Aspen Institute Arts Program

2013: Los Angeles

On March 6, 2013, The Aspen Institute Arts Program convened the second Aspen Arts Strategy Group in Los Angeles, partnering with The Music Center to expand the Citizen Artists framework. As a longstanding innovator in arts education, as well as community and participatory programming, The Music Center was well suited to introduce the Aspen Arts Strategy Group to the West Coast. 

Assembled participants included Emmy and Golden Globe-winning actress/arts education activist Alfre Woodard, contemporary artist Shepard Fairey, violinist and educator Midori, and Homeboy industries founder Father Greg Boyle. The day-long event began with a morning “Arts Strike” at Skid Row’s Inner City Arts education center, continued with an afternoon closed-door roundtable, and culminated in a Citizen Artists Public Forum at the Walt Disney Concert Hall- an hour of short power talks by participants on themes ranging from activism to community building through music, and other ways artists can be involved beyond simply the canvas or stage.

Dancer Charles "Lil Buck" Riley and violinist Midori lead a dance and music workshop for students at Inner City Arts on Skid Row in Los Angeles. Photo by Alex Pitt.

“I believe in the power of art to create a common message point,” said Fairey, who created the iconic “Hope” poster. “Sometimes it’s about very topical things, sometimes it’s about things I think are more timeless, but communication and connecting with people is why I create art. It’s one of the few areas in which one can engage and escape simultaneously. I feel a real obligation to use the skill set I have as an artist to be an activist at the same time.”

Of her work in low-performing schools, Woodard said, “People think that art is a luxury, but in fact it’s as important as those free hot lunches, and making sure everyone is vaccinated…By doing this work, we’re not breeding artists. We’re supporting the well-being of individuals, and that changes communities, and that changes cities.”

L-R: Music Center VP of Programming Thor Steingraber, contemporary artist Shepard Fairey, Task Force owner Yosi Sergant, actor Alfre Woodard, and Cornerstone Theater Company Artistic Director Michael John Garcés lead a 15-minute roll call on the the arts and policy-making as part of the Public Forum component of the second Aspen Arts Strategy Group. Photo by Alex Pitt.


Participants: Aspen Arts Strategy Group Los Angeles

Jamie Bennett, Chief of Staff/Director of Public Affairs, National Endowment for the Arts

Arthur Bloom, Founder and Director, MusiCorps

Father Greg Boyle, Founder and Director, Homeboy Industries

Armand Diangienda, Conductor and Founder, Kinshasa Symphony

Shepard Fairey, Contemporary artist

Kiff Gallagher, Founder, MusicianCorps

Olga Garay-English, Executive Director, Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs

Michael John Garcés, Artistic Director, Cornerstone Theater Company

Midori Goto, Violinist and Director, Midori and Friends

Karen Mack, Executive Director, LA Commons

Gretchen Nielsen, Director, Educational Initiatives, L.A. Philharmonic Association

Anne Parsons, President and CEO, Detroit Symphony Orchestra

Charles “Lil Buck” Riley, Memphis jooker

Yosi Sergant, Owner, Task Force

Thor Steingraber, Vice President of Programming, The Music Center of Los Angeles

Damian Woetzel, Director, Aspen Institute Arts Program

Alfre Woodard, Emmy and Golden Globe-winning Actress

Laura Zabel, Executive Director, Springboard for the Arts