Artist, educator and researcher Miguel Aguilar has been painting graffiti in Chicago since 1989. He founded Graffiti Institute in 2012, and, in 2013, curated "Outside In: The Mexican-American Street Art Movement in Chicago" at the National Museum of Mexican Art. Aguilar holds BFA (2000) and MAT (2011) degrees from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is a recipient of the 3Arts Teaching Artist award. He currently teaches a History of Graffiti in the Art History dept. at SAIC, works independently as a visual artist and is executive director of The Remix Project.
Ivan Arenas • Chicago, IL
Iván Arenas is a Mexican-American anthropologist, architect, artist, activist, and parent. His research focuses on the production of emergent political subjectivities and alternative political imaginaries through practices of struggle in urban settings. Arenas works at UIC's Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy, which supports engaged research that aims to increase society's understanding of the root causes of racial and ethnic inequality and create research-based policy solutions and collective action. Arenas seeks to create research and programming that enable not just greater understanding but mobilizes towards collective action. He has curated three yearlong exhibits at UIC that have mobilized and extended his research on the intersection between protest practices, social transformation, and aesthetics.
Catherine Baker • Chicago, IL
Catherine Baker is a Principal at Landon Bone Baker Architects, a hands-on, full-service architectural practice. The Chicago-based firm has earned a strong reputation for bringing responsible design to affordable housing and neighborhood planning.
Landon Bone Baker Architects is distinguished by a community-based approach, working closely with neighborhood organizations, not-for-profit associations, and developers of affordable housing to create the best possible solutions for residents. The firm's growing portfolio of projects ranges from large to small-scale urban developments; from single-room-occupancy buildings to affordable apartment rehabilitations; from daycare centers to college dormitories. Much like our clients and community partners, the firm is mission-driven. We believe that housing plays a critical role in creating comprehensive, sustainable, and progressive urban development. LBBA strives to provide good design in a respectful way to the many lower and middle-income residents and communities in Chicago and the Midwest.
Ciere Boatright • Chicago, IL
In her role as Program Manager with Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, Ciere Boatright focuses on all aspects of CNI's Real Estate Development activities, including community planning, pre-development, financing, contracting, construction oversight and project close-outs. Boatright splits time between large scale commercial projects, like Pullman Park and Halsted Parkways in Englewood, and smaller scale affordable homes preservation projects in the Pullman area. Prior to working with CNI, Boatright worked in retail banking with a national banking institution for 8 years. Boatright received her Bachelor's degree from Hamilton College in New York and her Master's in Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Boatright volunteers with LINK Unlimited and was recently appointed as a Commissioner of the Roseland Medical District by Mayor Emanuel.
Brian Bonanno • Des Moines, IA
Brian Bonanno is a sustainability and community development professional, with 8 years of experience working as an advocate for healthy and resilient communities. Bonanno recently assumed the role of Community Development Director for Community Housing Initiatives, one of Iowa’s largest nonprofit providers of affordable housing. Bonnano will be working to guide Viva East Bank!, a coalition of partners and residents working together to revitalize three of Des Moines' east-side neighborhoods: Capitol Park, Capitol East, and Martin Luther King Jr. Park.
Prior to his current role, Bonanno worked as a Project Manager with the Delta Institute, a nonprofit working throughout the Great Lakes region to build healthier environments through sustainable, market-driven solutions. Bonanno managed Delta projects related to community engagement and urban land revitalization through creative reuse. Prior to the Delta Institute, Bonanno spent nearly five years working as the Sustainability Director for the Andersonville Development Corporation on Chicago's North side. There he developed and managed a variety of innovative programs that focused on everything from urban agriculture and energy efficiency to bike infrastructure, creative placemaking and public art. Before arriving in Chicago, Bonanno spent two years working in the sustainable development field in Boston, MA. Bonanno is a graduate of Iowa State University, and a native of Des Moines, Iowa.
Jennifer Brandel • Chicago, IL
Jennifer Brandel is CEO and Co-founder of Hearken. She began her career in journalism in the early aughts, reporting for outlets including NPR, CBC, WBEZ, The New York Times and Vice. In 2012 she founded a groundbreaking series called Curious City at WBEZ in Chicago and is spreading the audience-first model around the world via Hearken. The company graduated from the Matter VC accelerator and took home "Best Bootstrap Company" at the SXSW 2016 Accelerator competition. Brandel was awarded the 2016 Media Changemaker Prize by the Center for Collaborative Journalism.
Rashayla Marie Brown • Chicago, IL
Lauded as a Breakout Artist in New City and ARC Magazine, artist/scholar Rashayla Marie Brown (RMB) manages a living studio practice across an extensive list of cultural production modes. Her work spans camera-based image-making; performance and social engagement/disruption; curation and installation; and theoretical writings infused with subjectivity and spirituality. A lifelong nomad who has moved 24 times, her journey as a professional artist began as a radio DJ and poet performing research in London, England and as founder of the family-owned design company, Selah Vibe, Inc., in Atlanta, GA.
RMB currently serves as the inaugural Director of Student Affairs for Diversity and Inclusion at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), fostering queer Afrofeminist narratives across institutions. RMB holds degrees from Yale University and SAIC, advised by Paul Gilroy and Barbara DeGenevieve respectively. Her work has been commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; and Yale University.
Her work has shown at the Gene Siskel Film Center, Chicago, IL; Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago, IL; Calumet Gallery, New York, NY; University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA; Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco, CA; Centro Cultural Costaricense Norteamericano, San Jose, Costa Rica; and other venues. She has received numerous awards, including Chicago Artist Coalition's BOLT Residency, the Archibald Motley Fund, the Roger Brown Residency, and the Yale Mellon Research Grant. Her work and words have been featured and published in Bad at Sports, Blouin Modern Painters, Hyperallergic, Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art, the Radical Presence catalog, and the cover of the Chicago Reader. RMB's essay "Open Letter to My Fellow Young Artists and Scholars on the Margins: A Tribute to Terry Adkins" was shared over 4K times online as of 2016.
Monica Chadha • Chicago, IL
Monica Chadha is a LEED certified, licensed architect who has been practicing for over 20 years. Based in Chicago, she is the Founder of Civic Projects LLC, focusing on the design, building and development of community led projects through a project's social, economic and environmental impact. Through economic drivers such as pop-up retail and kitchen and business incubation she provides a platform for grassroots and underserviced economic development. Chadha had been an Adjunct Professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology's College of Architecture since 2007. She has recently served as Founding Director of Impact Detroit. At both Studio Gang Architects and Ross Barney Architects, Chadha has been responsible for the design and team leadership of several award-wining buildings including the University of Minnesota Duluth's Civil Engineering Building. Her architecture practice ranges from long term planning initiatives such as Chicago's 606 (Bloomingdale Trail) Framework Plan to the design and development of mixed-use residential projects to the design and construction of early childhood facilities and libraries. Chadha has served as a design expert for the American Architecture Foundation's Sustainable Cities Design Academy. Her work has been widely published and the Design Futures Council recognized her as a 2010 Emerging Leader. www.civic-projects.com
Kerri Culhane • New York City, NY/Detroit, MI
Kerri Culhane’s experience spans twenty years of professional community development practice ranging in scale from single sites to landscape-scale planning and development projects. Culhane holds an MS in ecological landscape planning & design and an MA in architectural history & preservation. Neighborhood preservation - economic, social, cultural and architectural - is central to her work, using the past as a lens to gain perspective on critical issues confronting communities today.
As the former associate director of Two Bridges Neighborhood Council on Manhattan's Lower East Side, Culhane made the urban environment the centerpiece of the 60-year-old affordable housing nonprofit's community development work. For the past two years, Culhane has worked with the developers of the former Herman Kiefer Hospital site in Detroit to design an equitable and sustainable plan for redevelopment for the campus as well as the surrounding Virginia Park neighborhood.
Akeem Dixon • Philadelphia, PA
Akeem Dixon's background is centered in branding, economic development, and project management. The Philadelphia native is currently a Commercial Corridor Manager in West Philadelphia where he implements market driven activities focused on economic and retail development, small business technical assistance, job creation, blight and litter reduction, retail and restaurant site selection, business attraction, and crime reduction.
Appointed by the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Commerce, Dixon is a member of the North Central Empowerment Zone Trust Board. Under the supervision of the Department of Commerce, grants and programs totaling $1.2 million have been implemented to revitalize North Central Philadelphia.
As a former Ride Indego Bike Share Ambassador and 880 Cities Fellow (Knight Foundation partner), Dixon aims to connect stakeholders to all aspects of economic development to increase awareness, capacity, and accountability.
D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem • Chicago, IL
D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem is an Afro-Futurist space sculptor, performance artist, designer, writer, and educator. Her work bridges the disciplines of site-specific sculpture, ritual, public art practice, interior design, and science fiction. Duyst-Akpem is a ten-year veteran professor and currently a Lecturer at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism, in the Low-Residency MFA Program, and upcoming Sophomore Seminar. She is the recipient of an SAIC Diversity Advisory Group inaugural 2016 Teaching Award for Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion and teaches courses including "Perception", "Afro-Futurism: Pathways to Black Liberation", "Ritual Art Performance in the African Diaspora", "Survey of African Art", and "Power to the People: Revolution and the Black Arts Movement."
Duyst-Akpem is the founder of Denenge Design+Studio Verto which offers specialized, holistic design services and site-specific sculpture for residential and commercial clients. She has exhibited multi-media sculptural and performance work nationally and internationally, and speaks widely about her work in the field of Afro-Futurism and space sculpting, appearing in television, radio, print, and online in a range of interviews and articles. Current and upcoming collaborative projects include design for the recent world premiere of Honey Pot Performance's Ma(s)king Her at Pritzker Pavilion, Barak adé Soleil's What the Body Knows premiering at Stony Island Arts Bank in October 2016, and an augmented reality digital story by Pixel Fable set for release in 2017.
Duyst-Akpem received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and BA from Smith College where her document on the exhibition of African art in Western museums prepared at Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African Art received the Gardner Prize in American Studies. She has received numerous faculty development grants along with a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for the NEH Institute on Black Aesthetics and Sacred Systems and awards from Illinois Arts Council and Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs.
Victoria G. Smith Ellison • Chicago, IL
Victoria G. Smith Ellison is a Chicago native and was raised in Bronzeville. She is a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in Social Service Administration with a concentration in Community Schools at the University of Chicago. She received her B.A. in Educational Studies from Trinity College (Hartford, CT) in 2015. Ellison is an emerging scholar activist and plans to pursue a doctoral degree. Her research interests include critical race theory, black feminism, the relationship between education and housing, and community engagement.
Emilie Evans • Detroit, MI/New York, NY
Emilie Evans is the Director of the Rightsizing Cities Initiative (RCI) with PlaceEconomics and leads projects using Relocal, a data-based tool that uses over 70 distinct metrics and a community priority survey to develop tailored, parcel-level recommendations for incorporating vacant buildings and lots into neighborhood revitalization strategies. She is a co-founder and current co-leader of Brick + Beam Detroit, a Knight Cities Challenge winning project that coalesces the building rehab community across Detroit and connects them with tradespeople, resources, and support to get reinvestment projects going.
Previously, Evans served as Detroit Preservation Specialist working jointly for the Michigan Historic Preservation Network and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. There she spearheaded a smartphone survey of nearly 18,000 historic properties across Detroit neighborhoods targeted for blight mitigation to help inform strategic demolition decisions. She also serves as Secretary on the leadership team of the Preservation Rightsizing Network. Prior to Detroit, Evans worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and served as Adjunct Associate Professor at Columbia University, from which Evans holds masters' degrees in Historic Preservation and Urban Planning. Evans is the 2015 winner of the American Express Aspire Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
James Feagin • Detroit, MI
James Feagin has 15 years of professional experience that includes stints in education, digital marketing, entertainment, and community development work. Currently focusing on his work as a consultant and real estate developer, Feagin maintains and active role in Detroit’s resurgence working on projects ranging from the design and execution of small business grant challenges to acquiring and repurposing abandoned commercial structures.
Some of Feagin’s current projects include NEIdeas and Motor City Match, along with a creative-centered development project that encompasses an entire block in one of Detroit’s emerging neighborhoods. Current and past partners and clients include the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, Knight Foundation, New Economy Initiative, and MIT Media Lab.
Consistently present through Feagin's work are three themes; engaging and supporting community stakeholders citywide, creating sustainable equity, and strengthening Detroit’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Hunter Franks • Akron, OH
Hunter Franks is the founder and Artistic Director of the League of Creative Interventionists. His participatory projects create shared spaces and experiences that break down social barriers and catalyze connections between people and communities. Franks’s projects include a 500 person meal on a freeway, a storytelling exchange to connect disparate neighborhoods, a public display of first love stories, and a vacant warehouse turned community hub.
In 2014, he was named one of GOOD Magazine's GOOD 100 and his Neighborhood Postcard Project was named one of "12 bright ideas for better cities" by the Los Angeles Times. His work has been exhibited throughout the United States and featured in Fast Company, the Guardian, and Atlantic Citylab. In 2011 he walked from Los Angeles to New Mexico - an experience that fueled his desire to connect with strangers and tell the stories of underrepresented places.
Maria Fuhrmann • Memphis, TN
Maria Fuhrmann is Coordinator of Grants and Strategic Partnerships for the City of Memphis, managing special projects and serving as the Executive Team liaison and to the City's philanthropic, quasigovernmental, and community partners. Fuhrmann came to city government in 2006 as a Research Analyst for the Memphis City Council and previously served as Special Assistant to the Mayor for Research and Innovation. Fuhrmann is a graduate of the University of Memphis and has lived in her adopted hometown since 1991. Fuhrmann is passionate about leveraging Memphis' unique assets to create a vibrant and thriving urban core, encourage quality infill development in the inner city, and provide a range of safe, convenient, sustainable mobility choices.
Nicholas Gauna • Chicago, IL
Nicholas Gauna has worked on the Social Responsibility team at Groupon since 2011 and currently leads the Local Community Development program. In this role, he seeks to leverage Groupon’s assets and resources to help communities thrive and prosper by establishing partnerships with organizations that focus on placemaking, neighborhood development and small business acceleration.
Gauna has a background working with nonprofits of varying sizes in the environmental, microlending and social development sectors, including time on the Chicago 2016 Olympic bid team. Gauna graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a degree in International Relations and French Cultural Studies and was a 4 year member of the Varsity Soccer Team. He has lived abroad in both France and Paraguay, and currently resides in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village neighborhood.
Jonathan Harwell-Dye • Macon, GA
Jonathan Harwell-Dye is the director of creative placemaking at Macon Arts Alliance where he leads the arts-based community development initiatives in Mill Hill: East Macon Arts Village. He is a member of the One Macon! Economic Development Implementation Committee and a 2012 graduate of the Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce's Leadership Macon program. In 2014, Harwell-Dye was named one of Macon Magazine's "Five Under 40" Young Leaders, and in 2015, he was commissioned as a regional leader by the Middle Georgia Regional Commission.
Harwell-Dye was previously co-founder and curatorial director of the Three Cities Group Artist Collective and gallery curator at the Contemporary Arts Exchange in Macon. He attended Middle Georgia College and the University of Georgia where he received a BFA degree in Interdisciplinary Studies in 2003. He is currently pursuing certification in creative placemaking through The Ohio State University.
Harwell-Dye lives in the Tattnall Square Heights neighborhood of Macon with his wife, the Reverend Stacey Harwell-Dye, and their dog Colby.
Tobe Holmes • Charlotte, NC
Tobe Holmes is the Planning and Development Director at University City Partners in Charlotte, NC. In this role he works with governments, developers, institutions, businesses, residents, and special interest groups to fulfill the vision of University City. Holmes is an integral part of all land use and transportation decisions, helps guide and influence private and public investments, and advocates for neighborhood, business and destination infrastructure and amenities.
He recently held the position of Director of Historic South End for Charlotte Center City Partners where he managed economic, community and transportation development for Charlotte’s first transit oriented district. During his tenure in that role the South End neighborhood was the focus of nearly one billion dollars of private investment and its residential population more than doubled. In addition to his role in the development process, Holmes developed the neighborhood’s brand into one of the most recognizable in the Charlotte region and worked diligently to advance the presence of art in all forms throughout the district.
Holmes has a master’s degree in Regional Planning from Clemson University and a bachelor of arts in Anthropology from the University of South Carolina. Outside of his work with University City Partners, he serves on the Board of Friendship Trays (Charlotte, NC) and is an active member of Leadership Charlotte Class 37 and the Charlotte Chapter of the Urban Land Institute.
Lauren Hood • Detroit, MI
Lauren Hood specializes in ecosystem development with a strong focus on a community engagement. She is the newly installed Acting Director of Live6, a planning and development organization that seeks to enhance quality of life and encourage economic opportunity in Northwest Detroit. The organization will act as a conduit between anchor institutions and their surrounding communities, with a particular focus on the McNichols and Livernois corridors. The organization will actively serve the community in the following five program areas: placemaking, business attraction & retention, residential stabilization, safety, and commercial corridor real estate development.
Prior to joining U3, Hood worked in various capacities within the realm of community revitalization. She was the Manager of the Economic Development project portfolio for the city of Highland Park, MI. In this role she directed the allocation of CDBG funds, housing rehab projects, demolition efforts and business attraction activities.
Her subsequent role, as the Director of Community Engagement for Loveland Technologies enabled her to build relationships nationally with social investors, real estate professionals and navigate various municipal governments. While at Loveland, a firm who seeks to place every parcel of land in America onto a public platform, Hood was tasked with to balancing the terrain between investment, government, and community members.
Simultaneously, while navigating those experiences and building relationships, Hood started DeepDive Detroit, a consciousness raising consultancy with a focus on racial, social and economic justice. Hood was retained by corporate, philanthropic, and non-profit entities seeking to align internal culture with values.
Born and raised in the Live 6 service area, Hood is a civically engaged preservationist and serves as a Mayoral appointee to the Historic District Commission, and as a member of Preservation Detroit's Board of Directors. She speaks regularly at events concerning community engagement, equitable development, social investment and the intersections of economic development and social justice. In addition to being a regular guest columnist in local Op-ed pages, she is active at her alma mater, University of Detroit Mercy where she received a Masters in Community Development and undergraduate Business Degree.
Erik Howard • Detroit, MI
Erik Howard has worked with southwest Detroit youth for fifteen years as a teacher, social worker, artist and mentor. He has led several major participatory processes for Young Nation and its partners. Howard holds a Bachelor's in Sociology from Spring Arbor University and a Master of Community Development from the University of Detroit Mercy.
Howard is a photographer and the co-founder of both Expressions, a low rider club, and Young Nation. He combines his passion for youth and community development with a love of photography. Using activities such as low riding, photography, and street art as a mentoring tool, Howard has been able to reach out to young people in the community of southwest Detroit.
Beth Johnson • Chicago, IL
Beth Johnson, a native Chicagoan and Director of the Chicago office of Partners for Sacred Places, has more than 30 years of combined professional experience in sales, planning & development, and architectural design. Over the years she has worked in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors on a variety of projects from gut rehabs to restorations to new construction. She has expertise in navigating historic preservation projects through local government processes and revitalizing communities in blighted areas of the city. Johnson has the ability to collaborate with multiple constituencies, including government officials, developers, and community leaders, to achieve desired goals and deliver creative, economically viable, and sustainable projects. Johnson has an MS in Historic Preservation and a BA in Economics.
Keir Johnston • Philadelphia, PA
As a co-founder of Amber Art and Design collective, Keir Johnston works with individuals, organizations, and leaders dedicated to making positive, lasting and sustainable changes within their community. The collective, consisting of 6 artists, believes in the greater power and potential of a collaborative approach to art making. Their mission is to leverage art from a point of renewal and service; a platform that invites individuals and communities to grow, express and advocate for positive change. Since forming in 2011 they have developed a creative commitment to the arts, and its ability to be informative and transformative to people, places, cities and organizations around the world.
Amber Art and Design artists have been collaborating and creating art that delves into stories, histories and circumstances that have impacted communities of color but are often missing from mainstream historical reference and media representation. These bodies of works address issues of structural inequity and seek to give a voice to underrepresented communities who are lacking in resources.
Steve Kay • Lexington, KY
Steve Kay is a founding partner of Roberts & Kay, a research and organization development firm established in 1983 to assist organizations in the private, nonprofit, and public sectors improve their internal and external communications and functioning. Kay has more than 30 years of experience in the design and implementation of effective group process.
Kay's major clients at the local, state, and national levels have included Fayette County Public Schools, Governor's Office of Agricultural Policy (Kentucky), Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, Kentucky Department of Education, Kentucky Environmental Education Council, Kettering Foundation, Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, Paul J. Aicher Foundation, Sustainable Racine (Wisconsin), University of Kentucky, and the U.S. Department of Energy.
Before founding Roberts and Kay, Kay directed education research on school-community relations for six years at Kentucky State University.
In 2010 Kay was elected to the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council as an at-large member. In 2014 Kay was elected Vice Mayor. Kay’s opportunities to contribute to civic life in Lexington have included service on the boards of the Lexington Transit Authority and the Martin Luther King Neighborhood Association. He is a former Vice Chair of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government Planning Commission, and a former president of the board of the Good Foods Coop.
Kay earned a B.A. from Bowdoin College (1966), an M.A. from Yale University (1968), and an Ed.D. from the University of Kentucky (1979).
Majestic Lane • Pittsburgh, PA
Majestic Lane is the Director of External Affairs & Membership Engagement at Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group (PCRG), a membership organization for Community Development Corporations, Community-Based Organizations, and related nonprofits that represent low- and moderate- income communities throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania. Lane works with government, philanthropy, neighborhood groups & other stakeholders to advocate for improvements in quality of life for traditionally disadvantaged communities around the issues of land, capital & mobility. Prior to his time at PCRG, Lane was the Director of Community Engagement & Strategy at A+ Schools, an education advocacy organization dedicated to improving outcomes for Black & Brown children in Pittsburgh Public Schools. He also served as a legislative aide to Pennsylvania State Senator Jim Ferlo focusing on community development, education & sustainability issues. Lane has also served as a member of the planning committee for the Heinz Endowments Transformative Arts Process (TAP), an initiative focused on building the field of those working in and through the arts in African American and “distressed” neighborhoods.
Melissa S. Lee • New Orleans, LA
Melissa S. Lee is the Senior Advisor for the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA). In this capacity, Lee is responsible for funding and planning support to help revitalize commercial corridors throughout New Orleans. As part of her responsibilities, she is managing NORA’s first façade improvement and placemaking grant program stimulating investments opportunities to redevelop commercial spaces for active use, support small business retention and growth, and create walkable neighborhoods.
Prior to joining NORA, Lee served at the Managing Director of the Coalition for the Improvement of Bedford-Stuyvesant (CIBS), a Brooklyn based nonprofit association of two dozen member organizations dedicated to enhancing an sustainable community. Prior to joining CIBS, Lee worked at the New York City Mayor’s Office of Comprehensive Neighborhood Economic Development (CNED) where she lead an interagency initiative building capacity and community assets in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. She has also worked at the Lower East Side Business Improvement District (LES BID) managing the Lower Manhattan Small Business and Workforce Retention Program aiding area small businesses in the September 11th recovery, and then as Director of Economic Development for Pratt Area Community Council overseeing local commercial revitalization strategies in Central Brooklyn.
Lee received a B.A. in International Relations from the University of Redlands and a M.P.A with a concentration in Urban Community and Economic Development from the Wagner School of Public Service at New York University.