Arts & urban policy expert , Dr. Maria Rosario Jackson and County Supervisors Josie Gonzales and  Chair James Ramos to Headline Arts Connection Annual Conference 

San Bernardino, California- Arts professionals from throughout San Bernardino County and surrounding areas will convene on Saturday, September 26 in Rancho Cucamonga for a full day of networking, presentations, and workshops about creative placemaking as well as cultural planning and public art. 

Creative placemaking is a growing field of practice that leverages the arts to revitalize communities while also addressing broader social and economic issues.  The focus will be on developing creative placemaking strategies which artists and organizations can implement in their own communities, sparking creative entrepreneurship, engaging new audiences and strengthening individual municipalities and the County as a whole.  Opening remarks will be delivered by James Ramos, Chairman of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors.

We are very pleased to share that Dr. Maria Rosario Jackson will be our keynote speaker. She is an Arts and Urban Policy Specialist with expertise is in comprehensive community revitalization, systems change, dynamics of race and ethnicity and the roles of and arts and culture in communities. She is Senior Advisor to the Kresge Foundation and also consults with national and regional foundations and government agencies. In 2013, President Obama appointed Dr. Jackson to the National Council on the Arts. She is on the advisory board of Lambent Foundation and on the boards of directors of Alliance for California Traditional Arts and LA Commons. Dr. Jackson has been adjunct faculty at Claremont Graduate University and University of Southern California, and the 2014-2015 James Irvine Foundation Fellow in Residence at Luskin School of Public Affairs, University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Jackson will be moderating our first panel, titled "Growing a Creative Culture." Panelists include Rhonda Lane Coleman, Director 29 Palms Art Gallery; John Worden, Director of the Ontario Museum of Art and History; Catherine Tessier, Jeved Inc.; and Kathleen Gallego, artist and Founder/Director of Avenue 50 and The California Arts Council.

Our second panel of the day will feature artists and organizations from a variety of disciplines sharing their projects and experiences with community engagement. The panel, titled “Artists and Organizations Creating Community,” will be moderated by photographer and Cal State San Bernardino Professor of Art, Thomas McGovern. It will include an impressive line up: Kim Stringfellow, artist, educator and Guggenheim fellow; Johanna Smith, puppet and performance artist and Professor of Theatre at CSU San Bernardino; Josiah Bruny, musician and CEO of Music Changing Lives; and artist/activist Michael Segura of San Bernardino Generation Now. This will be followed by three afternoon breakout sessions: “Art Making as City Making, an interactive workshop”, with James Rojas, an urban planner and founder of Place it!; “Technology to Temporary: Public Art Pursuits”, with public art expert and consultant, Lesley Elwood of Lesley Elwood and Associates; and “Making Greater Impact,” with Daniel Foster, who served as a founding Board Member of Arts Connection and former Executive Director of Oceanside Museum of Art.

“The arts and culture play a critical role in the economic recovery of the Inland Empire. This conference is a great opportunity to bring ideas and partners together,” states Kathryn Ervin, Arts Connection’s Board Chair and Professor of Theatre Arts at Cal State San Bernardino. “Artists and organizations will be discussing their projects alongside civic leaders, urban planners and private industry. Creative placemaking calls upon these diverse sectors to come together and engage communities through the arts, sparking change and innovation in their wake while bringing programming to communities that are often underserved.”

The conference will provide the most current, practical information and tools available to help visual and performing artists, administrators, organizations, educators and students develop creative placemaking strategies across sectors, which they can then implement in their own communities. The conference is being organized by Arts Connection, the non-profit Arts Council of San Bernardino County, in partnership with the Victoria Gardens Cultural Center.  It will be held on Saturday, September 26 from 9 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. at the Victoria Gardens Cultural Center located at 12505 Cultural Center Drive, Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91739.

The conference is being sponsored through the generous contributions and/or in-kind support from the California Arts Council, Cal State San Bernardino Office of the President, Associate Students Incorporated (ASI) at Cal State San Bernardino, Gloria Macias Harrison, David Lawrence, Dr. Ernest and Dottie Garcia, à la minute in Redlands, The Wignall Museum of Contemporary Art at Chaffey College, Ontario Museum of Arts and History, The Center for Management in the Creative Industries, Claremont Graduate Universityand many others. Additional sponsorship opportunities are still available, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The conference is free to all members of Arts Connection. One-year membership start at only $25 for individuals (and $10 for students). Pre-registration for the conference is highly encouraged. Registration is available on the Arts Connection website, at by phone at 909-537-5809. 


MAY UPDATE!  Governor Jerry Brown revised the state budget to include a 5 million dollar permanent increase that pushes the state's arts speding to about 24 cents per person.  While that is a a definite improvement from 3 cents per person, California still lags behind the national average of $1.09.  It's a start!

By Kimbery Johnson--                                 


Tucked inside the confines of San Bernardino County is a small legion of museums waiting to be explored...




Now nearing the end of its 65th season, the Redlands Symphony is continuing to impress audiences with its musical excellence even as it prepares for the retirement of its music director and conductor, Jon Robertson.

National Book Award Finalist Claudia Rankine kicks off

University of Redlands’ Spring Visiting Writers Series Jan. 22


Don’t miss the first reading this spring in the University of Redlands’ Visiting Writing Series, when acclaimed author Claudia Rankine reads from and discusses Citizen: An American Lyric, a mixed-media work that was a finalist for the 2014 National Book Award in Poetry. The event takes place Thursday, Jan. 22 at 7:30 p.m. in the Casa Loma Room on the University of Redlands campus and is the first of four free, public readings this spring.

Photo credit: LJR Arts Academy

Photo credit: Esther J. Lee

Photo credit: Esther J. Lee

Using the arts to uplift, heal, and empower the community is the mission of LJR Arts Academy, which takes its name from the woman who single handedly runs it-- Lynnzora J. Rogers. A compassionate, talented teacher and mentor dedicated to helping at risk youth of San Bernardino County, Ms. Rogers has great aspirations for providing essential art programs to the county.

Laurel Seidel, owner of the Glass Outhouse, is a witty, humble woman with a wicked and sometimes self-deprecating sense of humor. Her handyman, friend, and fellow artist Frank Mezget is more than half the reason the gallery is what it is today.

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There are some people who change the world by the sheer force of their own lives. Josiah Bruny, founder of Music Changing Lives (MCL), is one of those people. Bruny imagined, created, and is the Founder/CEO of an arts enrichment based non-profit in the Inland Empire. MCL is designed to mentor underprivileged and neglected children, helping them improve their lives, and expand their vision of themselves and the world around them.

The 34 year old Bruny, father of a 6 month old son, understands the children he is helping. In his youth, Bruny encountered drugs, gangs, and violence. Music was his way out. Bruny’s brother Won-G, a musician known as a pioneer in the independent music industry, used "street teams," groups of young people in promotional vehicles to promote and sell his music. This became a skill that Bruny, still in his teens, mastered. This experience and its success influenced the young Bruny to pursue music and his own independent career. By the time he was 20, Bruny was making thousands of dollars a week with his street teams. Other Rap artists and studios began to seek him out.

November 19, 2014

Highway 62 Art Tours

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It is well known that the desert attracts artists and creative types, and that there is an ever growing arts community in the High Desert of California. This region includes Joshua Tree, Morongo Basin, 29 Palms, and Yucca Valley. The primary access to the arts community is through its art events, but the Hwy 62 open studio Art Tours is different. Two weekends long, the Tours gives visitors a unique opportunity to meet artists in their respective studios and/or homes. What began in 2001 with just 24 participating artists has since grown to 140 artists and 95 studios (some artists share a space). This year the event took place during the nice and cool fall season, on October 25-26 and November 1-2. I went on the first weekend with my parents, who are art lovers, and left with a strong impression of the scale and identity of the High Desert arts community and culture, one that is nurtured and defined by the environment.

Davida Siwisa James has a big vision-- to change the cultural landscape of Victor Valley. The Executive Director of Victor Valley Arts and Education Center (VVAEC), she founded the arts nonprofit in 2013 in order to bring a new era of professional arts and culture to the area. When only a year old, the VVAEC received a grant of $10,000 from The Community Foundation of Riverside and San Bernardino Counties to implement a project that brought the arts to underserved populations - an impressive feat for a fledgling organization. In addition to such programs, Mrs. James’ biggest vision for Victor Valley is to build a state of the arts performing arts center.

Mrs. James grew up in NYC going to the Apollo Theater and Broadway shows as a child. She worked for 13 years as Assistant Director for UCLA Box Office and helped build the 1200 seat Reichhold Center for the Arts in St. Thomas, managing their programming and box office as well. It is without a doubt that her rich arts background and experience is an invaluable asset to the VVAEC and the High Desert community. I had the opportunity to speak with Mrs. James about her arts experience and vision for the organization.

Esther: You have lived in very culturally rich environments - such as NYC and LA, as well as in communities with art scarcity - like Harrisburg and the island of St. Thomas, how do you situate Victor Valley in this narrative?

Davida: Well in one way, we don’t have anything up here that would compare, which is part of the reason why I wanted to start the VVAEC. We have some small theatres and community theatre groups that are trying to do a good job to make sure there is some activity here, but I am hoping that after a lifetime in the arts, and twenty years experience working in arts management, that those experiences will help us move our nonprofit forward, in terms of galvanizing our community to see a more professional and advanced level of performing arts in the high desert.

October 27, 2014

Art is Transformation

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"Bridging Homeboy Industries: Fabian Debora, Alex Kizu and Juan Carlos Muñoz Hernandez" opened at the Robert and Frances Fullerton Museum of Art, at California State University, San Bernardino, on October 6, 2014, and I was lucky enough to be at the opening reception. One of the things that struck me was the act of art as a method of humanizing those individuals that are often seen on the fringes of society, who are often ostracized—gang members. This exhibit becomes proof that art is transformative, not only for the artists but for the audience as well.

Since 1988 Homeboy Industries, a non-profit organization founded by Father Gregory Boyle, has been working to help gang members in Los Angeles construct a new life for themselves. There are many ways that Homeboy Industries does this; through jobs, therapy, and education. Another way however, is to encourage creativity, which is exactly the case with the three artists presenting their work. 

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Counter Culture: a way of life and set of attitudes opposed to or at variance with the prevailing social norm.

For every highlight in one’s life, there are moments and times when they were “wrong;” made the “wrong” choice, said the “wrong” thing, expressed themselves in the “wrong” way.

Too few times are we given the encouragement to question our humanity in a way that asks how our notions of right and wrong/ good and bad are bred. What we can determine—thankfully due to several hundred years of focused sociological and anthropological research— is that the weight of communal pressure and the desire for order and control is often the determining factor in governing what is appropriate for one’s community. So when mainstream standards of suitability and correctness are challenged, ignored and defied, you are left with the type of threat that causes fear, confusion and discomfort to those that cannot imagine a world outside of their own rigidly acceptable communal norms.

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Special thanks to our conference host, Copper Mountain College!




Drs. Ernest & Dorothy Garcia


Arts Sustainers

Randy Polumbo

KOA Corporation Planning & Engineering

San Bernardino Art Association

The Ranch Projects Publishing

Joshua Tree Music Festival


Arts Advocates

Paulson Orthodontics

Mojave Desert Land Trust

Cultural Planning Group

Gruen Associates

The Wignall Museum of Contemporary Art

The Ontario Museum of History and Art

The Community Foundation

The Noah Purifoy Foundation

Harrison House Music, Arts & Ecology

Pappy & Harriets

Bobby Furst 

The Joshua Tree Inn


Arts Friends

Joshua Tree Highlands Artist Residency (JTHAR)

Chaffey College, School of Visual & Performing Arts

High Desert Test Sites

Elwood & Associates

Inlandia Institute


Special thanks to Copper Mountain College for our hosting the conference this year!









The Garcia Center for the Arts
536 W. 11th Street
San Bernardino, CA 92410

Tel: 909.381.1900

mailing address:

5500 University Parkway
Visual Arts Building, Rm. 308
San Bernardino, CA 92407

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