Public Matters is an award-winning, interdisciplinary, Los Angeles-based social enterprise that designs and implements long-term, place-based, socially engaged art, media, education, and civic engagement projects that advance social change.

 

We are a multi-generational team of artists, educators, media professionals, and Fellows working together across disciplinary boundaries to build creative, economic, and social capital in communities.

“Public Matters encompasses the true meaning of community empowerment and advocacy…With their various skills, Public Matters is able to facilitate positive health change through creative license, engage community members of any age to foster sustainable change, help increase skills and awareness of stakeholders, while bringing forth conversations to foster change and policy. Most importantly, Public Matters offers a voice to those who need it.”

 

–Sharlene Gozalians, former South LA HEAC Youth Coordinator

Team

Mike Blockstein

PRINCIPAL

Mike Blockstein, Principal, is a visual artist and educator. He has created and led projects nationally, working with youth, community leaders and organizations to reflect on, understand and shape their physical, social and political geographies, including A Chinatown Banquet in Boston Chinatown, Market Makeovers’ work on healthy food access, and PDUB Productions in Los Angeles’ Historic Filipinotown. He has a long track of pushing paradigms in the visual arts, as Director of Southern Exposure, a San Francisco artists’ organization, through the National Association of Artists Organizations, and as a rare visual artist with a Master in Public Administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School.

Amanda Carlson

DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC INITIATIVES

Amanda Carlson, Director of Strategic Initiatives, is a cultural planner, cultural event producer and consultant, having worked with multi-sector clients on community-based arts, culture, and urban planning projects in California and Illinois. Previously, Amanda lived and worked in Buenos Aires, Argentina where she conducted research on public-private collaborations to build skate parks. Prior to this, she held positions in the fields of occupational health and immigration. Amanda has an M.Sc. in Human Geography (Research) from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a B.A. in Anthropology from Wellesley College.

Reanne Estrada

CREATIVE DIRECTOR

Reanne Estrada, Creative Director, is an internationally exhibiting artist whose visual art practice includes drawing, sculpture, media production, graphic design and social practice. With Public Matters, she combines her background in visual arts with social marketing, education, and leadership development to reach and connect with focus populations and project partners, with an emphasis on resource-poor, low-income communities of color. Her individual work and collaborative practice with the Mail Order Brides/M.O.B. have shown in museums, galleries, film festivals, and public spaces. Reanne has an A.B. in Visual and Environmental Studies from Harvard University.

David Lawrence

MEDIA SPECIALIST

David Lawrence, Media Specialist, is a media artist, designer, producer, and researcher. He is a founding member of Stretcher, a collective of San Francisco Bay Area artists and art critics who have published an online art magazine since 2001. His works include award-winning radio documentary, books, laserdiscs, CD-ROMs, and interactive public space kiosks. While at Lucasfilm Ltd., he did groundbreaking research and production in the emerging field of interactive multimedia with partners including the National Geographic Society, the National Audubon Society, and Apple Computer, Inc. He holds a degree in Conceptual Design from San Francisco State University.

Public Matters Fellows

Andy Alvarez

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Andy Alvarez first worked with Public Matters as a student at East Los Angeles Renaissance Academy (ELARA) in 2010 as part of Proyecto MercadoFRESCO, funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute through UCLA’s Center for Population Health and Health Disparities. Upon graduating from ELARA, Andy continued with the project as a Community Liaison. In these roles and others, Andy honed his skills as a young educator, project leader, visual artist, public speaker, and community interviewer. Andy is an “entrepreneur of ideas” who is open to failure. He’s a hands-on learner in service of building social awareness in communities. Andy is a Nutritional Science student at California State University, Los Angeles.

 

See what Andy is up to as a Fellow →

Christopher Barahona

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Christopher Barahona was born and raised in Los Angeles, in the East Hollywood and North Hollywood neighborhoods. In 2015, he first encountered Public Matters through a lecture at his school, California State University, Monterey Bay. Soon after, he pursued an internship with Public Matters during the summer of 2015, working on various projects. During his final year at Cal State, Monterey Bay, Chris was as an in-class tutor for migrant students for the Pajaro Valley School District in Watsonville, California. He graduated with a B.A. in Visual and Public Arts in 2016. Chris has a passion for social justice, education and the arts.

 

Curious about Christopher’s take on Urban Futures Lab →

Shirley Ramirez

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Shirley Ramirez first worked with Public Matters as a student at East Los Angeles Renaissance Academy in 2010 as part of Proyecto MercadoFRESCO. She continued with the project as a Community Liaison while studying at East Los Angeles Community College, before transferring to the University of California, Riverside. Shirley graduated in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in Public Policy. As a Fellow, Shirley is exploring how her interest in policy can connect to real world projects. At 22, she’s not sure what exactly she’s doing, but it’s alright: as she continues to serve her community she will figure it out.

 

Find out more from Shirley on the Fellowship and “adulting” →

Omar Vargas

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Omar Vargas is a college graduate from Denison University (class of 2016) with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology/Anthropology. He hails from East Los Angeles, California. Omar is an alumnus of the East Los Angeles Renaissance Academy (ELARA), where he first encountered Public Matters as part of the Proyecto MercadoFRESCO in 2011-2012. He later interned with Public Matters in summer 2015. At Denison, Omar’s school projects received recognition for their impact on student campus life. He was on the planning committees for both the Summit of Ohio Latinx (SOL), the first summit for Latinx college students in Ohio, as well as The Nest, an alternative dining experience created with a focus on entrepreneurship and student autonomy. Omar’s interests are in public health and urban planning, seeking to impact the world through his attention to detail and spontaneous ambition.

 

Read Omar’s reflections on Urban Futures Lab →

Advisors

Nathan Cheng

 

Nathan Cheng is a leading national figure in food systems and market makeovers. His work is at the center of Neighborhood Groceries: New Access to Healthy Food in Low-Income Communities, California Food Policy Advocates’ (CFPA) landmark 2003 study. Nathan has over 20 years experience working in the food industry, the last twelve of which have included a focus on food security and food access. In 1997, he designed, and later piloted a program to make healthy food available in low-income communities by outfitting liquor stores in these areas to carry produce and other nutritious foods. He has worked extensively in California, supporting the implementation of his liquor store conversion model and consults with organizations throughout the country on issues related to food access and community development.

Grace Cruz

 

Grace Cruz serves as a Linked Learning Program Associate at the Center for Powerful Schools, having previously taught history and serving as a school leader in middle and high schools in New York, San Francisco, Mexico City, Honolulu and Los Angeles. She previously served as an Assistant Head of Middle School at the American School Foundation in Mexico City and as the High School Principal at Mid-Pacific Institute in Honolulu, where she collaborated with a core group of faculty to develop Mid-Pacific Exploratory (MPX), a project based strand for 9th and 10th grades, which included the creation of community learning opportunities in conjunction with the STEM program. In addition to professional development opportunities to support teachers in these endeavors. Grace graduated from NYU with a BA and MA in History and Education, and received her certification in School Leadership and Administration (with a focus on Informational Technology) from Johns Hopkins University.

Ron Milam

 

Ron Milam brings 16 years of leadership experience, having served over 140 sustainability-oriented organizations as a organization development consultant. Prior to that, he served as founding Executive Director of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. Ron is skilled at developing leadership, building stronger teams, improving organizational effectiveness and facilitating collaborative change. Ron holds a master’s degree in Organization Development from Pepperdine University.

McCrae A. Parker

 

McCrae A. Parker has over 20 years of experience in the youth development, workforce development and media education fields through his work with organizations such as Just Think!, Children Now, the San Francisco Department of Children, Youth and Families, and the San Francisco Conservation Corps. McCrae served as Managing Director at ZeroDivide (San Francisco, CA) where he managed technology capacity building and broadband expansion projects for under-resourced and under-served communities in California and the Western US. Prior to ZeroDivide, he served as the Director of Strategic Initiatives at Youth Radio, a national youth journalism and media training organization based in Oakland, CA. At Youth Radio, McCrae was charged with the development of innovative local and national program models that supported young people’s education and career exploration, 21st century workforce readiness, and media production. McCrae studied Comparative Literature and Film at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA.

Mark Wolf Podlasly

 

A member of the Nlaka’pamux Nation located in the Pacific Northwest, Mark is an independent consultant who assists indigenous and local communities to identify and engage local economic, social and education opportunities. A graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) and the HKS Centre for Public Leadership, Mark develops and delivers strategy and leadership programs for urban communities, tribal governments and regional financial institutions to better understand and benefit from proposed urban land redevelopment, energy/mining/transportation infrastructure, and community financial trust management. Previously Mark ran a successful executive education practice in Asia, Europe and the US, designing corporate strategy and leadership programs for clients including GE, Unilever, General Mills, Clorox, and Goldman Sachs.

Dr. Dennie Palmer Wolf

 

Dr. Wolf is a Principal at WolfBrown, a nationally recognized cultural planning and nonprofit arts consulting agency. As a researcher at Harvard Project Zero, she led studies on the early development of artistic and symbolic capacities. She directed Project PACE (Projects in Active Cultural Engagement) at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, focusing on youth as vital, but often ignored, forces in cultural planning. More recently, she has pioneered evaluation studies that build the capacities of organizations, funders, and the communities they serve, co-authoring More Than Measuring, a longitudinal study of the effects of arts-based learning, sponsored by Big Thought, a 50-organization consortium in Dallas. Wolf has published widely on issues of assessment, evaluation, artistic, and imaginative development. Her work shows a commitment to increasing youth’s access to learning featuring inquiry, innovation, and imagination both in and out of school. In 2013, she was awarded the National Guild Service Award from the National Guild for Community Arts Education.

Volunteers

Kate Hawkes

 

Kate Hawkes is a QuickBooks Professional & Small Business Advisor. Since 2016, Kate has assisted Public Matters in systematizing its bookkeeping. Kate has been self-employed as a QuickBooks Professional since 2013 and a QuickBooks user since 2004. Kate focuses on helping small businesses utilize QuickBooks and third party technology solutions to their fullest potential for streamlined bookkeeping and business management.  Originally from Silicon Valley, Kate earned a B.A. in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from Claremont McKenna College.  Before striking out on her own, Kate was a Financial Analyst at global consulting firm Accenture LLP. She then honed her expertise in small business development, finance, human resources, and sales support and operations through various positions with Convergent Management, Neurion Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and G-Form LLC.

 

William Warrener

 

William Warrener works as a project manager and producer in arts and culture. He supports the Urban Futures Lab Fellowship by assisting in the development of training content, editing Fellows’ work, and providing guidance to Fellows’ professional development. In addition to Public Matters, he regularly works with Bird and Gorton, an international team of arts consultants. He is in his element when bringing people together to use art, stories and debate to enact positive change. Before arriving in Los Angeles in summer 2016, William spent three years running projects for the Cultural Institute at King’s College London, developing professional opportunities for students within London’s most prestigious cultural organizations. He continues to host and facilitate King’s Culture Hacks. Alongside this, between 2012 and 2016 William worked with London’s pioneering Clore Leadership Programme, managing residential courses for groups of international cultural leaders and programming international study visits.

 

You can read William’s reflections on Urban Futures Lab here.

Supporters

As a social enterprise, Public Matters operates through client-based projects as well as through generous support from foundations, businesses, and individuals.

 

Supporters include:

 

 

Interested in supporting Public Matters?

Your donations support our work in Los Angeles communities and our capacity to train tomorrow’s leaders.

DONATE→

 

 

Public Matters is a project of Fulcrum Arts’ Emerge fiscal sponsorship program.

Awards

Publications

Blockstein, M., & Estrada, R. (2014). PDUB Productions: Mapping Hi Fi. In T. Presner, D. Shepard, & Y. Kawano, HyperCities: Thick Mapping in the Digital Humanities (74-83). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

 

KCET Artbound. (2013-2014). Public Matters’ Market Makeovers.