Rootwork Learning Cohort

Rootwork: Grounding Community Arts Education Beyond the Pandemic

The Rootwork Learning Cohort was a small cohort that came together from November 2020–April 2021 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. These six teams of community arts educators attended all 9 sessions of the “Rootwork | Grounding Community Arts Education Beyond the Pandemic” speaker series and then used the sessions as inspiration over the following five months to design new, adaptive models for community arts education that respond to our current moment.

The Rootwork Cohort created a tool called The Pillars of Embedded Community Practice. Keep an eye out for more learnings to be shared soon!

The teams were guided by a trio of Rootwork Advisors. The Advisors were intentional about selecting a cohort that was diverse across the national geography (considering regions and population density), the communities in which each team is embedded, their artistic disciplines, the nature of the team (organizations, networks, or independent practitioners), and the lived experiences of the individual team members.


Headshots Mary George (left) and Jung-Ho Pak (right)

Cape Symphony
West Barnstable, MA
Mary George, Jung-Ho Pak

Team statement: Our organization wants to learn how to be more relevant in order to truly represent our community. We seek to make our community partners in our work, rather than just recipients. We believe that Rootwork will be deeply transformational for our staff and community and are so grateful to have been chosen as members of this cohort.


Headshots Erin Perry (left) and Patricia Ford (right)

Legacy Arts Project
Pittsburgh, PA
Erin Perry, Patricia Ford

Team statement: We are excited to participate in the Rootwork Cohort as a way to strengthen our presence and engagement within and with our community. Our legacy has endowed us with invaluable cultural tools that connect us not only with our history, but also ourselves. Through participating with the cohort, we are interested to extend the benefit of arts and cultures far and wide within our community.


Headshots Alexandra Turner (left) and Heidi Swevens (right)

Inclusive Arts Vermont
Essex Junction, VT

Alexandra Turner, Heidi Swevens

Team statement: We are here to offer our experience celebrating the voices of people with disabilities and nurturing creative processes to expand inclusion. We are here to engage with a network of inspiring change-makers who are intentionally doing the work of unlearning, co-learning, and collaborating, as we challenge the isms of hierarchy and transform our work.


Headshots Beverly Cottman (left), Marlaine Cox (center), and Mica Anders (right)

Community Programs in the Arts (COMPAS)
St. Paul, MN
Beverly Cottman, Marlaine Cox, Mica Anders

Team statement: We are in the cohort to work collaboratively with the group on finding innovative ways to use the arts as a tool for social and societal change.  We plan to use our time to dig deep into equity and access issues and develop meaningful and tangible solutions to incorporate into our teaching artist practices.


Headshots Charity Blackwell (left) and Greta Adjei-Silas (right)

Washington, D.C.
Charity Blackwell, Greta Adjei-Silas

Team statement: We believe in the power of youth voice, of creating and sustaining safe and brave spaces that encourage young people to engage in tough conversations in a healthy environment, and empowering young people to share their own stories and advocate for themselves. We are beyond excited to build community and engage in peer learning with the Rootwork Cohort to develop the skills and tools necessary to create meaningful change.


Headshots (from left) Winter Smiley, Ashlyn Dadkhah, Luisa Martínez, Rizzhel Javier

Homegrown Youth Collaborative
San Diego-Tijuana border region
Luisa Martínez, Rizzhel Javier, Winter Smiley, Ashlyn Dadkhah

Team statement: We have joined the Rootwork cohort as an anti-hierarchical collective of co-creators to tread new learning landscapes as well as explore sustainable ways of growing and imagining with each other, with the long-term goal of developing our own methods of facilitating co-learning spaces within the contexts of our own communities.


The cohort was facilitated and led by three core advisors who also presented in 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.