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. 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, while empowering the youth of the community. 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 continues to be an educator, serving as a full-time faculty member at the California Institute of Arts (Cal Arts) in Valencia for 15 years.
Ron Finley is an internationally-renowned artist, gardener, and community activist, based in South Central Los Angeles. He began his career by creating his first collection called the Dropdead Collexion in his own garage. It ended up being popular with high-end stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstroms, Neiman Marcus and countless celebrities. He is known for giving a widely-viewed TED talk on guerilla gardening in 2013. The talk has received over two million views on the TED web site and has attracted attention from numerous celebrities and collaboration proposals from corporations. After his TED talk, Finley developed a gardening training facility under the name of The Ron Finley Project. 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 still remains 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.
Born and raised in the Crenshaw District, Nipsey Hussle is one of the West Coast’s most innovative hip hop entrepreneurs and cultural icons. 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, which is the world’s first “smart store”. 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 independent 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.
Dr. Joy Simmons
Joy is a radiologist at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center. She is an avid collector of contemporary African-American art. Joy served on the Board of Trustees of Stanford University from 2003 to 2008, Chair of the Haas Center for Public Service National Advisory Board at Stanford, and the Stanford Alumni Association Board. She currently serves as a member of the Arts Advisory Council and a LEAD council leader to develop new leaders for Stanford. Her passion for diversity led her to chair the Stanford Challenge Diverse Communities Committee. Joy received the Stanford Medal in April 2012 for her outstanding volunteer service.
While in Los Angeles, she has served on the Boards of several art institutions including the Santa Monica Museum of art, the California African American Museum, LAXART and is currently board Chair of the Mistake Room, a non-profit art space with a focus on international artists exhibiting in Los Angeles.
Mark Steven Greenfield
Born and raised in the Crenshaw community, Mark Steven Greenfield has dedicated his work to exploring the complexities of the African American experience in contemporary society. Between earning his bachelor’s degree in arts education from CSU Long Beach and a Master 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, including the Watts Towers Art Center. 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.
Naima Keith currently serves as the Deputy Director and Chief Curator of the California African American Museum. Ms. Keith has worked to generate greater awareness of the institution through community engagement, 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.
Born and 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 service, and consumer affairs. She is highly regarded as a “trailblazer” in the field of diversity management. Through her leadership and direction, both she and the companies for which 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.
Judith Baca is a world-renowned painter and muralist, community arts pioneer, scholar and educator who has been teaching art in the University of California system for over twenty-eight years. 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 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 creates murals that are monumental both in time and space, like The Great Wall of Los Angeles, which 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 and depicts a multi-cultural history of California from pre-history through the 1950’s. Plans are underway for its next four decades of evolution.
She is currently working on a sixty feet 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.
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 two hundred permanent public art projects throughout the city, six site-specific dance performances, and thirty temporary public art projects in nontraditional spaces. In Summer 2016, Filer co-produced the city’s inaugural Public Art Biennial, CURRENT: LA Water, commissioning fifteen original, temporary public art installations and over one hundred and fifty public programs and events at sixteen locations. Previously, Filer worked as a senior management consultant and loan fund manager for ARTS, Inc., a Los Angeles non-profit arts management consulting organization.
A native of South Los Angeles, she earned a B.S. 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 at Claremont Graduate University. Filer’s professional interests include designing systems to facilitate governmental support of innovative models of public art.
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).
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.
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 also 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. 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.
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 their community’s’ 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’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 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.
A native and current resident, Kohshin Finley (b. 1989), earned his BFA from Otis College of Art and Design. Finley’s paintings depicts strong people forced to carry the burden of past and present American discrimination and racial prejudice. The subjects of his paintings use these tribulations as armor for their journey through everyday life. These visual moments facilitate conversations on the struggles people of color have to endure to survive and to thrive. His work has been exhibited domestically in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Mesa and Honolulu. Notable venues he has shown at include The Honolulu Museum of Art School and Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum. His work has been featured in Huffington Post, Hyperallergic, and Artillery. Notable printed publications include Studio Visit Magazine, Artists’ Magazine, and African-American Heritage History Month publication for the City of Los Angeles.
Adam Ayala is the curator and the driving force behind Smile South Central, a leading organization of the 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 nine artists to paint in his neighborhood of South Central Los Angeles. This was the beginning of a mural movement which became “Smile South Central” and today, forty murals have been completed. Some of the most recognizable murals are located at iconic landmarks, such as Slauson Donuts and Ramona’s Mexican Food sites. There is also a significant cluster of murals at 48th and Western that have received high praise from locals and beyond.
Dr. Darnell Hunt is the UCLA Dean of Social Sciences, 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.
Outside of academia, he is the 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 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.
Jill Moniz is an independent curator in Los Angeles. She holds a doctorate in cultural anthropology from Indiana University. Moniz worked in community engagement at the Museum of Latin American Art before becoming head curator at the California African American Museum. Additionally, she served as curator to Dr. Leon O. Banks, a founding trustee of MOCA, before returning to large-scale exhibitions in museums and galleries around the world. Dr. Moniz serves as the curator of the historic Golden State Mutual Art Collection, and as an advisor for community engagement and programming for the Getty Center. She sits on the CALTRANS Public Art Advisory Board and adjudicates awards for the California Arts Council. Extending her mission of building community through the arts to Pomona College, Moniz uses her deep ties to Los Angeles artists to engage faculty, staff and students across disciplines to expand creativity and inclusivity.
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. 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. This more than doubled African American freshman enrollment at UCLA, from less than hundred to more than two hundred, in a single year. Over the years, Mandla has also organized communities around issues such as gang violence, drug abuse, environmental racism, police abuse, K-12 education, community investment and community development.
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 California and around the country.
Born and raised in South Los Angeles, Tafarai Bayne is currently a Strategist at CicLAvia and the 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. Tafarai plays a role in organizing the annual South Los Angeles Power Fest hosted by Community Coalition. He also spent seven years working at TRUST South LA., an organization that addresses affordable housing and mobility challenges in South LA. 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 LA.
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 in Harlem: including work from Kevin Beasley, Simone Leigh, Kori Newkirk, and Rudy Shepherd to create 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 catalogs. In March of this year, Amanda Hunt was named MOCA’s Director of Education and Public Programs.
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 master’s 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.
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 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 LA. 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.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, ARCHERONE is a seasoned artist with deep roots in the LA urban and street art scene. From captivating murals, decorating different areas in LA, to legendary album cover art for music artists, ARCHERONE is a strong force in design for the “culture.” In high school, through a career-day program, ARCHERONE had the privilege of meeting world renowned artist Charles Bibbs. Bibbs recognized the talent and told ARCHERONE that his art skills were more advanced than his at that age. Bibbs made ARCHERONE his apprentice and he learned the craft of being an entrepreneur. He went on to work with the Wayans brothers, creating characters for the animated series The Thugaboos and the logo for the movie White Chicks. ARCHERONE’s art continued to thrive and he later moved on to fashion graphics. He quickly became a fashion innovator and a principle pillar in today’s hypebeast culture. He’s designed for American rapper and actress, Eve, and her clothing line, Fetish. In the early 2000’s ARCHERONE joined forces with Nipsey Hussle and became the illustrator and designer at The Marathon Clothing. Since then he has had multiple projects, including artwork for Playground Clothing, running and exhibiting his art at Playground Gallery with partner Jorge Peniche, and creating art for Grammy nominated artists. ARCHERONE is on the cutting edge of urban street art as the first to create “Urban Emojis” and then “Playpix App” to make these emojis accessible to all. ARCHERONE gives back to his community by giving talks at middle and high schools in low-income neighborhoods. He shares his story in an effort to inspire and encourage kids going through the same challenges he once did by telling them dreams are for everyone to make come true.