Learning Cohort

Rootwork: Grounding Community Arts Education Beyond the Pandemic

The application for this cohort is now closed.

The Rootwork Learning Cohort is a small cohort that will come together to study, practice, and document new models of community arts education practices that are informed by, and supportive of the many varied lived experiences of our communities in the unique context of our current moment.

The Rootwork Cohort will comprise of six teams, each including 2–3 individuals who work together within a shared community. The teams are currently in the process of being selected from an open call for applications which has now closed. The cohort will be guided by three national advisors over a period of six months (more info about the advisors below), and teams will be paid a stipend for their participation. 



In shared spaces, we recognize and celebrate that every individual brings unique and lived experiences. While you may seek a place in this learning experience with the desire to take something new and learned away, you will be included within this learning community precisely because you have something to contribute. We hold each other accountable to keeping our work “close to home,” focusing on self-inquiry, lived experience, and personal responsibility in transforming our practices in relationship to our communities.

As we aspire to ground and connect deeply with the communities to which we belong, the Rootwork cohort will meet you where you are. We aim to cultivate a space of rigorous learning without replicating patterns that rely on the direction of those with perceived power or position and to center learning that is emergent and shared across networks of peer mentorship and learning.



The Rootwork Cohort will meet in two distinct phases:

Winter Co-Learning (November 2020–February 2021)

The cohort will come together to participate in the Rootwork Speaker Series and process their learnings and takeaways throughout. In addition, Rootwork advisors will suggest weekly "homework" readings and practices to support depth and continuity between sessions.  

  • Attend one (1) Rootwork Cohort welcome & orientation: 

    • Wednesday, November 18, 2020, 4:30–6pm Eastern  

  • Attend the entire Rootwork Speaker Series

    • Nine (9) Speaker Sessions to be held on Wednesdays, 4:30–6pm Eastern: 

      • December 2, 9, & 16, 2020 

      • January 13 & 27, 2021 

      • February 3, 10, 17, & 24, 2021 

  • Attend follow-up sessions after each speaker session, designed specifically for cohort members to delve deeper into each topic with the speakers.  

    • Nine (9) Cohort Reflection Sessions to be held the following Fridays**, 4:30–5:30pm Eastern: 

      • December 4, 11, & 18, 2020 

      • January 15 & 29, 2021 

      • February 5, 12, 19, & 25,** 2021 

        • Please note: The last reflection session (2/25/21) will take place on a Thursday in honor of Purim. 

Spring Learning Lab (March–April 2021) 

The cohort will reconvene in a number of different configurations to ideate and develop new community arts education approaches and practices. (This is open ended and could range from developing new programming to proposing alternative organizational infrastructures that are more responsive to BIPOC communities.) While dates and times will be determined by the emergent needs of the cohort, these sessions will likely include:  

  • Several (3–4) full cohort meetings 

  • Partner team meetings (cohort teams will be paired for deeper, iterative work) 

  • Open office hours with advisors 

To conclude, Rootwork teams will be expected to design new arts programming or ways of working by/with/for their communities and to share these new models with the larger field. 

  • One (1) Rootwork Cohort celebration & culmination



The cohort will be facilitated and led by three core advisors who will also present within the Rootwork Speaker Series:

Karla Estela Rivera (she|her) is a writer, performer, activist, and arts advocate who has leveraged her gift of storytelling ​to uplift and create opportunities for, with, and in underserved communities​. She is the Executive Director of Free Street Theater and a company member of 2nd Story in Chicago. Karla has served non-profit organizations for over a decade in roles spanning from teaching artist and youth worker to systems-level leadership in public affairs. She recently served as the co-chair of the Illinois Fine Arts Indicator work group which developed the nation’s first weighted accountability measure for the arts as part of the Illinois Every Student Succeeds Act plan. She is a native of Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, and holds a BA from Columbia College Chicago with graduate studies at New York University. 

Calida Jones (she|her) is an accomplished musician, educator, and social justice & arts advocate who has taught and performed throughout the world. Her career highlights include roles at Music Matters, the Hartford All-City Youth Orchestra, El Sistema, and the Waterbury Symphony Orchestra and select honors include a Grammy nomination for the Music Educator Excellence Award, the Father Thomas H. Dwyer Humanitarian Award, and the 2018 Connecticut Arts Hero Award. Today, Calida is the Director of Engagement at The Hartt School, Board Clerk for El Sistema USA, and the President of the Connecticut Arts Alliance. Passionate about intentional, purposeful teaching and community engagement, her personal mission is to ensure that children with limited resources have access to music. Having begun musical training at the age of three, she holds a BFA in Violin Performance from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master’s in Violin Performance and Suzuki Pedagogy from The Hartt School of Music. 

Barbara Mumby-Huerta (she|her) is an artist and community organizer—both passions stem from her upbringing in California's rural Central Valley: as the youngest of five raised by a single mother, the arts became an integral part of her life while her passion for social justice was deeply influenced by her family's Native American heritage and work as migrant farmers. In the philanthropic field, Barbara has designed equity-based grants programs for early childhood education, workforce development, social services, and arts & culture. She is a current Open Society Racial Equality Fellow and is developing a tool kit to support BIPOC communities in identifying, assessing, and dismantling white supremacy in public art. Barbara holds bachelor’s degrees in studio arts and native American studies from UC Berkeley and master’s degrees in museum studies and business administration from John F. Kennedy University.