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City of Oakland Continues Innovative Cultural Strategists-in-Government Program for Third Cycle

Cultural Strategists strengthen City goals of belonging and civic trust through resident-generated media, activation of public space, honoring of cultural legacy, and more.

four panelists sit on chairs in an art gallery setting

OAKLAND, CA - The City of Oakland is launching the third cycle of its innovative model of strengthening belonging, trust and equity through the nation-leading Cultural Strategist-in-Government program. The ongoing partnership between the Cultural Affairs Division in the City of Oakland and the Oakland Fund for Public Innovation successfully secured new financial support through the Bay Area Creative Corps funding program, a partnership of the California Arts Council and the San Francisco Foundation.

On the heels of nearly a dozen successful projects - including a new comprehensive professional development workshop series for under-represented public artists, a “love acknowledgment” inspired by the City’s motto that opens public meetings, and deeper understanding by City leaders of resident experiences and challenges with city services - culminating in 2023, the six 2024 Cultural Strategists will bring new perspectives and creative thinking to help City staff address some of the greatest problems faced by Oakland’s diverse communities. These projects represent a unique approach to civic engagement through collaborative efforts to address issues that include school absenteeism, public safety, and cultural legacy in a shifting city.

In 2024, the program places six Cultural Strategists in City departments and the offices of elected officials, including the Mayor’s office. Their projects will focus in the neighborhoods that are most impacted by the negative health impacts of inequity. It also contributes to the stabilization and growth of Oakland’s arts and culture workforce through funding, professional development and exposure. Cultural Strategists are people who work or live in the realm of culture, art making, or traditional and aesthetic practices, and who intentionally bring these unique skill sets, methods and perspectives to bear on challenging civic, social and economic problems. The placements are:

  • Elo Almaraz working with the office of Councilmember Fortunato Bas, District 2
  • Rashida Chase working with the office of Councilmember Fife, District 3
  • Charles Johnson working with the office of Councilmember Reid, District 7
  • Corey Johnson working with the office of the Mayor
  • YaVette Holts working with Business Development
  • Noel Anaya working with Citywide Communications

Cultural Affairs Manager Roberto Bedoya, who leads the program, said, “building upon the City of Oakland’s belief and investment in artists and cultural practitioners as creative thinkers, this third round of the Cultural Strategists-in-Government Program will bring new perspectives to how the City addresses some of the civic challenges we face. The Cultural Strategists will foster a sense of belonging among our diverse and vibrant community that supports our lives together as Oaklanders.”

“Here in Oakland, artists really try to reflect the pulse of the people,” shared Kev Choice (Cultural Strategist with Citywide Communications, 2021-2023.) "Bringing that into a government space where the City may not have that perspective is very unique.”

A set of public webinars highlighting the work of the second cycle of Cultural Strategists will run at 12pm on February 6. To attend, please register here. A new report documenting the impacts of the program will be released at the end of February.

“The Oakland Fund for Public Innovation is excited to support the expansion of the Cultural Strategists-in-Government Program,” said Juma Crawford, the nonprofit’s Chief Executive Officer. “We believe that innovation comes from the inherent talent and people who are from—and live in—the communities of Oakland. This program will advance the critical work of ensuring that, as a city, we continue to put people first and strive for equity and belonging for all Oaklanders.”

About the Cultural Affairs Division

The Cultural Affairs Division is housed in the City’s Economic & Workforce Development Department. The division includes the City’s cultural funding program, which provides approximately $1.5 million in grants to support the arts in Oakland; the public art program, which has more than $1 million in funds currently dedicated for public art installations across Oakland and staff working on special events and film production permitting.

The Cultural Funding Program relies on a competitive panel process to determine award recipients and funding allocations. Grant recommendations must be approved by the Funding Advisory Committee and City Council before contracts are awarded.

About the Oakland Fund for Public Innovation

The Oakland Fund for Public Innovation reaches across the city, engaging private partners to innovate, test and scale ideas that enhance Oakland. The Fund strives to improve the prosperity, safety and quality of life for all Oaklanders with projects that:

  • Build a more trustworthy and responsive government
  • Allow Oaklanders to stay rooted and thrive in our city
  • Create a more vibrant and connected Oakland for all who live, work and play here.

About Bay Area Creative Corps

San Francisco Foundation launched the Bay Area Creative Corps Program (BACC), in partnership with the California Arts Council’s statewide pilot initiative, the California Creative Corps (CCC), established by a one-time $60 million investment from the State of California General Fund. SFF is one of 14 partners with the CAC across the state that are designing programs unique to the strengths and needs of their particular region.

The primary goal of the CCC is to lift up the essential role of artists and cultural practitioners as a workforce that is essential to advancing equity and well-being across California through creative and culturally-relevant problem-solving in key sectors. The work of the BACC will be focused on communities that are facing some of the highest barriers to environmental safety, civic participation, access to healthcare, and other social goods needed to build equitable opportunities for all.

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Jean Walsh
Public Information Officer


Posted: February 2nd, 2024 2:35 PM

Last Updated: March 8th, 2024 11:16 AM

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