Place Action Area
I serve as Executive Director of the Tucson Pima Arts Council (TPAC). Tucson’s metropolitan population is more than a million, and 40 percent is Latino and Native American. Pima County, one of four that border Mexico, is the home to two Native American tribes and has numerous small towns and ranches. Since 2006, I have worked to engage the broad public here, the “We” as in “We the People.”
I have consistently supported artists-centered cultural practices and advocated for expanded definitions of inclusion and belonging throughout my career. From 1996, to 2001, I directed the National Association of Artists Organizations (NAAO), an arts service organization for individual artists and artist-centered organizations, primarily visual and interdisciplinary.
In 1998, NAAO became a co-plaintiff in NEA v. Finley et al lawsuit. I felt that NAAO should join because the storytelling of the Culture Wars focused on Karen Finley and the other three artists named in the suit, Tim Miller, John Fleck, and Holly Hughes, but not on the networks of organizations presenting the artists. Many of these organizations were members of NAAO, and some were also part of the National Performance Network. Our shared membership constantly foregrounded strong advocacy work around this attempt to chill the voice of these artists. So that is one big thing that brought me along in this work.
In 2010, I instituted the innovative P.L.A.C.E. (People, Land, Arts, Culture and Engagement) Initiative, a civic engagement and placemaking platform that supports artists’ projects addressing critical community issues. Between 2010 and 2014, TPAC funded 66 projects that advance civic well being, civic engagement and community building. These projects create art experiences that shape the identity of place, present visions and manifestation of social cohesion and activate democracy so as to build and animate the commons.
I have supported art-based civic engagement and expanded definitions of inclusion and belonging throughout my career. In 2004, I wrote U.S. Cultural Policy: Its Politics of Participation, Its Creative Potential published by the National Performance Network to shed light on exclusionary practices in cultural policy decision making. Later, I wrote specifically about the role of race in cultural policymaking.
Most recently, I have been writing about creative placemaking and how it can lead to feelings or belonging and dis-belonging, I reframe the discussion on cultural policy to shed light on exclusionary practices in cultural policy decision making. We know that “placemaking” has included acts of displacement, removal, and containment, so current Creative Placemaking practices must understand history, critical racial theory, and politics alongside spatial planning and economic development theories.
I live in Tucson. I am on the boards of the Grantmakers in the Arts and The Network of Ensemble Theaters. I was a Rockefeller Fellow at New York University and a Visiting Scholar at the Getty Research Institute. My chapbook, The Ballad of Cholo Dandy came out in 2014 published by Chax.