2016-17 Activate Projects

Members of the 2016-17 ACTIVATE Program cohort launched advocacy initiatives (Action Projects) impacting 31 cities and 16 school districts across LA County. Below you can learn more about these Fellows and their advocacy initiatives.

 


 

Reginald Johnson

Cultural Policy
Willowbrook

Reginald Johnson, a Cultural Policy Fellow from Willowbrook, has been working towards launching the Willowbrook Inclusion Network (WIN) in the community in which he grew up. WIN is a non-profit, for-purpose social enterprise dedicated to community planning, civic engagement, economic growth, and workforce development. Johnson is committed to focusing WIN’s efforts on transforming Willowbrook through arts and culture to generate an educated community that can maximize their economic potential. He is currently developing the Willowbrook Weekend, a two-day arts, culture, food, and music festival, which will showcase the cultural assets available to Willowbrook residents without leaving the neighborhood. Johnson has partnered with Metro, LAUSD, LA Department of Recreation & Parks, and the LA County Board of Supervisors to bring Willowbrook Weekend to life. His next steps will focus investments on development across the community: geographically, culturally, and through the life cycle.

Link to Project 1


Alex Karas

Arts Education
LAUSD 7

Alex Karas, an Arts Education Fellow from Los Angeles, is a Program Manager at the LA Promise Fund, where he supports arts education across LA County and works with partner schools from LAUSD District 7. Interested in strengthening the quality of arts education in schools, Karas focuses on improving professional development for arts teachers, who often face a lack of opportunities for continuing education. Karas has worked with teachers to identify the support they need to strengthen their pedagogy and increase student learning. Through collaboration with local professional development providers, he hopes to expand the scope of current initiatives and develop new opportunities to address the specific needs of teachers in District 7.


Marie Kellier

Cultural Policy
City of Los Angeles, Council District 8

Marie Kellier, a Cultural Policy Fellow from Los Angeles, works within Council Districts 9 and 11, informed by her engagement with underserved arts and cultural practitioners while working as a resource consultant and producer. She initiated and is in the process of developing an Arts and Cultural Policy Framework for the Second Supervisorial District of Los Angeles County. After proposing the project to the Empowerment Congress Arts and Culture Committee (ECACC) in 2014, Kellier helped to organize ECACC town hall meetings to gather momentum for the project. Her involvement in ACTIVATE allowed her to gain in-depth knowledge and garner support for the policy framework. Kellier is now organizing neighborhood and discipline-specific town halls, analyzing data from the recent LA County Board of Supervisors’ Cultural Equity and Inclusion Initiative, and collaborating with ECACC and cultural policy experts to draft the policy framework. Ultimately, she hopes to focus the attention of elected officials on the creative wealth of underserved neighborhoods, provide access to education and resources, and ultimately help to develop a creative ecosystem that is accessible, equitable and representative of the districts.

Link to Project 1


Laura Korman

Arts Education
LAUSD 5

Laura Korman, an Arts Education Fellow from Los Angeles, is a native Angeleno who lives in LAUSD District 5. Korman was struck by the discrepancy between the representation of the creative economy in the Los Angeles job market– one in six jobs is in the creative economy– and students’ exposure to these kinds of careers in public schools. To address this career education gap, she developed a pilot program, Arts Career Day, to enrich students’ awareness of the opportunities available to them when they graduate high school. She has consulted with the LA Regional Coalition for Linked Learning (LARCLL), a network within six LA County school districts and many postsecondary institutions, to identify the LAUSD schools that will be best served by her program. She intends to pilot Arts Career Day in Fall 2017, and will continue to seek to empower all students to pursue their ambitions, particularly in the arts.

Link to Project 1


Elida Ledesma

Arts Education
Los Angeles County Office of Education

Elida Ledesma, an Arts Education Fellow from Alhambra, has been working to bring diverse art forms to system-involved youth through the Arts for Incarcerated Youth Network (AIYN). With the cooperation of the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE), her ultimate goal is to provide a credit recovery option for youth who participate in arts programming. Having worked extensively inside juvenile detention facilities, Ledesma has been able to engage multiple stakeholders– including probation, LACOE, and the LA County Arts Commission– to research and develop credit recovery curriculum, which was pilot tested in the McAuliffe School on the Challenger campus. Ledesma hopes that her program can be implemented on a wider basis in order to utilize arts education to decrease dropout rates and increase graduation among this vulnerable population.

Link to Project 1
Link to Project 1


Ray Lopez Chang

Arts Education
LAUSD 5

Ray Lopez Chang, an Arts Education Fellow from Northeast Los Angeles, represents LAUSD 5, in the area in which he was born and raised. As a Field Deputy for the District 5 Board of Education, Lopez Chang has worked to address community tensions through art by facilitating relationships between local schools and the surrounding neighborhoods. He is currently working on the establishment of a think tank, Collectiva de Aliados (Collective of Allies) composed of both native and new Angelenos to research gentrification and approaches to releasing tension, dismantling division, and creating unity. Lopez Chang hopes that Collectiva de Aliados will inform the work of the community as it pertains to schools building strong, cohesive relationships with their neighborhood partners.

Link to Project 1


Monica Martinez

Arts Education
LAUSD 7

Monica A. Martinez, an Arts Education Fellow from San Pedro, works in classrooms to inspire and address the needs of students throughout LAUSD by inspiring, challenging, and civically activating educational experience through the visual arts to promote positive social change.


Hannah Maximova

Cultural Policy
Glendale

Hannah Maximova, a Cultural Policy Fellow from Glendale, is focused on producing community-centered mosaic murals on the walls of public schools in her area. So far, she has set three of these projects in motion, which are in varied stages of development. Maximova would like her advocacy work to facilitate stronger bonds between artists and philanthropists and schools, parents, and staff. She also hopes that the mosaic murals help public school campuses literally and figuratively shine, and that students feel that they spend each day in a treasured environment shaped by care and continued community investment.

Link to Project 1
Link to Project 1


Selamawit Mekonen

Cultural Policy
City of Los Angeles, Council District 14

Selamawit Mekonen, a Cultural Policy Fellow from Los Angeles, lives, works, and raises her daughter in Council District 14. Setting out to understand more deeply the workings of local government and to gain insight on how to organize, build coalitions and serve her community, Mekonen created the Urban Soapbox project, a site-specific structure that will be erected in public spaces and venues to record, document and archive the opinions and thoughts of residents of the Los Angeles area and beyond. Partnering with OnVideo to record audio and video, Mekonen is currently preparing for the first Urban Soapbox happening. At this debut, 30 community members will speak out on issues related to gentrification in their neighborhoods. Mekonen plans to apply for support from the Arts Activation Fund offered by the Department of Cultural Affairs, and hopes to work with the DCA and other public and private institutions. The Urban Soapbox Project seeks to empower people, communities and the world to engage in critical thought and oral expression.


Katrina Sarah Miller

Cultural Policy
City of Los Angeles, Council District 10

Katrina Sarah Miller, a Cultural Policy Fellow from South Los Angeles, graduated from the University of Southern California in May 2017. As a student of both Comparative Literature and Dance, she seeks to use her academic training to support local efforts to preserve the history of West Adams as momentous change takes place in Los Angeles. As an ACTIVATE Fellow, she built on archival work she began more than two years ago with the Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study by interviewing cultural workers who have invested their energy in the changing landscape of the city. This portraiture work will help to connect residents to their elected officials, and will provide academic support for the preservation of Historic Districts. Miller’s ongoing goal with this project is to facilitate communities’ creation of publicly accessible sites of education, interaction, and engagement with local history. A two-time immigrant herself, she also hopes to work on community engagement and family strengthening for immigrants through education, art, and performance. Her time as an ACTIVATE Fellow will inform her work in the public sector, advocating and uplifting local residents and projects through integration of private and public institutions that influence the creative working environment.


Chelo Montoya

Cultural Policy
South Gate

Chelo Montoya, a Cultural Policy fellow from South Gate, has been working on providing outlets for expression in her adoptive community. After moving from California’s Central Valley, Montoya was able to lend an outside perspective to her development of a multi-media, interactive cultural asset story map, which depicts her own path to finding arts and culture opportunities, and reveals the unique history of South Gate along the way. While conducting research for the asset map, Montoya also worked closely with the South Gate Arts Revival on outreach and support for the city-funded Youth Art Night, presented in conjunction with the Azalea Festival. The event brought over 400 young people and their families together for free, hands-on art workshops across mediums. Together with ACTIVATE alum Nathalie Sanchez, Montoya facilitated a soap block carving workshop in which participants were invited to write “words for the future.” She hopes to share the cultural asset mapping tools with local arts advocates involved with the South Gate Arts Revival so they can continue to add resources and further expand on the collective narrative of arts and culture in South Gate.

Link to Project 1


Ivonne Moreno

Arts Education
LAUSD 2

Ivonne Moreno, an Arts Education Fellow from Los Angeles, represents local District 2. Moreno has been building an arts committee that will offer coaching to local school districts in the San Fernando area. The committee will help individual schools create and update strategic plans to support the implementation of arts curriculum. Moreno is working with school board members, stakeholders, and educators, and plans to have the committee running for the 2017-18 academic year.


Phillip Nails

Cultural Policy
City of Los Angeles, Council District 13

Phillip Nails, a Cultural Policy Fellow from Los Angeles, has lived in Council District 13 for seven years and is founder of the Poetry Society of Los Angeles. With the Poetry Society of Los Angeles, he is working on the project Typewriters Anonymous, a catalyst for letter-writing campaigns targeting federal, state, and local governments. He has met with collaborators and venues willing to host poetic engagement events in his neighborhood. Nails is committed to encouraging artistic expression through poetry in his community, where he hopes poetry can help people connect with each other and advocate for their shared values.

Link to Project 1


Winifred Neisser

Winifred White Neisser’s extensive and successful career in development of television programming evolved from a passion for education and the arts. Her 34-year journey in Hollywood, where she served for 14 years as an executive at NBC, and another 20 years at Sony Pictures Television, ending in 2014 as Senior Vice President of Television Movies and Mini-series, followed a strategic recognition of the impact that television can have on young lives and learning. In addition to her professional life, White Neisser has served on many non-profit boards focusing primarily on education and the arts, including the Otis College of Art and Design; the Harvard University Board of Overseers, and Planned Parenthood of Los Angeles. She is also passionate about music and sings with the Angel City Chorale, in addition to serving on its board. Still intrigued by the power of messages and storytelling in popular culture, she continues to explore ways to share the stories that seldom get told, and demonstrate how art can be used as a vehicle to unite people and promote social justice throughout the world.


Allegra Padilla

Cultural Policy
City of Los Angeles, Council District 15

Allegra Padilla, a Cultural Policy Fellow from Los Angeles, is a lifelong resident of the city who is firmly committed to the belief that arts are an essential aspect of quality of life in all communities. Padilla draws on her past experience working at the intersection of arts and social justice to disrupt the patterns that create injustice in Los Angeles. She is currently building a coalition of people and organizations that focus on anti-displacement and gentrification across the city, with a grounding in the arts. She recently became the first-ever Coordinator of Community Programs at Occidental College, a role which allows her to facilitate positive cultural exchange between the College and its surrounding community. Padilla says that being part of a unified force for change has given her hope that another world is possible.


Meghan Pursell

Cultural Policy
Pasadena

Meghan Pursell, a Cultural Policy Fellow from Pasadena, has been working to hold the Art Commission accountable for the established policies in the public Art Master Plan. So far, she has created a sample report for District 3 dedicated to locating and assessing Pasadena’s public art collection. This will assure that residents have accessibility to high-quality and well cared-for public art in the way that the master plan intends.

Link to Project 1


Jeremy Quant

Arts Education
LAUSD 2

Jeremy Quant, an Arts Education Fellow from Los Angeles, works with students from LAUSD Districts 2 and 5 through Dot Red Art Tours. Quant began with the development of a strategy to work with teachers and schools to provide local educational art tours for K-12 students. To date, he has established programming for students in grade K-4. Quant wishes to expand upon this framework to provide students of all ages access to additional arts programming to enhance artistic imagination and foster an understanding of their community.

Link to Project 1
Link to Project 1
Link to Project 1


Valentina Quezada

Arts Education
LAUSD 4

Valentina Quezada, an Arts Education Fellow from West Hollywood, is an artist who is behind the establishment of WeHo Arts Senior Studio. The goal of Quezada’s project is to engage senior citizens in the city’s arts programming through hands-on experiences with the arts. Quezada is in conversation with WeHo Arts Department staff, and has applied for a grant to pilot a six-week program in Fall 2017. Ultimately, she hopes the Senior Studios will spark conversations between seniors of diverse backgrounds and generate demand for arts programming geared towards older adults by bridging both intergenerational and cultural gaps.

Link to Project 1


Jessica Rabalais

Cultural Policy
City of Los Angeles, Council District 7

Jessica Rabalais, a Cultural Policy Fellow from Los Angeles, represents Council District 7, where she works for a non-profit. Rabalais created a children’s art competition that accepted art made out of recycled or reclaimed materials, with the aim of promoting creativity and environmental stewardship. The competition received 50 entries from local students from ages 3-12. Rabalais continues to host the event annually with support from her institution, and is working to spread it to other sites in Southern California.

Link to Project 1


Ben Sax

Cultural Policy
City of Los Angeles, Council District 10

Ben Sax, a Cultural Policy Fellow from Los Angeles, has been working to bring his mixed reality public arts initiative Perceptoscope to life across the city. Perceptoscope combines virtual and augmented reality technology with traditional landscape binoculars to create new opportunities for storytelling in public space. Sax is documenting the current use of Perceptoscope in temporary installations while fostering partnerships with local community arts groups and cultural landmarks. As the project grows, he plans to scale up and manufacture fully weatherized units designed for permanent use throughout the county.

Link to Project 1


Stephanie Silberman

Arts Education
LAUSD 7

Stephanie Denise Silberman, an Arts Education Fellow from Los Angeles, focuses on increasing access to dance education for underserved youth. Silberman has been collaborating with ACTIVATE cohort member Cathryn Deering to bring the National Arts & Humanities Award-winning program everybody dance! to Joyner Elementary School in Watts. Starting in the 2017-18 school year, everybody dance! will offer free dance classes for kindergarten and first grade students at Joyner, with dance classes offered to the higher grade levels year-by-year as the school transitions into a visual and performing arts magnet. By 2020, an everybody dance! afterschool program will have a permanent home in Watts with dedicated dance studios in the new affordable housing project, allowing Joyner students to continue their dance instruction through the middle school gap and eventually connect with the Versa-Style Dance Company program at Jordan High School.

Link to Project 1


Stephen Smith-Contreras

Cultural Policy
City of Los Angeles, Council District 9

Stephen Smith-Contreras, a Cultural Policy Fellow from Los Angeles, has worked to increase cultural events and experiences in Exposition Park (CD9) and Mid-City (CD10). By partnering with the City of Los Angeles, Department of Recreation and Parks, City Council District Offices 9 and 10, the Mid-City Neighborhood Council, and other community groups, Smith-Contreras has been able to advance two events: the Exposition Park Summer Music Festival and the First Annual Mid-City Arts and Music Festival, which takes place in June 2017. Smith-Contreras hopes to continue producing and curating cultural events throughout Los Angeles, while working towards larger scale events with additional resources.

Link to Project 1


Brian Sonia-Wallace

Brian Sonia-Wallace is a 3rd generation Angeleno who makes live poetry and theatre with communities. His work has been published in The Guardian and profiled by the New York Times, NPR and the BBC, and he is currently working on a book for Harper Collins on poetry's intersections with marginalized spaces. As an cultural critic and commentator, Brian has profiled everything from Mariachi music to the avant garde, writing for LA County Art Commission, The Ford Theatres, LACMA Unframed, HowlRound, ArtsBeatLA, LA Theater Review, Mississippi Review, and others. As an arts entrepreneur, Brian regularly creates live typewriter poetry installations and shows for large clients including Google, YouTube, the City of Los Angeles (Artist-in-Residence 2016), the City of Santa Monica, the City of Long Beach, Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, The Music Center, Grand Park, The Broad Stage, the National Endowment for the Arts, and more. 

 

Brian authored a chapter on urban arts activism in Art + The City (Rutledge, 2017) and has guest lectured or presented workshops at UCLA, CSUN, UC Berkeley, Miami University (OH), University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, and University of Nebraska, Omaha. As a teaching artist, Brian also brings poetry and theatre to K-12 students throughout LA County, in partnership with Get Lit and 24th Street Theatre. Brian holds an MA from the University of St Andrews, Scotland, with a thesis on community voicing projects.


Sarah Williams

Cultural Policy
City of Los Angeles

Sarah Williams, a Cultural Policy Fellow from Los Angeles, lives and works in the city. She set out to create an action plan for a government-facilitated arts and culture nonprofit incubator & fiscal receiver geared towards serving organizations as they are just starting out. Williams has been surveying LA County arts organizations under five years old with the goal of gauging what needs and challenges they faced as they first started, and what kinds of services, support, information, or instruction would have been useful. Her long term plan is to use this research to develop a strategy for providing more equitable opportunity for the development of arts and cultural organizations in Los Angeles County, by helping those with the ideas and drive to connect to the necessary resources to thrive.