEF) and Alberto Retana, President and CEO, Community Coalition
The fourth and final session brought together two powerhouse activists and leaders that shared their frameworks for approaching community-based advocacy work. Alberto Retana shared the observation that “If you’re fighting for something you can get done in your own lifetime, then you’re not working hard enough." Omar Ramirez emphasized the importance of community involvement in the success of any given campaign: “You’re not part of a campaign to create a poster, but a campaign of what we decide to campaign around.”
“The speakers were very open and focused. They presented ideas in ways I hadn't thought of before and opened my mind, allowing me to think differently and on a deeper level." -ACTIVATE Participant Shannita Williams, Los Angeles.
This day focused Leadership and Taking Action marked the end of the fall series of training sessions for this year's ACTIVATE program, which launched with 99 participants, with 52 Cultural Policy participants representing and impacting 26 cities and with 47 Arts Education participants representing and impacting 27 school districts.
As ACTIVATE moves into 2016, a new chapter begins for participants. In January, both the Cultural Policy and Arts Education tracks will convene again to plan their action projects that each participant will lead in their community.