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ASU announces seven 2019 Practices for Change fellows

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The Practices for Change fellowship supports individuals with experience using arts, culture and design within other sectors — like health, transportation, planning, justice and the environment — in order to build stronger, more equitable communities. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

May 17, 2019

The National Accelerator for Cultural Innovation at Arizona State University will welcome seven Practices for Change fellows from around the country to ASU’s Tempe campus this summer.

The Practices for Change fellowship is funded in part by an Our Town/Knowledge Building Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The fellowship supports individuals with experience using arts, culture and design within other sectors — like health, transportation, planning, justice and the environment — in order to build stronger, more equitable communities. 

“Increasingly, across the nation, artists and designers are working outside of studios and stages in order to deploy their creativity and imagination in other spaces to help drive positive change,” said Steven J. Tepper, dean of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. “This fellowship is intended to lift up and support this non-traditional way of working across the cultural sector.”

“We launched the National Accelerator for Cultural Innovation, with our partner ASU Gammage, precisely to do this important work and be the national space for prototyping, incubating and scaling critical use-inspired practice, policy and peer networks,” Tepper said. “The Practices of Change fellowship will help us shift how people see the role of artists and designers — placing them at the center of solutions for public good.”

“Creative practices have the ability to transform non-arts systems,” said Jen Cole, director of the National Accelerator. “We are thrilled to support a cohort of leaders using creative practices to advance their work in sectors beyond the arts. This type of creative equitable work, embedded within community development, is still largely invisible and under-supported — we aim to be a part of the movement of changing how this work can be supported and recognized.”

Practices for Change is one of only a handful of opportunities that support the work that takes place between artists/designers and non-arts partners. Through the fellowship, the National Accelerator hopes to spotlight this essential intermediary role and expand this field of practice. The fellowship is intended as a peer cohort, so that ASU, the NEA and others can better understand how to support artists/designers working in non-traditional ways with new partners to transform practice and public policy for public good.

The selected national fellows work within sectors such as health, justice, sustainability, housing, planning and community development. During the yearlong program, fellows will work in tandem with ASU faculty and staff as well as mentors with the Center for Performance and Civic Practice to expand their own practical work and document and share learning from their on-ground experiences.

The fellows will document their work and contribute to case studies, a podcast and a national convening in 2020 where they will connect with others working in the “middle ground” between artistic practice and public policy.

The Practices for Change Fellowship includes:  

• A non-restricted stipend of $10,000.   

• Travel reimbursement funding for travel to ASU.   

• Mentorship and support from the Center for Performance and Civic Practice and ASU staff and faculty.   

• Access to resources and support from ASU, including student and research connection as well as engagement with public policy leaders and other fellows.   


• July 22–23, 2019: Program launch in Tempe with all fellows and Center for Performance and Civic Practice.

• October/November 2019: Fellows in Tempe/Phoenix for required engagement (with students, faculty and staff) as related to their research and practice.

• February/March 2020: Fellows in Tempe/Phoenix for required engagement (with students, faculty and staff) as related to their research and practice.

• April/May 2020: Program close and public convening in Tempe/Phoenix.

2019–2020 Practices for Change Fellows  

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Pamela Bridgeforth

Pamela Bridgeforth, director of programs for the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations, oversees PACDC’s Member Services programs and launched its Community Development Leadership Institute, which serves as a training and technical assistance umbrella for the association’s 130 organizations and other practitioners working to advance equitable neighborhood revitalization. In addition to leading the creation of two placemaking initiatives (The Third Space Initiative and Art-Powered Places) in collaboration with member organizations, artists, arts organizations and community groups, she convenes learning sessions and workshops on placemaking for the sector and produced a placemaking toolkit featured as part of the 2018 edition of PACDC Magazine: Art, Equity + Place: Creating Neighborhood Health, Happiness, and Well-Being with Art. Prior to joining PACDC, she served as executive director of the Walt Whitman Arts Center. She is an adviser and board member of the Camden Repertory Theatre. 

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Carrie Christensen 
St. Paul, Minnesota 

Carrie Christensen’s work in design, planning, education and community engagement falls at the intersection of equity and the environment. With a master’s degree in landscape architecture from the University of Minnesota and a BA in urban studies from Stanford University, her cross-sector work combines facilitation, design thinking, community organizing, project management, data analysis, curation, planning and environmental design processes. Christensen is a published author, an adjunct faculty at the University of Minnesota, a 2001 Fulbright Scholar and a 2010 Creative Community Leadership Institute Fellow. She combines facilitation, creative expression and qualitative data methods to bring diverse community voices into planning and design. Christensen is a senior planner at the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board, where she works on park policy, design and community engagement. 

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Melissa Liu 
Brooklyn, New York 

Melissa Liu has worked at the intersections of art, culture and education over the past decade and is currently interested in intersecting these areas to support non-profit services for New York's Chinatown community as program site director with Immigrant Social Services Inc. Liu has advocated for people of color and immigrants from different class backgrounds and abilities as an administrative worker, organizer and artist through collaborating with groups and networks including Admin, Zines4Equity, Museum Hue and Occupy Wall Street Arts and Labor. Liu's experience comes from having supported programs, projects and workshops with the Getty Foundation, Hammer and Fowler Museums at UCLA, Columbia University (School of the Arts, Center for Oral History and Business School), College Arts Association, Kelly Street Community Garden in the Bronx, The Laundromat Project, Brooklyn Children’s Museum, CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities and Borough of Manhattan Community College. 

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Ruby López Harper
Washington, D.C. 

Mexican, mother, wife, dancer, photographer, poet and social justice warrior: Ruby López Harper is the director of Local Arts Services for Americans for the Arts. She is the co-chair for the National Coalition on Arts Preparedness and Emergency Response, serves as chair of the Gard Foundation, serves on the board for the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County and serves on the WETA Community Advisory Council. Harper’s work has focused on grantmaking, supporting individual artists, community development, economic development and tourism, and public art. She draws on a varied background that includes corporate affairs, marketing and communications and business administration. She served on the Emerging Leaders Council for Americans for the Arts and was the primary contact for the Arts and Economic Impact Study for Central Ohio. She is a 2017 National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures Advocacy Leadership Institute Fellow and Class of 2017 American Express Leadership Academy alum. 

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Rukhsana Nezam
Oakland, California 

Rukhsana Nezam is a public artist and urban strategist integrating community development, socially engaged art and urban planning. She works with government entities, grassroots cultural organizations and artists to bring arts and equity into community planning, and has helped developed arts programs at Smart Growth America, PolicyLink and Metropolitan Area Planning Council. As an artist and cultural producer, she uses performance and play in public spaces to disarm and connect. A St. Louis, Missouri, native, she is the founder of St. Louis Improv Anywhere and was involved in many artworks and interventions as an artist and activist after the death of Mike Brown, in Ferguson. Nezam’s research focuses on the racial equity impacts of artist residencies in local government. She holds a master’s degree from Harvard University in art, design and the public domain. 

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Tara Mei Smith 
New York

Tara Mei Smith is passionate about creating and supporting sustainable and equitable frameworks so that people and places can thrive for generations to come. She has over 12 years of experience working on innovative, catalytic projects. Her background includes work as a womenswear designer and supply chain manager (as part of Proenza Schouler’s CFDA award-winning team and as head designer at Waitex), as a sustainability consultant at Field Guide and as a community planner and environmental stewardship director at Extra Terrestrial Projects. She has organized thought leadership convenings such as Moat Oracle’s inaugural summit on the future of digital attention, and The Untokening Durham mobility conference. Recently she worked with a coalition of artists and community members to create a place-based equitable engagement blueprint for all future projects in Durham, North Carolina. Her academic training is in materials chemistry and urban studies at Brown University and fashion design at F.I.T. She is an Audubon Toyota Conservation Innovation Fellow and Next City Vanguard. 

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Nella Young 

Nella Young is a senior program director at Enterprise Community Partners, a national nonprofit in housing and community development. With a background in experiential education and asset-based planning, Young is interested in how creative expression can be harnessed as a force for greater social cohesion, resilience and equity. Young is a champion for the integration of culture and creativity into community development and is responsible for launching two influential grant programs at Enterprise: Collaborative Actions and Climate & Cultural Resilience. She is part of Enterprise’s efforts to take an increasingly holistic, place-based approach to community development that puts residents, and their culture, at the center. Young holds a master’s degree in urban and environmental policy and planning from Tufts University and a bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University, where she majored in studio arts. 

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