City: Los Angeles
Position Seeking: City Council – District 1

Question 1: Please share a meaningful experience you had with art (visual, dance, drama, music, media arts) while growing up and its impact on you.

I trained for 6 years as a classical pianist, played bass drum and xylophone in my high school marching band, and I was in an amateur dance troupe that got hired in a few music videos. Additionally, I played Willy Wonka in my middles school’s production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. All of these experiences encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and acquire new experiences. With my own daughter, I’ve also emphasized the importance of arts education and enrichment.

Art, for me, is about full engagement of the human mind and body. As an anthropology student, art is a species-defining trait for humankind – on par with speech, sophisticated composite material tools, and religion that sets our species apart from most others. To deny the creative impulse is to deny our collective and individual humanity.

Question 2: What do you believe the role of City Council should be in developing and supporting the region’s arts and cultural infrastructure?

I led monthly bicycle tours to art galleries in North East Los Angeles for nearly a decade as through a program I co-founded called Figueroa for All. The central goal, for me, was to bring people to a fully engaged mental state. The rides did this through the physical activity of riding, mixed with the diverse experiences within art galleries and constructed spaces, and the social environment of traveling in a group (between 20 and 150 people).

I organized and led these rides because of the deep need I saw in my community to be engaged in this way – a need that exists while our neighborhood is swimming in talented artists and mind blowing work. As a councilman, I see part of my job as being very similar to what I did as an organizer of those tours.

Question 3: What’s your vision for the city? What role, if any, does art and culture play in advancing that vision?

I am running for City Council to promote safe streets and strong neighborhoods. Too often issues of blight, graffiti, broken sidewalks and unclean restrooms contribute to our citizens feeling small and unsupported by city infrastructure. The good news is that many of these issues have direct fixes that will require attention and resources from a responsive and connected council office, which I will deliver to Council District 1. When local artists are commissioned to paint murals celebrating our culture we enhance our interaction with public spaces and one another. Further, as a Friend of the Southwest Museum, I strongly support keeping that community resource open and independently operated so it can continue to educate young and old on the history of our indigenous people. Finally, many of our parks currently exist as cultural enrichment points by providing art classes and instruction to young adults – I intend to expand these offerings because I believe they are critical deterrents youth gang activity.

Questions 4: A recent report by the Otis College of Design found that 1 in every 6 jobs in LA County supports the creative sector and economy in Los Angeles County. If elected, how will you aim to ensure the continued vitality and growth of the creative economy and the artistic community that it supports?

I ardently wish to build on the immense cultural and creative capital of Los Angeles – specifically in Council District 1 – as we grow our local creative economy. Los Angeles’s artistic community is a point of local pride and the envy of the world — but we need to strive for making that creative economy more inclusive to class, race, and gender underrepresented in mainstream Hollywood creative work. Council District 1 is home to many community art programs and non-profits that deserve support when providing a civic good. For instance, CD1 is home to the Bow Tie Parcel and frequently hosts community events produced by Clockshop — I would like to see more cultural programming in our parks and open spaces, and to see promotion for these events translated into Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean and other languages in our area to broaden community participation in cultural programming. Finally, I will strive to ensure persons of color, women, and our LGBTQ artists are considered first for producing local artist work for community presentation.