Cultural Strategist-In-Government Program

The CSIG program embedded cultural strategists— people who work through culture — in government departments, to shift the cultural conditions and practices of government.

Access Report
CSIG Cycle 2 Report
Watch Video
Oakland Cultural Strategists in Government Reel
2024 CSIG Info
2024 CSIG Bios & Scope of Work

Posted: April 22nd, 2024 11:08 AM

Last Updated: April 25th, 2024 10:03 AM

Photo credit: Participants in a video and photo workshop hosted by CSIG Walter Wallace/Black Film Guild with the Department of Public Transportation. Photo courtesy of Walter Wallace.

Program Overview

In accordance with the City of Oakland’s Cultural Development Plan (see p. 92 of the plan), the CAD created and implemented the pilot program, Cultural Strategists-in-Government (CSIG), in FY 2018-19/FY 2019-20 with City funding. The CSIG Program seeks to co-create new ways of fulfilling equity aspirations by having City workers collaborate with cultural strategists from communities most impacted by inequities and who can bring a new lens to the work of building a fair and just city for all Oaklanders.  

 In its pilot iteration, the CSIG Program embedded six CSIGs into five City entities—i.e., Dept. of Race & Equity, Dept. of Transportation, Human Services Dept., Office of the Mayor (Housing Security), and the Planning & Building Dept.  After addressing rapid relief efforts for the cultural sector in response to the pandemic, the CAD Manager was able to partner with The Oakland Fund for Public Innovation to secure a $900,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to expand the program to place CSIGs in 11 different City entities with a more robust CSIG fee structure (4x that of the pilot program). The City entities who collaborated with CSIGs in its second round included: African American Museum and Library at Oakland, Dept. of Race and Equity, Dept. of Transportation, Dept. of Violence Prevention, Economic and Workforce Development Dept. (Public Art), Human Services Dept. (Head Start), Office of the City Administrator (Communications), Oakland Public Works (Environmental Services Div.), Office of the City Council President, Office of the Mayor (AssistHub), and Planning & Building Department 

A program aim is to demonstrate the value of embedding cultural strategists in government to advance the City’s equity agenda. The program attracted attention from other municipalities and ran in its second iteration through 2023. 

 In 2024, we launched the third cycle this 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 in the amount of $500,000 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 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 on 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. For 2024, the Cultural Strategist 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