On Wednesday, May 25, Arts for LA's ACTIVATE 2015-16 fellows celebrated the culmination of their 9 months of training with a ceremony at the Japanese American National Museum.
Sponsored by OVATION, the evening included a spoken word performance by Gordon Ip of Get Lit - Words Ignite, followed by welcoming remarks by executive director Sofia Klatzker, who acknowledged the incredible reach of the leadership training program: “After two years, we have 138 ACTIVATE fellows representing and impacting 26 cities and 34 school districts.”
Before welcoming director of programs Cristina Pacheco to the stage, Klatzker acknowledged that the evening was bittersweet since Pacheco will be transitioning from an Arts for LA staff member to an independent consultant working with Arts for LA. She recognized Pacheco as the “visionary behind ACTIVATE for the past two years” and expressed the board and staff’s gratitude for her work.
Pacheco recognized this year’s participants and last year’s alumni, as well as the volunteer speakers and presenters throughout the nine months. “This is what I think makes ACTIVATE so powerful, it is a community coming together asking, ‘what can we do’ and ‘how can we do that work together’.” She ended her remarks by quoting Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”
This year, in addition to training adults to advocate for Arts Education and Cultural Policy, Arts for LA partnered with Get Lit: Words Ignite, a local spoken word and literacy organization, to train the first cohort of youth ACTIVATE fellows. With support from the California Alliance for Arts Education, Arts for LA developed a curriculum for Get Lit coaches to walk the students through a process of finding their advocacy voice and developing unique action projects in their schools.
Pacheco reflected, “One student – by simply asking her principal, ‘are you satisfied with the level of arts we are receiving?’ – opened up a conversation that has turned into a school wide effort to ensure the arts are core in programming for upcoming years. The courage to stand up, ask questions, and offer solutions is what this work is about.”
One of the ACTIVATE students, Miriam Sachs, also entered a short-film into the California Alliance for Arts Education’s student voices film contest. Her film, “A Student Named Art,” came in first place in the state:
The evening continued with presentations about three of the advocacy projects developed this spring by ACTIVATE fellows.
Cultural Policy Fellows Maria and Michael Dean discussed their project to develop the newly named “Alliance for the Arts” into an Arts and Business Leadership Council as outlined under the City of Santa Clarita’s recently approved Arts and Cultural Master Plan. The Deans’ work is a continuation of Stephanie O’Connor’s (ACTIVATE 2014-2015 Fellow) work to revive the Santa Clarita Arts Coalition and host a convening of local cross-sector stakeholders. Together, the Deans and O’Connor have built up a group of local arts, business, and community leaders to help plan and, ultimately, participate in a Santa Clarita Convergence in the fall of 2017. The Deans intend for the Alliance for the Arts council to be a 501c3 organization that can help uphold and continually develop Santa Clarita’s Arts and Master Cultural Plan for years to come.
Arts Education Fellow Ebony McConico-Garcia from El Monte City School District, is working to develop and implement a program that will use theater techniques in English Language Development (ELD) classrooms. Her integrative approach takes an arts-based approach to educating English language learners by engaging them in theater-based exercises. Currently, McConico-Garcia has submitted the proposal for her pilot program to the district, which is in the beginning stages of planning out strategies for integrating arts into the curriculum. She hopes that the successful implementation of her program will result in the establishment of her theater-based approach in ELD classrooms across the El Monte City School District.
Cultural Policy Fellows Jennifer Cuevas, Tiffany Judkins, and Ella Turenne collaborated on a project to expand access to jobs in the creative economy for at-risk youth. Their initiative is called “Create Economy, Create Autonomy.” Cuevas, Judkins, and Turenne partnered with the Arts for Incarcerated Youth Network to develop a pathway from juvenile incarceration to creative careers via job training, apprenticeships, and artist opportunities. Ultimately, Cuevas, Judkins, and Turenne plan to partner with Mayor Garcetti’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Employment Equity and utilize the city program’s framework and resources to help carve out creative career opportunities for formerly incarcerated youth.
To demonstrate the variety and breadth of advocacy projects, Arts for LA has created a directory of the 2015-16 Fellows & their ACTIVATE projects.
The evening closed with a request for support for next year’s program, with attendees encouraged to become members of Arts for LA, purchase a tote bag, or make a contribution of any size.
Applications for the 2016-17 ACTIVATE program will be available June 14, with a deadline to apply of August 1, 2016. Find out more at www.artsforla.org/activate