ARTISTS SELECTED FOR LOS ANGELES ACTIVATION OF WPA-INSPIRED INITIATIVE
ARTISTS AT WORK, ORGANIZED BY THE OFFICE PERFORMING ARTS + FILM WITH
THE LA COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF ARTS AND CULTURE
LA Edition Begins a National Expansion of the Initiative Made Possible by $3 Million from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
16 Artists Will Work With 8 Cultural Organizations and 16 Community-Based Social Impact Initiatives Across Los Angeles County’s 5 Supervisorial Districts
Artists At Work Brings Together These Artists and Organizations to Address Deeply Rooted Economic and Social Issues Laid Bare by the COVID-19 Pandemic; Participating Cultural Organizations, and the Artists Selected to Work with Them, Include 18th Street Arts Center (Maru García & Marcus Kuiland-Nazario), Angels Gate Cultural Center (Taylor Griffith & Nancy Woo), Armory Center for the Arts (Myisha Arellano & Michelle Glass), Chicxs Rockerxs South East Los Angeles (CRSELA) (Drew Arriola-Sands & Jessa Calderon), the National Center for the
Preservation of Democracy at the Japanese American National Museum (NCPD@JANM)
(Audrey Chan & jason chu), LA Commons (Rene Fisher-Mims & Kayla Shelton), the Lancaster Museum of Art and History (Reginald B. McKinley, II & Vojislav Radovanović), and Tia Chucha's Cultural Center & Bookstore (Karina Ceja & Erick Alfonso Iniguez)
THE OFFICE performing arts + film and LA County Department of Arts and Culture today announce the artists selected by a diverse network of culture hubs for the Los Angeles iteration of THE OFFICE’s national Artists At Work (AAW) initiative. THE OFFICE, in collaboration with the FreshGrass Foundation,conceived AAW early in the pandemic, as artistic communities were ravaged, careers were halted, and dire financial struggles ensued. AAW was inspired by FDR’s Depression-era Works Progress Administration (WPA) and its Federal Project Number One, and addresses an urgent need to reimagine the culture sector and how we value artists’ role in society—a need that the pandemic has starkly revealed, and that will continue as the public health crisis abates.
Artists At Work is a workforce resilience program designed to support the rebuilding of healthy communities through artistic civic engagement. The program pays artists to keep making art; gives support to cultural organizations (called Culture Hubs) and arts workers in that community to host and
work with those artists; and connects both artists and cultural organizations to local social impact initiatives in areas such as youth mental health, suicide prevention, food justice, prison reform, at-risk youth, sustainability, and environmental justice.
Participating artists receive a salary, calculated using the MIT Living Wage Calculator for their respective region, for a period of one year, as well as full healthcare benefits. Following their participation in the program, they are eligible for unemployment benefits, and may continue healthcare coverage under
COBRA if they choose. Artists working in any artistic discipline qualify for the program; they must be local to the region, and actively interested in a social practice.
In Los Angeles, AAW spans the geography of the county, with Culture Hubs that are deeply rooted in their respective communities and predominantly are led by or serve Black, Latinx, American Indian and Alaska Native, and Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. These hubs, and the artists they’ve selected to work with them, include: 18th Street Arts Center (Maru García & Marcus Kuiland-Nazario), Angels Gate Cultural Center (Taylor Griffith & Nancy Woo), Armory Center for the Arts (Myisha Arellano & Michelle Glass), Chicxs Rockerxs South East Los Angeles (CRSELA) (Drew Arriola-Sands & Jessa Calderon), the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy at the Japanese American National Museum (NCPD@JANM) (Audrey Chan & jason chu), LA Commons (Rene Fisher-Mims & Kayla Shelton), the Lancaster Museum of Art and History (Reginald B. McKinley, II & Vojislav Radovanović), and Tia Chucha's Cultural Center & Bookstore (Karina Ceja & Erick Alfonso Iniguez). These organizations, located across the county’s five Supervisorial Districts, span a broad range of artistic disciplines and reflect the region’s vast cultural diversity.
The social impact initiatives that the Los Angeles cultural organizations and artists will work include NAACP Pasadena Branch #1054 and The Pasadena Community Job Center, partnered with Armory Arts Center and artists Myisha Arellano and Michelle Glass; Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles, partnered with The National Center for the Preservation of Democracy at the Japanese American National Museum (NCPD@JANM) and artists Audrey Chan and jason chu; Sustainable Works, partnered with 18th Street Arts Center and artist Maru García; AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles, partnered with Angels Gate Cultural Center (AGCC) and artist Taylor Griffith; and Strength Based Community Change (SBCC), partnered with Angels Gate Cultural Center (AGCC) and artist Nancy Woo. Others will be announced soon. The collaborations will focus on key cross-sector policy areas identified in the County Board of Supervisors’ adopted priorities and the Countywide Cultural Policy, a first-of-its kind policy developed by the LA County Department of Arts and Culture with input from hundreds of community members and stakeholders and adopted by the Board in 2020 to strengthen cultural equity, invest in access to arts, and promote the role of the arts in advancing equity across civic sectors of our lives.
In each regional activation of AAW, The OFFICE will engage a local AAW Field Administrative Fellow to support the implementation and evaluation of the program locally and play a vital role in communicating with regional program participants. Serving in this role for Los Angeles County is Diego Álvarez, who, over the course of six years in the art world, has worked on several projects that give a platform to and elevate artistic voices that have been relegated to the periphery. Álvarez, the son of Guatemalan immigrants, grew up in Lynwood, California.
The LA edition marks the beginning of a national expansion of AAW made possible by $3 million in funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, following a highly successful pilot in Western Massachusetts.
“As we work to advance recovery and resilience for the arts and culture sector, we are excited to partner with our colleagues at THE OFFICE performing arts + film and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support the Artists At Work initiative and bring more national resources to the arts in the LA region,” said Kristin Sakoda, Director of the LA County Department of Arts and Culture. “THE OFFICE has selected
eight incredible cultural organizations with deep ties to community, cultural and racial equity, and artist-driven work. The AAW initiative aligns closely with our own efforts, as we reimagine new ways to support artists, cultural organizations, and cross-sector civic issues in LA County.”
Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts said, “Artists at Work provides critical funding for the arts andthe artists who create and cultivate culture within our communities. This innovative program is designed to both safeguard artists’ livelihoods during the economic crisis caused by COVID, as well as build partnerships that weave the arts into local organizations over the long term, creating a lasting foundation,” said Senator Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts. “The pandemic revealed just how essential art is in our communities and to rebuilding healthy cities and towns. I commend Founding Director Rachel Chanoff, and the first host communities in Western Massachusetts for their dedication and commitment to making AAW such an indispensable program. Artists at Work taking its mission nationally reminds us of the crucial role artists-and the art they create-bring to our lives, to our future, and to the resiliency of our communities across the country.”
AAW’s national expansion will include the Mississippi Delta region, in partnership with the Mississippi Center for Cultural Production, in 2022; the Borderlands region, in partnership with the Southwest Folklife Alliance and the City of Albuquerque Department of Arts & Culture, in 2023. Thanks to the generosity of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, AAW will have the opportunity to work with 21 cultural organizations, 42 artists across disciplines, 36 community-based social impact initiatives, and nine arts administration fellows and interns across these three regions, impacting whole community ecosystems.
THE OFFICE founding director Rachel Chanoff says, “Artists are workers whose work product is crucial to the health of every society. Communities flourish when artists are woven into the everyday fabric of our lives. We are thrilled and inspired by the compelling projects our first cohort of artists launched in their
communities. The impact across the spectrum of local social impact initiatives has been profound. We’re so excited that the artists joining us in LA County, the Delta and the Borderlands will use their artistry and creative vision to help their neighborhoods to flourish.”
Emil Kang, Arts and Culture Program Director for The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, has said, “Artists At Work is visionary in its artist-centered, ecosystem-integrated approach, and we’re thrilled to support its growth. Sustained artist employment and partnership models, such as those utilized by Artists At Work, are essential to driving systemic change and addressing deep inequities in the field. It is an important complement to Mellon’s recently announced Creatives Rebuild New York initiative.”
National partners for AAW include the International Storytelling Center and Theater of War Productions.
For more information, please visit https://www.artists-at-work.org/.
About the Artists
Lancaster Museum of Art and History
Vojislav Radovanović (1982. Valjevo, RS, former Yugoslavia) is a Serbian visual artist, art director, filmmaker, and independent curator based in Los Angeles, CA. Witness in his youth turbulent political unrest and war in the Balkan region, his visual and conceptual artwork advocates for beauty, environmentalism, mental health, and societal transmutation. His artwork often utilizes a conceptual concentration on wild plants, specifically weeds. The resilient, boundary-defying plants become a metaphor for nature’s powerful ingenuity. The symbolism and conceptualism of weeds also apply to multiple human aspects: its endurance, queer identity, the immigrant experience, and colonization.
Since his first solo exhibition in the National Museum of Valjevo at age fifteen, he has presented his works in numerous group and solo exhibitions. Important cultural institutions where he showed his works are Museum of Art and History in Lancaster, Brea Art Gallery (California, USA); Mall Galleries in London (Great Britain); UNESCO Headquarters and The Institut Suédois in Paris (France); Centre of Contemporary Art in Torun (Poland); The Círculo de Bellas Artes de Madrid (CBA), Madrid (Spain); Belgrade City Museum, Museum of Yugoslavia, Art Pavilion Cvijeta Zuzorić and The White Palace in Belgrade (Serbia).
Reginald B. McKinley, II
Reginald B. McKinley, II (b. 1986, Houston, Texas) is a Los Angeles-based multidisciplinary artist, social commentator, and equity consultant. His research-based projects use domestic objects and photos to illuminate life as explored through the transitioning of times, temperaments, tenets, and technology. He received his MA from University of Texas - Rio Grande Valley, MBA fellowship from UCLA Anderson, and BA’s, with honors, from Morehouse College. His work has led to being on CNN, NPR, BBC, NBC, ABC and guest lecturing across the US and in Brazil.
Reginald’s core beliefs are that acknowledgement and exposure precedes visibility. His work documenting daily life helps question the attitudes and unwritten rules that dictate who has opportunities to be seen. Reginald’s work can be viewed on all social media platforms at @heyreginald and at www.reginaldmckinley.com
Artists At Work (AAW) is a workforce resilience program designed to support the rebuilding of healthy communities through artistic civic engagement. Conceived as a public/private partnership, the program will provide a salary, plus full health benefits and professional development resources directly to participating artists; provide financial support to participating local cultural organizations; and connect both to the work of local social impact initiatives in areas such as antiracism, justice reform, sustainability and equitable development, health, economy, homelessness and housing, child welfare, and immigration. It is designed to impact the whole ecosystem of a community.
Artists At Work was an idea inspired by the WPA and founded by THE OFFICE performing arts + film with an initial pilot in Western Massachusetts in 2020. Following that success, AAW was recently awarded $3M by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to expand its program in other parts of the country, starting in Los Angeles County in Fall 2021. More information can be found at artists-at-work.org. Artists At Work is produced and administered by THE OFFICE performing arts + film with generous support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. THE OFFICE extends special thanks to the FreshGrass Foundation for their partnership and support and thanks to local partner Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture and AAW national partners International Storytelling Center, Sundance and Theater of War Productions.