CultureBank is mobilizing community cultural assets in order to achieve shared health and prosperity. Their StoryBank feature explores the role that artists play in fulfilling upon this mission. They introduce artist entrepreneurs to the world, share stories about their enterprises and their community impact, and illustrate the impact we can have when we understand artists as essential ingredients in any productive investment.
And they interviewed me for their first edition! Here it is…
Where – in what community – do you primarily do your work?
My recent work has been both local and international, in specific urban areas across 15 different countries over the past 7 years. I am now anchored back in Oakland, intent on supporting and collaborating with underserved communities, specifically young adults ages 16-30ish.
What gets you going each day and inspires your current work?
The evidenced belief that a sense of belonging, agency, and co-ownership is fostered by inclusive engagement in collaborative community project development - using innate and universal tools of art, movement, and play. The spark of collective invincibility I feel and see in others when two or more humans are co-creating and have that moment when they both envision the same exciting possibility, over and over again! It's human beauty in its purest form.
When you work in your community, what are the most valuable assets of the community that you experience aside from real estate and money?
local knowledge (from vendors to rituals to history to core issues)
resourcefulness / innovative thought and application
personal commitment to the community’s well-being
passion to be seen, heard, expressed
How does your artistic practice inform and/or is integrated into your enterprise?
My artistic practice and enterprise are one in the same on a good day. I design programs and experiences that foster belonging and equity. Often, these programs and events are arts-based, and frequently require my own and others’ art to fulfill upon the project. Although it can be a challenge to convey the immediate value in monetary terms, I “sell” these experiences in service of the client’s own mission. This hybrid mission-based curation in itself is part of my artistic practice, and i believe is a progressive approach to social equity overall. Fostering belonging rarely excludes other objectives.
What is the impact of your work on your community? Today? Over a long period of time?
Historically, the most valuable impact of my work has been the relationships formed among stakeholders with seemingly varied or even opposing objectives. The city council member now has lunch regularly with the student activist. The CEO calls upon the longtime community elder for advice.
I have had participants write me years later to say the community-driven art-making and project building were pivotal experiences for them to learn that they indeed possess the capacity to ask questions, identify challenges, and take leadership around issues in their own communities. Others say the feeling of collaborating in circles of mixed race, culture, and class has opened them to the possibility that their stereotypes can be false.
My work connects people and ideas, instigates fresh and relevant dialogue, and encourages sustainable collective actions. Ten years from now, it will be better understood and embraced that humans are creations, built to create - and that when we create together, we birth true co-ownership and are on our way to solving our most wicked problems.
The Nitty Gritty
When was your organization or project founded?
What is your staffing situation like?
I am solo. I have hired service providers for things like web design or artistic consultation in a specific project, but otherwise i am an independent contractor who leads or co-develops projects.
What is your annual budget?
In this moment, zero. All project costs are coming out-of-pocket from savings or compensation earned in non-arts employment. My revenue fluctuates wildly because it is project-to-project based. Rarely does funding come purely from my art practice; more often, I take on consulting or event production gigs to support the art, or shape the corporate and municipal projects to include art. Every day, I imagine what becomes possible if I were to have the resources to dedicate myself full-time to the community-based and community-driven arts and culture projects.