Arts Commission Grows Innovative Program, Embedding Artists In Los Angeles County Departments

Creative Strategists and County Staff Bring New Thinking to Projects that Improve Services and Quality of Life

June 19, 2019—The LA County Arts Commission announces the second cycle of its Creative Strategist Artist-in-Residence (CS-AIR) Initiative, embedding four artists in County departments. Collaborating with staff, project partners, and community stakeholders, the artists address civic issues such as voter participation and traffic fatalities. What began as a countywide call for project proposals in 2017 has now culminated in seven artist residencies.

Artists have the extraordinary power to harness real life situations and convey important messages to communities in thoughtful and nuanced ways, said LA County Arts Commission Executive Director Kristin Sakoda. We are excited to expand the Creative Strategist program this year, and look forward to seeing the impact of pairing these talented artists in residence with government colleagues to creatively address civic challenges across the County.

Newly-embedded artists are Deborah Aschheim at Registrar Recorder; Olga Koumoundouros at the Department of Public Health/Office of Violence Prevention; Anu Yadav at the LA County Department of Mental Health; and Sandra de la Loza at the Department of Parks and Recreation. Two artists, Clement Hanami and Alan Nakagawa, began piloted residencies at LA County Library and Department of Public Health/Vision Zero/PLACE Program, respectively, in Fiscal Year 2018/2019. Artist María del Carmen Lamadrid started a residency with the Registrar Recorder and now works at large with the Departmetn of Arts and Culture.

The Creative Strategist program is one of the County’s latest initiatives from the 2017 Cultural Equity and Inclusion Initiative (CEII). The Cultural Equity and Inclusion Initiative aims to ensure that everyone in LA County has equitable access to arts and culture. The Department of Arts and Culture will help us implement it, in this case by managing creative cross-sector work within the County, said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

CEII began in 2015 when Supervisor Hilda L. Solis authored a motion, co-authored by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, to conduct a constructive County-wide conversation about ways to improve diversity in cultural organizations. Over the course of 18 months the Arts Commission, working with Commissioners and community members, engaged in various town hall meetings with hundreds of constituents who shared their experiences and suggestions.

In the spring of 2017, the Arts Commission released the Cultural Equity & Inclusion Initiative, which included 13 recommendations to the LA County Board of Supervisors to ensure that everyone in LA County has equitable access to arts and culture. Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, with Supervisor Solis, introduced the motion that directed the Chief Executive Officer to fund the Creative Strategist Program in June 2017.

Through CEII, we are bringing the arts to every segment of the population and all areas of Los Angeles County, said Los Angeles County Arts Commission President Helen Hernandez. We are proud that this recommendation has become a reality, and we look forward to this program becoming an integral part of all Los Angeles County departments.

The Creative Strategists and projects are:

Deborah Aschheim | Registrar-Recorder's Office (FY 19/20)

Deborah Aschheim
Deborah Aschheim makes installations, sculptures and drawings about memory and place. Her work exploring collective memory and place-based narratives combines studio production with oral history and community engagement. The artist is embedded in the Media, Communication and Creative Services department to work collaboratively in formulating and implementing a creative strategy for marketing and educating LA County residents about the Voting Solutions for All People initiative. Aschheim will develop artistic interventions, approaches, strategies and engagement programs to raise awareness of an improved voting experience that is inclusive to all.

María del Carmen Lamadrid | Registrar Recorder (FY18/19)

Maria del Carmen Lamadrid
María del Carmen Lamadrid is a media designer and tinkerer from Puerto Rico, currently based in Los Angeles. She is interested in fostering collaborative research methods for civic design practices shaped by post-colonial theory. Lamadrid was embedded in the Media, Communication and Creative Services section to work collaboratively alongside RR staff, project partners and community stakeholders in a collaborative process to learn about and strategize how to promote the VSAP internally and externally. Lamadrid played an important role as an interpreter and bridge to communicate between the County and stakeholders setting the stage for Phase 2 CS-AIR Deborah Aschheim ideation of art interventions, social engagement design, and implementation.

Sandra de la Loza | Department of Parks and Recreation (FY19/20)

Sandra de la Loza
Sandra de la Loza creates open-ended, research-based frameworks that guide inquiries that include visual, experimental, and social components. Through collaborations with specific communities she finds strategies for making invisible histories visible through projects that result in multi-media installations, video, photographic work, publications and public interventions. De la Loza is working in collaboration with DPR staff to establish standards for the creation, development, and enhancement of arts and culture core programming and curriculum across all of its facilities—particularly in local and community parks—addressing equity, inclusion and access. She will develop and implement a plan to help evaluate the extent to which DPR is reaching vulnerable populations.

Clement Hanami | Department of Public Health/Vision Zero/PLACE Program (FY18/19)

Clement Hanami
Clement Hanami is a Japanese-American visual artist who grew up in East Los Angeles. As part of the Vision Zero Artist-in-Residence, Hanami is embedded in the DPH PLACE Program (Policies for Livable Active Communities and Environments Program) at the Division of Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention to conduct outreach and engagement with community residents. He will help to create art happening and/or artworks in civic discourse to raise awareness about traffic safety and about Vision Zero.

Olga Koumoundouros | Department of Public Health/Office of Violence Prevention (FY19/20)

Olga Koumoundouros
Olga Koumoundouros utilizes narratives from interview, rumor and her own writing, to construct art that considers multiple perspectives within relationships and peoples’ efforts to provide sustenance to themselves collectively and individually. This work is combined with highlighting relationships to power: cultural, economic, and personal, on conscious, unconscious and historical levels. Koumoundouros is helping the OVP to create an environment that fosters innovative ideas and dialogue on trauma and violence prevention. This engagement will happen with community-based organizations and sister County department/programs to encourage more staff to consider art as a critical component in their strategic planning and service delivery models.

Alan Nakagawa | LA County Library (FY18/19)

Alan Nakagawa
Alan Nakagawa is an interdisciplinary artist primarily working with sound, occasionally incorporating video, sculpture, drawing, paint, performance, food and most recently perfumes. He is collaborating with LA County Library as part of the Library’s efforts to expand programs, which aim to increase levels of customer interaction and expression using performing and visual arts as a conduit. Nakagawa not only worked to develop and produce experiences and artwork for this program, but he also worked with staff to develop a comprehensive master plan for an umbrella program that includes vision, strategies for communications, implementation, evaluation, and programmatic activities.

Anu Yadav | Department of Mental Health (FY19/20)

Anu Yadav
Anu Yadav is a critically-acclaimed writer, performer and theater-based facilitator dedicated to art and social justice. Yadav is embedded in the Strategic Communications department to help design a creative engagement strategy with an emphasis on making difficult issues more relatable and easier to discuss, including working directly with clients at the DMH Resource and Wellness Centers throughout the County.


The partnership with the Arts Commission and local artists provides creative and innovative opportunities for raising awareness about traffic deaths, injuries and safety. By communicating through art, each artistic expression attempts to bring the audience to a new way of seeing and understanding traffic safety and the importance of slowing down and not driving while impaired or distracted.
—Muntu Davis, MD, MPH, Los Angeles County Health Officer, and Department of Public Health

Our department is always looking for creative strategies to engage voters and improve our services. We are excited to be part of this new initiative.
—Dean Logan, Registrar of Voters

LA County Library strives to become the center of learning for the community members we serve. This includes both educational and recreational learning for all age groups—youth, teens, and adults. We are excited to partner with the Arts Commission to bring in an expert to help us design arts-based programming at the Library.
—Skye Patrick, Library Director

Engagement through the arts plays a vital role in mental wellbeing and we're delighted to work with the Arts Commission on this thoughtful initiative. We are pleased to welcome Creative Strategist Anu Yadav to our team and supporting how her ideas can positively contribute to DMH Peer Resource, Reintegration and Wellbeing Centers throughout the County.
—Dr. Jonathan E. Sherin, Director of the Department of Mental Health

We are excited to work with our creative artist, who will provide strategies to incorporate art and cultural recreation to enrich LA County Parks programming and services. With the partnership of the Arts Commission, together we will provide access and opportunity to our children and park guests across the County of Los Angeles.
—John Wicker, Director of LA County Parks and Recreation

LA County Library was established in 1912 under authority of the County Free Library Act. The Library is a special fund department operating under the authority of the County Board of Supervisors. Today it is one of the major libraries of our nation, and provides library service to over 3.4 million residents living in unincorporated areas and to residents of 49 of the 88 incorporated cities of Los Angeles County. The service area extends over 3,000 square miles. Supplementing the 7.5 million volume book collection, the Library also offers magazines, newspapers, government publications and many specialized materials including online databases.

The Department of Mental Health is dedicated to optimizing the hope, wellbeing and life trajectory of Los Angeles County’s most vulnerable through access to care and resources that promote not only independence and personal recovery but also connectedness and community reintegration. The Department of Mental Health (DMH) is the largest county-operated mental health department in the United States and operates programs in more than 85 sites. On average, more than 250,000 County residents of all ages are served every year.

The Department of Parks and Recreation meets the recreational needs of residents and visitors from all over the world through programming, facilities, land acquisition, environmental stewardship and more! Today, the Department owns 182 beautiful parks including natural areas, wildlife sanctuaries, lakes, trails, arboreta and botanic gardens and local, community and regional parks. The Department also operates the largest municipal golf system with 20 courses at 18 locations and owns great cultural venues including the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre and the world famous Hollywood Bowl. The Department is committed to providing social, cultural and recreational opportunities for all to enjoy.

The Department of Public Health/Office of Violence Prevention works to protect and improve health and well-being to over 10 million residents. One of the Department’s top priorities is to advance health equity. Research has increasingly shown that social and economic conditions contribute to approximately 40% of community health and longevity. Public Health is committed to reducing health disparities through collaborations with a wide-range of partners. The Department strives to support policies, practices and programs that lead to healthier environments. Public Health's mission is to protect health, prevent disease, and promote health and well-being for everyone in Los Angeles County. With 14 Public Health Centers located throughout LA County, the Department provides free and/or low-cost services to those with no insurance or regular health care provider, including immunizations and communicable disease testing and treatment. Critical engagement will occur during the first week of April for Public Health Week with mandatory participation on April 4, 2019 for the launch event of the Office of Violence Prevention.

The Registrar-Recorder's Office is responsible for registering voters, maintaining voter files, administering federal, state, local and special elections, and verifying initiatives, referenda and recall petitions. LA County, with more than 500 political districts and 5.2 million registered voters, is the largest and most complex county election jurisdiction in the US. The RR/CC provides voter registration forms in 10 different languages in compliance with federal and state laws: Chinese, English, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog, Thai and Vietnamese.