As Working Classroom celebrates its 30th year, I reflect upon the 20 years I have been a part of this creative community. Working Classroom is where I grew my activist heart, fed my intellectual curiosity, and nurtured my artistic spirit. As a community of artists, young people, and change-makers, we demonstrate the power of the arts to challenge the status quo and to change lives. We use art to tell our stories with truth, beauty, nuance and power. We inspire change.
I am deeply grateful for the seven years I have been a part of Working Classroom’s staff, four as executive director. Over these years, we have opened up our space, literally and figuratively, in new and exciting ways. We expanded our public art program, secured a multi-year 21st Century Learning Centers contract through the New Mexico Public Education Department in which we are the only organization in New Mexico which prioritizes service to teens, formed collaborations with non-arts-sector partners, and established a third program track – New Media and Digital Storytelling. Together, we prioritized the comfort and inclusion of all by installing windows in our second level so natural light now fills every corner of space and installed a ramp so that every resource in our building is accessible.
It is with these collective accomplishments under our belt that I announce the end of my tenure as executive director at Working Classroom, effective March 9, 2018.
When assuming the position of executive director in 2014, I planned to serve as the bridge between the founder and the next generation of leadership; to give the organization stability and then to give it to the community. And now, here we are. We have secured new federal, state and municipal grants, maintained local and national foundation support and built a staff and board that are deeply rooted in our community.
My next adventure will be as the national organizing director for the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, a role that aligns with my lifelong commitment to serving artists, cultural workers, communities, and grassroots movements. This new opportunity will allow me to continue living in Albuquerque, while helping guide a national grassroots action network that incites creativity and social imagination to shape a culture of empathy, equity, and belonging. I will continue to be a supporter of and in service to Working Classroom in any way I can – and to champion Working Classroom’s values and vision.
I would not have this new opportunity without Working Classroom. The mentorship I received as a teen artist, the encouragement I had from our late founder, Nan Elsasser, to pursue a degree in art, and the portfolio of experiences I have had as a staff member and leader have prepared me for this new challenge. Working Classroom truly is a one-of-a-kind art organization that prioritizes social justice, artistic excellence, and service to those whose valuable gifts are so often underappreciated – youth, people of color, low-income communities, and cultural workers. You are the ones who will continue to guide Working Classroom during this transition.
I am eternally grateful to our supporters, our board, our staff past and present, our alumni, students, families, and community partners for being my coconspirators in art and social change. Working Classroom is in good hands with our current staff– Theresa Dunworth, Maria Gallegos, Meggan Gomez, Luis Carlos Muñoz – I thank them for making my time at Working Classroom joyful and this transition possible. And last, but certainly not least, thanks to my family: my brother Michael who is my greatest creative collaborator; my parents who enrolled me in my first theater workshop at Working Classroom in 1997 and have been around ever since; and to my husband, Alex, and our daughter, Adelaida Luz, who love me unconditionally, believe in what I do and have also given so much to this place we love so dearly, Working Classroom.