ampLAfy – Julia Thompson, Nanami Sunaga, and Allison Wong are collaborators from three different fields: entertainment, design, and education. They believe that change happens at the intersection of purpose and collaboration. After last year’s Catalyst Conference, they founded an organization called ampLAfy which seeks to bring human-centered design practices into education and beyond.
Sarah Ashkin is a interdisciplinary dance maker and educator from the high mountain desert of Santa Fe, New Mexico and has just begun to set down roots in her new home of Los Angeles, California. Sarah is the co-director of GROUND SERIES dance collective, a collaborative site-specific/multimedia/inquiry-based ensemble using performance as political intervention. She is the recipient of choreographic residencies at the Temescal Arts Center, the Foundry, Berkeley, Joshua Tree National Park, Judson Memorial Church, Earth Dance, Liberty Land Park Philadelphia, and Center for Contemporary Art Santa Fe. Sarah earned her BA from Wesleyan University in Dance Performance and Choreography and Environmental Studies, and a MA from University Roehampton in Dance, Politics and Sociology. Sarah’s most recent work resides at the intersection of critical whiteness theory and the social infrastructure of western dance.
Emily Altschul is an LA-based teaching artist with a background in theatre and literature. She recently earned her Masters in Applied Theatre: Drama in Educational, Community & Social Contexts from Goldsmiths, University of London, where she received distinction for her dissertation on puppetry in community arts settings. In the field, she has facilitated and supported projects using the arts in intergenerational settings, interfaith collaborations, and wrap-around educational programs in LA and London, and is currently working as a Gallery Educator at Noah’s Ark at the Skirball Cultural Center.
Marissa Chibas is a writer, actor and recipient of the 2015 TCG Fox Fellowship in Distinguished Achievement. Marissa has acted in over 50 productions including the American premieres of; The Keening by Umberto Dorado at the ART in Boston, Two Sisters and a Piano by Nilo Cruz at the McCarter, and The Mark Taper Forum productions of Eduardo Machado’s The Floating Island Plays. On Broadway she performed in Abe Lincoln in Illinois and Brighton Beach Memoirs, as well as off Broadway and many prominent resident Theaters. Marissa is on the Theater School faculty at CalArts where she heads Duende CalArts, a CNP initiative that collaborates with innovative Latinx and Latin American artists to create adventurous performance. For Duende she conceived and wrote Shelter, which premiered in April 2016 in Los Angeles and subsequently performed at the Kennedy Center and is published by NoPassport press. In November 2016 she performed in her latest play, The Second Woman, which premiered at Bootleg Theater in LA. Her solo show Daughter of a Cuban Revolutionary (DCR), written and performed by Ms. Chibas, was produced by the CalArts Center for New Performance (CNP) and was presented in several U.S. cities as well as Mexico and Europe. DCR will be published Fall 2017 by Routledge Press as part of the second edition of Contemporary Plays by Women of Color edited by Roberta Uno. For CNP she performed the role of Edgar in King Lear and co-adapted the award winning production of Brewsie and Willie in collaboration with The Poor Dog Group. Her silent video with live performance, Clara’s Los Angeles, premiered at REDCAT’s NOW Festival and was screened at the San Diego Latino Film Festival. In March 2017 she collaborated with Cuban artist Aissa Santisso as part of CNP’s El Acercamiento project, on a video installation and performance that was presented at Fabrica de Arte in Havana Cuba. Marissa is on the advisory board of the Latinx Theater Commons as well as The School of History and Dramatic Art and Mission College in Sylmar. She is on the board of directors of URTA.
Christine Echeverri, a native Angeleno, grew up steeped in experience that gave her a deep appreciation for cultural diversity. As a child, her education covered a wide spectrum of options, from private school to public arts magnets. She later went on to receive a B.A. in World Arts and Cultures from UCLA and an M.A. in Economics from Cal State L.A. She credits her mother and grandmother for exposing her as a child to the richness of California’s cultures and environment through private art lessons, museum trips, and countless other explorations. Her grandmother imparted to her a sense of wonder and enchantment about the world, and provided a living example of putting one’s passion into action as, driven solely by curiosity, she tirelessly explored the culture, history and geology of southern California. Christine Echeverri is the mother of three children, whom she home-schooled for several years. The experience of integrating educational topics to guide learning in a way that was organic and holistic set her on a course to developing her own curriculum for the study of California history.
Over the course of 6 years, Maryam Husain has had the opportunity to work in the field of performing arts as a performer, educator, instructor as well as a coordinator. Through these positions she received knowledge that has allowed her to become the Student Program Coordinator for Greenway Arts Alliance. Maryam received her Bachelors of Arts from A.M.D.A College and Conservatory of the Performing Arts. In addition to her extensive performing arts experience, she has had the pleasure of working with Project Pit, View Park High School, CBG Arts, Crenshaw High, Westchester High and Dramatic Results.
An advocate for arts education in K-12th grade schools and in communities, Amarpal Khanna is an arts administrator, instructor, and artist. Currently Design and Media Arts professor with the Los Angeles Community College district, Mr. Khanna has also worked extensively with many Los Angeles based charter schools. Mr. Khanna founded the ICEF Public Schools Visual Arts department program and was formerly Director of the Visual and Media Arts program for fourteen ICEF K-12th grade schools.
Prior experience includes Animation department faculty member at the Art Institute of California – Los Angeles. With AnimAction Inc. in Los Angeles and New York public schools, he supervised animation production teams. As a founding program team member with New Visions Foundation/Camp Community Partners, he conducted animation workshops for incarcerated youth at the Camp David Gonzalez California probation facility. Internationally as a guest artist with the medical group Integrative Clinics International(ICI), he has taught art workshops to at risk and orphaned youth in Jamaica. Mr. Khanna’s professional arts practice spans work in the Animation, Illustration, Comics, and Children’s Book industries. Experience includes co-illustrator on the children’s book “What Would You Do” for the Anti-Defamation League, and a illustrated comic book short story in “The Nine Loves of El Gato” for Original Syndicate Press. At Dreamworks Animation he was a visual development and background layout intern/trainee on the feature film Spirit and also interned at Top Cow Comics, the 3rd largest American comics publisher. Gallery exhibits include a group show at the Pasadena Armory Center for the Arts.
He is graduate of OTIS College of Art and Design, BFA Illustration, Loyola Marymount MA, and current Doctoral Candidate at Loyola Marymount University researching arts integration pedagogy and experiences of students of color.
Alejandra Mayo has several years of experience in the K-8th educational setting. She completed her teaching credential and Masters degree at California State University Los Angeles. Although the majority of her educational career has been in the Charter setting she has also taught in LAUSD. Alejandra has a passion for children’s literature, constructivist practices, and arts integration. She is the wife of another passionate educator who teaches in the middle school setting and the mother of two boys, a 10 year old and a 13 year old. When she is not teaching, you can guarantee she is at one of her son’s games cheering for the championship.
Born and raised in Romania, Thea Mercouffer and her family escaped the communist dictatorship in 1987. A recipient of multiple grants, awards and fellowships, Thea holds an MFA in acting, and has worked with some of the world’s greatest theater directors. Since 2002, she’s dedicated her time exclusively to documentary filmmaking, her attention keenly focused on social and environmental justice issues. Thea directed and co-produced six films about sexual assault, in six different languages, as an educational tool for various immigrant communities in the US. Her documentary on human trafficking, “I Just Keep Quiet” won the Pegasus Award for Excellence and continues to screen on Seattle’s City TV. “Heather and Goliath”, a short doc about the whistleblower who brought the LA River to national attention, and her feature doc “Rock the Boat – Saving America’s Wildest River” have garnered awards from festivals around the globe and is in international distribution.Thea was an Artist in Residence with the National Park Service, and currently teaches Documentary Filmmaking and Video Marketing at Antioch University in Santa Barbara. She lives in LA with her husband, daughter, and Moxy the dog.
Amy Phillips has over 20 years of experience in the Los Angeles arts community. While in the role of Senior Communications Manager of the arts education division at the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, she discovered a passion for teaching. She founded Girl Empowerment LA, a standards-based program that explores issues of identity, self-esteem and role models through the lens of the arts for middle and high school girls. She has implemented the program at various schools in LAUSD and the Beverly Hills Unified School District. She has also been a teaching artist with artworxLA where she worked with students in continuation high schools. Phillips is a member of Congresswoman Karen Bass’ Congressional Art Committee and is on the planning committee of the Congresswoman’s PAC called Sea Change. She is involved with Mom’s Demand Action, a national grassroots movement demanding stronger solutions to lax gun laws and she created a program at Temple Isaiah to introduce religious school students to advocacy through the arts. Phillips is a mixed media artist, working with found objects through the technique of assemblage.
Mady Schutzman is a writer and theater artist. She is a practitioner of the interactive theatre techniques of Brazilian director Augusto Boal, and co-edited two volumes of essays on his work. Her award-winning play UPSET! is a Boal-inspired, Brechtian comedy about Rodney King and the Los Angeles uprising of 1992, written in collaboration with 30 East L.A. youth. In 2013, she completed Dear Comrade, an experimental documentary on “utopian” colonies, particularly California’s “socialist city” Llano del Rio. Mady writes a lot about paradox, ambiguity, humor and trickery as forms of resistance, and just completed a book on this subject for Routledge (forthcoming 2018). She is faculty emeritus at California Institute of the Arts and lives in Los Angeles.
Evelyn Serrano is a Cuban multidisciplinary artist and educator. She graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the California Institute of the Arts, School of Art, in Valencia, California. She recently completed a Masters in Education wiith Alliant University. Evelyn has exhibited her work in many solo and group exhibitions nationally and internationally. She has curated visual and performing arts events throughout the United States as well as in Montevideo, Tel Aviv, Miami, Tijuana, and La Habana. In addition to her teaching at LFCSA, Serrano currently teaches at CalArts, and has lectured and led workshops in Miami, Mexicali, Dallas, and La Habana to name a few. She has many years of experience in the arts non profit world, and is the Artistic Co-Director of KonKuey Design Initiative. Her work as a solo artist and with diverse communities has been recognized by the Surdna Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts’ Our Town, Art Place America, the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations, among others.
Evelyn began her journey as an educator in 2003, and joined the Los Feliz Charter School for the Arts (LFCSA) community in 2010. Her work with LFCSA students and teachers aims to create opportunities for impactful, artful, interdisciplinary, and civically engaged learning experiences. She believes that access to arts education is a student’s right, and sees the power of the arts manifested in her students’ lives every day. In her role as Arts Integration Director, she works with arts specialists, classroom teachers, administration, parents, and community partners, to advance the school’s vision for arts integrated, civically engaged, progressive education. She oversees the school’s Artist in Residency program, events with guest artists, and the Catalyst Network, a group of LA-based arts education advocates working to bring the arts to the core of K-12 education.
Alberta Wright is an art educator, social entrepreneur, and advocate for more equitable access to arts + technology and inclusive representation in visual culture. She taught and held leadership positions for four years in New Orleans public charter high schools and saw a systematic lack of high-quality arts education and career training in creative digital media that met the needs of youth. Inspired by a youth arts organization she’d graduated from as a teen, in 2012 she piloted Young Creative Agency (YCA), a space where artistic youth collaborate with pro mentors on real client projects, in her art classroom. 2014-2015 YCA was a Propeller Start-up Accelerator fellow, finalist for the TFA Social Innovation Award and first prize winner at PitchNOLA: Community Solutions. After a successful one-year partnership with Youth Empowerment Project (YEP), Alberta designed the YCA model for YEP’s Work & Learn Center as YEP Design Works. In 2014, she and Xavier University professor Ron Bechet convened a coalition of leaders in arts, education, juvenile justice, and youth development to found Young Artist Movement, the first city-wide youth mural arts program in New Orleans and the inaugural partner of the City of New Orleans and N.O. Arts Council’s Creative Digital Equity Initiative, piloting January 2018. Alberta is also a Founder Advisor with 4.0 Schools, an education start-up incubator, and holds a BA in Art History and Human Rights from Barnard College.