Allison Agsten is Director of The Main Museum of Los Angeles Art. Previously, as Curator of Public Engagement at the Hammer Museum, she led a pioneering program devoted to creating an exchange between visitors and the museum through works of art. Agsten also oversaw the museum’s artist board, initiated the Hammer’s visitor services department, and organized a major offsite partnership with Art + Practice, an art and social services non-profit in South L.A. Prior to her time at the Hammer, Agsten was Director of Communications at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), spearheading a number of projects related to accessibility including Reading Room, a first-of-its kind program to make rare LACMA publications available for free online. Prior to joining LACMA, Agsten covered the arts as a producer in CNN’s Los Angeles bureau.
Adam Ayala is the curator and the driving force behind the organization, Smile South Central, one of the leaders of a people’s street art movement in South Los Angeles. When the call went out for walls and artists for the art project #earthdaystreet2014, Adam quickly organized 9 artists to paint in his neighborhood of South Central Los Angeles. This was the beginning of a mural movement which became “Smile South Central.“ Forty murals have been completed to date. Some of their most recognizable are located at the iconic local treasures, such as Slauson Donuts and Ramona’s Mexican Food sites. There is also a cluster of murals at 48th and Western that have received high praise by locals and beyond.
Judith Baca is a world-renowned painter and muralist, community arts pioneer, scholar and educator who has been teaching art in the UC system for over 28 years (15 years at UCLA Cesar E. Chavez Department of Chicana/o Studies). She was the founder of the first City of Los Angeles Mural Program in 1974, which evolved into a community arts organization known as the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC) which was has been creating sites of public memory since 1976. She continues to serve as its artistic director and focuses her creative energy in the UCLA/SPARC Cesar Chavez Digital Mural Lab, employing digital technology to co-create collaborative mural designs. Baca’s public arts initiatives reflect the lives and concerns of populations that have been historically disenfranchised, including women, the working poor, youth, the elderly and immigrant communities. Baca’s work channels the creative process of monumental mural design to develop models for the transformation of both physical and social environments in public spaces. And they are monumental, both in space and time: The Great Wall of Los Angeles is ‘tattooed’ along a flood control channel in the San Fernando Valley. It is currently the world’s longest mural, at 2,400 feet long. The Great Wall depicts a multi-cultural history of California from pre-history through the 1950’s. It was begun in 1976 and plans are underway for its next four decades of evolution.
Baca is one of the most remarkable public artists for social transformation in modern American history. One of her most indelible quotes is: “Collaborative art brings a range of people into conversations about their visions for their neighborhoods and their nations. Finding a place for those ideas in monuments that are constructed of the soil and spirit of the people is the most challenging task for public artists in this time.” In 2010 she completed the Cesar Chavez Memorial at San Jose State University, and the Robert F. Kennedy monument at the Ambassador Hotel site (the site of Kennedy’s assassination), which is now the LAUSD K-12 RFK Community Schools. She is currently working on a 60ft digitally painted mural for the Richmond Civic Center in Northern California and an interactive digital mural for the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex a social justice high school located in downtown Los Angeles.
Born and raised in South Los Angeles, Tafarai Bayne is currently a Strategist at CicLAvia and appointed commissioner to the City of Los Angeles Transportation Commission. He is also the founder of EMH Creative Group, a consulting firm focused on strategic planning, communications and production. In addition, Tafarai plays a role in organizing the annual South Los Angeles Power Fest hosted by Community Coalition. He spent seven years working at TRUST South L.A., an organization that addresses affordable housing and mobility challenges in South L.A.. He has extensive organizational development experience having served on the board of Strategic Actions for a Just Economy during a critical executive transition and he recently served on the Board of CicLAvia, having helped spearhead expansion efforts into South Los Angeles.
Since 1985, James Burks has been the Director of Special Projects for the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs. He is best known as a strategist for organizing communities and industries in the field of public policy; cultural tourism, cultural master planning, museum policy, festival policy, and the inclusion of urban communities in the field of cultural tourism and economic development. He has produced more than 450 theater and musical events, curated or directed the installation of more than 100 museum and fine art exhibitions, and was responsible for developing and presenting more than 60 special events and festivals annually in Los Angeles.
He is the Founder and developer of the African Marketplace, Inc. and the Annual African Marketplace and Cultural Faire, an internationally recognized celebration of African themed businesses, African Diaspora art and culture, travel and trade. It was named one of the “Top 100 Events in North America” in 1996 and 2002 by the American Bus Association, a national trade association for tour companies. The African Marketplace later spawned the creation of the LA African American Tourism Council, the Global Cinema & Urban Media Symposium in Salvador, Brazil, and the Leimert Park Small Business Incubator Center. He orchestrated the successful African Marketplace incubator that evolved into two co-op African Import /Export Centers in the Baldwin Hills and Fox Hills Malls in Los Angeles.
James has assisted Germany, Japan, China, Pakistan, Morocco, Nigeria, and Brazil in producing successful art and cultural events in Los Angeles. He restored the Los Angeles/Salvador Sister City and remains an active member of its board. James was one of the first 500 students to enroll in newly created Los Angeles Southwest College in 1967 and after graduating studied at San Fernando Valley State College (now California State University at Northridge), Pepperdine University, Dartmouth College and University of Southern California.
Ben Caldwell is a filmmaker, entrepreneur, ethnographer, documentarian, educator and community activist. Ben runs the Leimert Park Art Walk, manages a for-profit community media lab, Kaos Network, and collaborates with the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication to create art installations. His passion for the visual arts led him to study film at UCLA. During his time at UCLA, Ben joined the LA Rebellion, a group of young Black artists who teamed up to create independent films as an alternative to Hollywood. The L.A. Rebellion gang collectively produced 22 feature and short films, with Caldwell working on several films as a cinematographer, editor, and writer.
After spending eight years at UCLA, Ben began teaching radio, film, photography and video at Howard University in Washington, D.C.. During this time, Caldwell documented the blues and reggae music movement in Washington D.C., following famous musicians such as Bob Marley, B.B. King, Peter Tosh, Willie Dixon, Sonny Terry, and Brownie McGhee. In 1984, he founded KAOS Network, a community arts center in Leimert Park dedicated to providing training on digital arts, media arts and multi-media.
KAOS Network was designed to empower the youth of the community and is the only organization of its kind in South Central Los Angeles where inner-city youths can participate in hands-on courses in video production, animation, web-site development, video teleconferencing, CD ROM production, and use of the Internet. Project Blowed, an open mic workshop for young hip-hop artists, rappers and graffiti artists, was one of Kaos Network's biggest successes. Artists and groups such as Aceyalone, Ava DuVernay, Abstract Rude, and several others gained global popularity from the Project Blowed showcases. Caldwell continued to be an educator, serving as a full-time faculty member at the California Institute of Arts (Cal Arts) in Valencia for 15 years.
Larry Earl is a Leimert Park resident and owner of 1619 Exhibits, a dynamic boutique arts firm that specializes in designing distinctive exhibitions, providing expert archival solutions, producing engaging public programming, and activating public spaces with vibrant civic art and cultural projects. With well over two decades of experience in museums and the field of cultural arts, Larry has been associated with some of our nation’s preeminent cultural institutions.
Prior to founding 1619 Exhibits, Larry served as Executive Director of the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum located in Culver City, CA and was the Founding Executive Director of the Houston Museum of African American Culture (HMAAC). Before assuming the helm of the HMAAC project, Mr. Earl was the Manager of Planning and Administration for the Historic Area Division for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation where he also served as Manager of African American Initiatives. Prior to returning to Colonial Williamsburg in 2002, Mr. Earl worked as Director of Education & Public Programs at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.
As the Associate Director of Reinterpretation at Historic Hudson Valley in Tarrytown, New York his work involving the history of slavery in the north was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to interpret this dynamic history. While in New York, he was also appointed to the Westchester County African American Advisory Board. As a member of the board, he chaired the effort to develop the county’s African American Heritage Trail.
Larry has served as a consultant for George Washington’s: Mount Vernon Estate & Gardens, the New York Historical Society, the National Park Service and the National Portrait Gallery. In addition, Larry has authored a number of scholarly works. This work includes an enhanced music CD titled, Ear to Ear: The Passage of African Music through American Slavery, "Only Toni", a retrospective catalogue of fashion designer Toni Whitaker’s designs and several other works. Larry has also contributed to several Emmy award winning works on film including Jefferson’s Monticello, Liberty, Slavery in the Making of America,
and the 2006 educational broadcast, No Master.
Kohshin Finley (b. 1989), earned his BFA from Otis College of Art and Design. Born and raised in the racial and social climate of South Central Los Angeles, Finley taps into his own Black-Mexican heritage and experiences to create each painting. Kohshin Finley’s latest works depict people of color as they attempt to answer the question, “how do I survive in America?” This series is the visual manifestation of a poem Finley wrote called Camouflage for the Modern Man. Camouflage tells the story of a young man who, in the wake of numerous police shootings, casts away his Air Jordans, hoodies, and other markers of vilified black masculinity, in hopes of putting his mind at ease. When his search for peace of mind proves futile, he begins to paint his body titanium white as his last recourse.
Prior to each painting he writes poems stemming from those conversations mixing them with his own history to tell a personal story that takes on a new life on the canvas. His poems are often written in diaristic scrawls throughout the paintings as if hinting at the internal thoughts of the people depicted. Kohshin Finley creates paintings in this way to honor his own and his subjects’ vulnerabilities, giving the viewer permission to discover something about themselves (in the precarious present).
Ron Finley is an internationally-renowned artist, gardener, and community activist, based in South Central Los Angeles. Ron Finley is also a fashion designer to professional athletes, collector of original blaxploitation posters, and proponent of urban gardening . He is known for giving a widely-viewed TED talk on guerilla gardening . Ron Finley began his career by creating his first collection called the Dropdead Collexion in his own garage. It ended up being popular with commonly known and high-end stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstroms, and Neiman Marcus. Celebrities soon became attracted to his original ideas and designs.
Ron Finley also collects memorabilia of Black Entertainment which has allowed him to own a collection of his own preservation of history. His collection includes movie posters that enable the audience to see the progression of Black people in the movie industry. Finley's poster collection was featured in Miramax ’s book on the era, What It Is, What It Was . In early 2013, Finley gave a TED talk on his progress as a " guerrilla gardener ," the dangers of food deserts , and the potential for his program to improve quality of life. The talk has received over two million views on the TED web site, and attracted attention from numerous celebrities and collaboration proposals from corporations. Born and raised in the South Los Angeles “food prison” as he calls it, Finley is deeply familiar with the area’s lack of fresh produce.
After his TED talk, Finley developed a gardening training facility under the name of The Ron Finley Project. He used the public parkway just outside the facility to plant fruits and vegetables for himself and his neighbors, which became a public flashpoint when he got fined from the City of Los Angeles. His guerilla gardening efforts have had modest success in persuading city officials to cooperate by not fining people for planting in the parkways, but it remain officially illegal under city code. Finley has appeared in several documentary films about urban farming, including Urban Fruit and Can You Dig This . Finley refers to himself as a " gangsta gardener", explaining, "Gardening is gangsta. Drugs, robbing—that’s not gangsta. Building community—that’s gangsta. I’m changing the vernacular."Determined to change South Los Angeles from food desert to food forest, he wants his actions to be educational, inspiring, and nutritious. He wants kids to grow up with the option of healthy food, instead of fried, fattening staples. He wants to sweep up and transform his street, his hood, the city of LA and communities everywhere.
Felicia Filer is the Public Art Director for the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs. She has overseen the commission and fulfillment of over 200 permanent public art projects throughout the city, 6 site-specific dance performances, and 30 temporary public art projects in nontraditional spaces. In Summer 2016, Filer co-produced the city’s inaugural Public Art Biennial, CURRENT: LA Water, commissioning 15 original, temporary public art installations and over 150 public programs and events at 16 locations. Previously Filer worked as a senior management consultant and loan fund manager for ARTS, Inc., a Los Angeles nonprofit arts management consulting organization. A native of South Los Angeles, she earned a BS in economics from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and an MBA in
finance and marketing from the Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management, Claremont Graduate University. Filer’s professional interests include designing systems to facilitate governmental support of innovative models of public art.
Born in raised in Pacoima, Los Angeles, Berlinda Fontenot-Jamerson is the President of the Museum of African American Art in the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. Prior to leading the museum, Fontenot-Jamerson had a long and distinguished corporate career in Human Resources Management, Public and Community Affairs, Customer Services, and Consumer Affairs. She was one of the few pioneers to successfully champion diversity in the workplace and marketplace of key corporations in Southern California.
She is highly regarded as a “trailblazer” in the field of diversity management. Through her leadership and direction, both she and the companies for whom she has worked have been recipients of several prestigious awards for achievements in the field of diversity and community relations. The companies include: Sempra Energy (parent company to Southern California Gas and San Diego Gas & Electric Companies), Health Net Corporation, and Disney ABC Television Group. Fontenot-Jamerson has been involved in numerous professional and community-based organizations and has a demonstrated track-record of championing causes that bolster, mentor, and coach minorities, women, and the youth. Berlinda received a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Psychology and a Master’s degree in Business Administration.
Mark Steven Greenfield
A native Angeleno, Mark Steven Greenfield has dedicated his work to exploring the complexities of the African American experience in contemporary society. In between earning his Bachelor’s degree in Arts Education from CSU Long Beach and his Master’s of Fine Arts in painting and drawing from CSU Los Angeles, Mr. Greenfield worked as a visual display artist, a graphic design instructor, and a police artist. From 1993 to 2010, he served as an arts administrator for the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, working as the director of several art centers throughout Los Angeles. Moreover, in addition to serving on the boards of the Downtown Arts Development Association and the Korean American Museum, Mark has produced artwork that has been exhibited extensively throughout the United States. Now, Mr. Greenfield teaches at LA City College and just finished his year as the artist in residence at California State University, Los Angeles.
Amanda Hunt is currently the Director of Education and Public Programs at MOCA, Los Angeles. Amanda’s passion for art and creative expression led her to various museums around the nation, including the Studio Museum in Harlem, where she worked as an associate curator. Her exhibitions included: "Black Cowboy"; "The Window and the Breaking of the Window"; "A Constellation"; "Lorraine O'Grady: Art Is"; "Rashaad Newsome: THIS IS WHAT I WANT TO SEE" and "Tenses: Artists in Residence 2015-16". Hunt was also the curator of inHarlem: Kevin Beasley, Simone Leigh, Kori Newkirk, and Rudy Shepherd, a multi-site public art initiative with commissions in four Historic Harlem Parks. Upon earning her Master’s in Curatorial Practice at California College for the Arts, Ms. Hunt began working as a curator at LAXART. Making her mark on the art scene in Los Angeles, Amanda also helped produce the Pacific Standard Time Performance and Public Art Festival in 2012. Her written pieces highlighting different artists can be found in publications such as the Made in LA 201 catalog. In March of this year, Amanda Hunt was named MOCA’s Director of Education and Public Programs.
Darnell Hunt is Chair of the Department of Sociology at UCLA, former Director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, and Professor of Sociology and African American Studies. Dr. Hunt has written extensively on race and media, including four books and numerous book chapters and articles. Most recently, he co-edited (with Ana-Christina Ramon) Black Los Angeles: American Dreams and Racial Realities (New York University Press, 2010), culminating an eight-year Bunche Center study of the past, present, and future of black life in Los Angeles. As director of the Bunche Center, he is principal investigator of a major, ongoing study of diversity patterns and best practices in the Hollywood entertainment industry. In 2009, he was one of eight individuals in “Academia” named to Ebony magazine’s “Power 150” list.
Prior to his positions at UCLA, Dr. Hunt chaired the Department of Sociology at the University of Southern California (USC). He preceded his academic career by working in the media (for NBC) and as a media researcher for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights’ 1993 hearings on diversity in Hollywood. Dr. Hunt is a sought-after consultant to the Hollywood entertainment industry. He is author (with Dr. Ana-Christina Ramon) of the Bunche Center’s 2014, 2015, and 2016 Hollywood Diversity Reports. He is also author of The Hollywood Writers Report, issued by the Writers Guild of America in 2005, 2007, 2009, 2013, and 2015 and author of The African American Television Report, released by the Screen Actors Guild in June of 2000. He also has served as a consultant to television networks on the issue of diversity and as a script consultant for television shows committed to sensitive portrayals of race and ethnicity.
Born and raised in the Crenshaw District, Nipsey Hussle is the West Coast’s most innovative hip hop entrepreneurs and cultural icon. Hussle owns and operates businesses on the Crenshaw-Slauson corridor, including the legendary Black-owned hamburger chain, Fatburger, and his flagship The Marathon Clothing Store, one of the most successful streetwear companies in the West Coast. Hussle was one of the first rap artists to realize the power of being an independent artist controlling distribution and ownership. Hussle’s #Proud2Pay campaign was a revolutionary model for music distribution and has garnered international attention. In 2013, he sold 1,000 copies of his mixtape Crenshaw for sale at $100 each in less than 24 hours (Jay-Z purchased 100 copies). Hussle’s following project, Mailbox Money, was released through the #Proud2Pay campaign with 100 copies available for $1000 each. Nipsey Hussle has released several mixtapes, most notably The Marathon, The Marathon Continues, Crenshaw, and Mailbox Money, which reflect on his experience growing up in the Crenshaw District.
Mandla Kayise is an educator, community planner and community activist. He is one of the most prolific mentors of student activists of color in Los Angeles, having influenced the pathways of nearly three decades of UCLA graduates. Throughout his life, Mandla has been involved in efforts to improve education outcomes, enhance the quality of life in our communities and advance the cause of equity and justice on behalf of marginalized groups and communities. Professionally, Mandla is founder and CEO of new world education (nwe), an education and community planning consulting agency that has served thousands of students and residents across the Southern California area, in Northern California and in locations around the country. nwe specializes in college access, student retention and student and parent leadership development.
As an active member of the Los Angeles community, Mandla has organized and led successful campaigns to improve food quality in local supermarkets, to involve residents in the planning and development of their local library, and to increase African American enrollment at UCLA and throughout the UC system, more than doubling African American freshman enrollment at UCLA, from less than 100 to more than 200, in a single year. Over the years, Mandla has also organized around issues such as gang violence, drug abuse, environmental racism, police abuse, K-12 education, community investment and community development. He was active in leadership as a student and young adult, organizing students locally, statewide and nationally; addressing issues such as affirmative action, access, retention and staff and faculty diversity; and developing programs such as Saturday Schools, after school programs, youth summer camps and student peer support programs.
A native of Chicago, Illinois, Mandla was raised and currently resides in Los Angeles. He attended Hamilton High School in Los Angeles and UCLA, where he earned a BA in Economics and studied Urban Planning at UCLA’s Graduate School of Public Policy. He is a former Vice-President of the Leimert Park Merchants’ Association, a founding Co-Chair of the Alliance for Equal Opportunity in Education and an organizer for the Black Community, Clergy and Labor Alliance’s Education Committee. He also serves on the Boards of the Hyde Park Organizational Partnership for Empowerment (HOPE), the UCLA Black Alumni Association, CADRE and the Community Advisory Board for Cal Poly Pomona Pre-College
Naima Keith currently serves as the Deputy Director of the California African American Museum. Ms. Keith has worked to engage the community to generate greater awareness of the institution, curated several shows, and redirected the museum’s curatorial focus. In 2017, Naima Keith was awarded the National Driskill Prize, from the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. Raised by collectors of African American art, Naima J. Keith grew up attending museum exhibitions regularly. After earning a Bachelor’s degree in Art History from Spelman College and a Master’s in Contemporary Art from UCLA, Naima went on to work as the associate curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem as well as a Curatorial Fellow at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. While executing various collection exhibitions, her historical survey was nominated in 2014 for “Best Monographic Museum Show in New York.” Not only has Naima lectured at various art centers and universities throughout the country, her essays have been featured in publications for the Hammer Museum, Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Journal of Contemporary African Art, among others.
Karen Mack is founder and Executive Director of LA Commons in Leimert Park, an organization dedicated to promoting Los Angeles’ diverse neighborhoods through locally based, interactive, artistic and cultural programming. Through community partnerships, LA Commons develops community-based public art projects that give voice to local narratives from neighborhoods. Ms. Mack received her Masters in Public Administration from Harvard University and is a former Vice President of Community Partners. Ms. Mack is currently president of the board of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative and an appointed member of the City’s Board of Neighborhood Commissioners.
As an independent curator, Jill Moniz seeks to steward projects that merge art with the environment, creating public and private spaces of growth and opportunity. At the Quotidian gallery, Ms. Moniz highlights artists often overlooked in the LA art scene, including abstract art primarily made by women and people of color. Moreover, Jill serves as the Executive Director of Arts for Global Citizenship, a non-profit that aims to provide arts exposure and education to oppressed populations.
Alberto Retana is the President and CEO of Community Coalition (CoCo), a South Los Angeles non-profit organization, and one of the most effective community organizing groups in the Nation. CoCo engages and empowers residents to improve health, education, and public safety. Alberto’s core values center on the notion that people, love and compassion – matched with organized power, strategy, and vision – have the potential to transform society. Alberto was introduced to organizing at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he graduated with a degree in Political Science. As a student activist, he joined with other students across the country to organize campaigns to defend affirmative action, lower student fees, and advance racial justice.
After UCLA, Alberto cut his teeth in community organizing at Community Coalition. At Community Coalition, Alberto further developed his organizing values: understanding that leadership development, building the power of collective action, and non-violence are core tenets to advancing social change. Alberto’s unwavering commitment to organizing began with South Central Youth Empowered Through Action (SCYEA). For the next eleven years, Alberto continued organizing in different capacities, leading Community Coalition through major victories in advancing racial justice, economic justice, food justice, and education equity.
From 2009 to 2011, Alberto worked for the Obama administration in the U.S. Department of Education as Director of Community Outreach. During his time in D.C., he organized the Department’s first National Youth Summit, and worked with thousands of community leaders across the country on turning around the nation’s “push-out” crisis. In 2011, Alberto returned to Community Coalition to lead its mass based civic engagement strategy to organize 40,000 African American and Latino voters in various campaigns from statewide initiatives to enrollment into Obamacare. Alberto also helped to build Community Coalition’s cultural arm by launching PowerFest—South Los Angeles’ premier political concert drawing thousands of South Los Angeles residents to a day of celebration and empowerment. Alberto is the son of Mexican and Costa Rican immigrants who came to this country in 1962.
Dr. Joy Simmons
Dr. Joy Simmons is radiologist, avid collector and advocate of African American art. Dr. Simmons first began collecting art while she was a medical student at Stanford University. She began visiting New York City over the spring using her tax refund to explore art. Under the tutelage of her aunt, a collector and founding member of The Studio Museum in Harlem, Dr. Simmons started to visit galleries, studios and museums.