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The Kennedy Center Arts Summit The Kennedy Center Arts Summit 2019, The Human Journey: Creating the Story of US

Maimouna Youssef, Photo by Yassine El Mansouri

Arts Summit 2019
The Human Journey: Creating the Story of US

April 29, 2019

Register and View Agenda

The Kennedy Center Arts Summit is an annual one-day convening to investigate the power and potential of the arts. Bringing together thought leaders for conversation and connection, the Arts Summit engages experts from across numerous fields, aiming to challenge old ideas, spark new ones, and catalyze potent partnerships across disciplines.

The 2019 Arts Summit, “The Human Journey: Creating the Story of US”, will explore how we define and shape our world through the stories we tell (and the ones we don't). How can storytelling reframe our world view — shift/expand what we think is possible? How do more inclusive and diverse stories — stories beyond the dominant narrative — help build a more equitable society? How can radical listening foster empathy and “stitch” together the tears in our social fabric? Through a series of long conversations, performances, discussions, breakout sessions, and presentations, we will broadly explore story as an art, a tool, and a strategy for moving us forward.

Questions on registration? Email

Online Registration for the Arts Summit closes Thursday, April 25, 2019. On-site registration is available on April 29, 2019.

Registration Fees

Early Bird Registration Fee: $150 until February 15, 2019

Regular Registration Fee: $175 from February 15 – April 29, 2019

Discount Codes are available for Teachers and Students who would like to attend the 2019 Arts Summit. Please contact for more information.

Check out photos from past summits

Photos by Yassine El Mansouri

Schedule of Events

Get the most up-to-date schedule here

Register and View Agenda
7:30–9:00 AM
Registration and Continental Breakfast
9:00–9:10 AM
9:10–9:30 AM
Welcome Remarks
Deborah F. Rutter, David M. Rubenstein, and Mario Rossero
9:30 AM–12:10 PM
11:00–11:15 AM)
INSPIRATION: Dynamic Conversations, Performances, and Keynote with Artists and Experts focusing on:
  • The Stories We Tell...Retold
    Dominant narratives have a way of conveying authority and objectivity through normalization and ubiquity. However, these narratives typically emerge in service of a particular social group or social structure. What happens when we return nuance and perspective to dominant narratives? How does placing art in dialogue with these narratives give us a new understanding of the stories we all think we know?
  • From the "Edges" to the Center
    Beyond the dominant narratives, there are adjacent stories that, for some, seem to live in the shadows or alternate realities. For those who own and live these stories, this is center. How does art hold space for stories unlike any we’ve ever heard?
  • Stitching US Together
    Context. Subtext. Semantics. How might art help us transcend the trappings and limitations of language? Of culture? Regardless of how we define our identities, there are fundamental things we all want for ourselves and the people we love. How does art increase our capacity for understanding and empathy across divergent experiences and perspectives?
12:10–12:40 PM
Recognition of 2018-2019 Citizen Artist Fellows
Introduction of 2019-2020 Citizen Artist Fellows
12:15­–1:30 PM
Lunch & Networking
1:30–3:00 PM
EXPLORATION: Deeper Dive Breakout Sessions with Artists and Experts & Mini-Performances
  • Expanding the Narrative Theater Lab
  • The Courageous Pursuit of Radical Listening  Terrace Theater
  • Telling Stories: A Toolkit Terrace Gallery
3:15–3:30 PM
3:30–3:45 PM
3:45–3:45 PM
ACTION: The Artist’s Journey: 2019 Citizen Artist Fellows – Tell Me About A Time When...
4:45–5:00 PM
Performance: Creating the Anthem of US
5:00–5:15 PM
Closing Remarks
Deborah F. Rutter and Eric Liu
5:30–7:00 PM


  • Savannah Barrett

    Savannah Barrett is the Program Director for Art of the Rural, the Project lead for the Rural Generation initiative, and co-founder of the Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange. She serves as Lead Advisor for the Bush Foundation Community Creativity Cohort II, on the board of the Center for Performance and Civic Practice and the Robert Gard Foundation, as well as many national and local advisory boards, including The Art of Community: Rural S.C., the EmcArts' Community Innovation Lab, and the Ford Foundation's Southern Cultural Scan. She has widely published essays and interviews and presented her work at conferences internationally. She holds a Masters of Arts Management from the University of Oregon, and is an alumnus of the Ali Scholars Program at the University of Louisville and the Kentucky Governor's School for the Arts. Savannah was raised in Grayson Springs, Kentucky, where she co-founded a local arts agency in high school and now stewards seven acres of her homeplace. She is a twelfth-generation Kentuckian and lives in Louisville's Southend with her partner and their daughter.

  • Amy K. Bormet

    Amy K. Bormet is an in-demand pianist, vocalist, and composer. The quintet from her debut album, Striking, was featured as part of the Mary Lou Williams Jazz Festival at the Kennedy Center. As an advocate for women in music, Amy created the Washington Women in Jazz Festival in 2011 and continues to serve as executive director. One of Amy K Bormet's latest projects, Ephemera, is a platform for her new art songs with improvisation. Ephemera performed a two-week tour of Sweden. Along with her performance career, Ms. Bormet is a prolific composer frequently combining improvisation with concert music. Recently Amy composed several pieces for the Capital City Symphony and her jazz ensemble, and premiered a concert of new works for string quartet and her jazz piano trio at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

  • Emily Eagen

    Emily Eagen is a singer, instrumentalist, songwriter, and teaching artist in the NYC area. Emily is a teaching artist for Carnegie Hall's community engagement programs, most notably with the Lullaby Project, where she facilitates songwriting workshops for parents and helps lead workshops to train Lullaby artists around the country. In 2018, Emily presented a workshop at the fourth International Teaching Artist Convention (ITAC) and was a recipient of a two-year teaching artist fellowship from the Jubilation Foundation. As a singer, Emily primarily performs new music: she is a member of the M6: Meredith Monk, Third Generation, and recently toured as part of a vocal trio with the Bang on a Can All-Stars, performing Steel Hammer by Julia Wolfe. She is a doctoral candidate at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, studying performance and vocal pedagogy across genres. Currently, Emily is working on an album of original songs for both children and adults, combining singing with ukulele and her skills as a two-time International Whistling Champion.

  • Stephanie Foo

    Stephanie Foo is a radio producer and writer. She was a producer at This American Life and helped create Snap Judgment. Her work has also been featured on podcasts like Reply All and 99% Invisible. She led the creation of a revolutionary audio sharing app, Shortcut, and produced an Emmy-winning video short for TAL. She's currently working on a book that is part science, part memoir about Complex PTSD.

  • Vijay Gupta

    Vijay Gupta is a violinist and social justice advocate. An esteemed performer, communicator, educator and citizen-artist, Gupta is a leading advocate for the role of the arts and music to heal, inspire, provoke change, and foster social connection. Gupta is the founder and Artistic Director of Street Symphony, a non-profit organization providing musical engagement, dialogue and teaching artistry for homeless and incarcerated communities in Los Angeles. Vijay Gupta is a 2018 John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellow. A passionate and dedicated educator, Gupta serves on the faculty of the Colburn School and the Longy School of Music. Gupta also serves on the board of directors of the DC-based national arts advocacy organization Americans for the Arts, as well as Los Angeles's beloved 24th STreet Theatre. Vijay Gupta made his solo debut with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Zubin Mehta at age 11, and has been an acclaimed international performer since the age of 8. Gupta joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic at age 19.

  • Thanks Joey (Joseph Hamoui)

    Thanks Joey is a music producer & independent multimedia arts label owner from Brooklyn, New York by way of Orlando, Florida. Born to Syrian immigrants & having a classical Arabic musician as a grandfather set the palette for what Thanks Joey would be exposed to growing up: Fairouz, Om Kalthoum, Abdel-Halim Hafez with a little bit of Jay Z, BIGGIE SMALLS, Nas etc. Thanks Joey released his first his first instrumental album inspired by the works of Khalil Gibran entitled "On Beats" in 2018. He also produced the 2018 album "UNIKO" by long-time friend and collaborator, NIKO IS, which was released in collaboration with Talib Kweli & featured artists from around the world including Curren$y, Tego Calderón, HAIKAISS, & more. He is currently working on multiple projects set to be released on his multimedia arts label, Colours Of The Culture in the near future.

  • Dave Isay

    Dave Isay is the president and founder of StoryCorps and the recipient of numerous broadcasting honors, including a MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship and multiple Peabody Awards. In 2003, Dave founded StoryCorps, a nonprofit organization, whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world. To date StoryCorps, has given over 500,000 Americans the chance to record interviews about their lives, pass wisdom from one generation to the next, and leave a legacy for the future. It is the largest single collection of human voices ever gathered.

  • Mic Jordan

    Mic Jordan, a hip-hop artist and an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe Tribe in Belcourt, ND, where music heavily influenced his childhood. In addition to his own musical endeavors, Mic serves as a Turnaround artist for the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities. He speaks directly to youth about the issues of alcoholism, and suicide. He shares his life story and how he overcame adversity with the power of music. As a musician, Mic Jordan indigenizes hip-hop, bending the genre to tell his story in an honest way that reflects the positive values of his traditional culture.

  • Eric Liu

    Eric Liu is the co-founder and CEO of Citizen University, which works to build a culture of powerful and responsible citizenship in the United States. He also directs the Aspen Institute's Citizenship & American Identity Program. He is the author of several books, including The Accidental Asian: Notes of a Native Speaker; The Gardens of Democracy (co-authored with Nick Hanauer); You're More Powerful Than You Think: A Citizen's Guide to Making Change Happen; and his most recent, Become America: Civic Sermons on Love, Responsibility, and Democracy. Liu served as a White House speechwriter for President Bill Clinton and later as the President's deputy domestic policy adviser. He and his family live in Seattle.

  • De Nichols

    De Nichols is a designer, social entrepreneur, and keynote lecturer who mobilizes young creative change makers through the production of interactive experiences, digital media, and social initiatives . Based in St. Louis, MO, De is the Principal of Design & Social Practice Civic Creatives, a design and strategy collective she founded in 2015 to help cities more boldly develop creative solutions for the civic and social challenges they face. As a national keynote presenter and lecturer, De champions the power of design and storytelling to inspire and equip audiences to spark creative social change across their communities. Because of her leadership, Nichols has been deemed as a national Ideas that Matter recipient, a two-time Clinton Global Initiative innovator, and a St. Louis Visionary for her community impact. She additionally is a 2017/18 Citizen Artist Fellow of the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts and a 2018 Artist Fellow with the Regional Arts Commission in St. Louis, MO.

  • Ryan O'Connell

    Ryan O'Connell is a television writer who has written for shows like Awkward, Will & Grace, and Special, which he created, starred, and wrote all the episodes for. He lives in Los Angeles with his boyfriend and their overpriced candles.

  • Betsy Levy Paluck

    Betsy Levy Paluck is Professor in the Department of Psychology and in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. She also serves as the Deputy Director of the Kahneman-Treisman Center for Behavioral Science and Policy at Princeton University.

  • J. Period

    Hailed as a "music guru" by Rolling Stone and called "the most creative mixtape producer of all-time" by music icon Questlove, J.PERIOD is a master craftsman: a musical storyteller whose work connects cultures, eras and styles.

    J.PERIOD's resume boasts collaborations with GRAMMY® winners The Roots, Nas, Q-Tip, Kanye West, Common, Mary J. Blige, John Legend and Pulitzer Prize-winning Playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda on the Billboard #1 and RIAA-certified Gold album, The Hamilton Mixtape.

    His extensive roster of collaborators, combined with a visionary approach to musical storytelling, has earned comparisons to both DJ Khaled and Ken Burns. In 2018, it also earned J.PERIOD an appointment as a founding member of The Kennedy Center Hip Hop Culture Council. "Make no mistake," says DJ Booth, "as to the power of J.PERIOD's impact and influence on hip hop culture." As a composer, J.PERIOD's work has been featured in film and TV (American Gangster, NBA Inside Stuff, The Doctor), earning an EMMY®. He also works as Tour DJ for artists including Black Thought, The Roots, Lauryn Hill, and Q-Tip.

  • Nigel Poor

    Nigel Poor is a visual artist whose work explores the various ways people make a mark and leave behind evidence of their existence. Her work has been shown at: San Jose Museum of Art, Institute of Contemporary Art, San Jose, Friends of Photography, SF Camerawork, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. and the Haines Gallery in San Francisco and can be found in the collections of SFMOMA, the M.H. deYoung Museum, San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art and Corcoran Gallery of Art. She received her BA from Bennington College and her MFA from Massachusetts College of Art and is a Professor at CSU Sacramento. Nigel is the co-creator, co-producer and co-host of the prison based podcast Ear Hustle.

  • Jason Reynolds

    Jason Reynolds is a New York Times bestselling author, a Newbery Award Honoree, a Printz Award Honoree, National Book Award Honoree, a Kirkus Award winner, a two time Walter Dean Myers Award winner, an NAACP Image Award Winner, and the recipient of multiple Coretta Scott King honors. Reynolds was named the American Booksellers Association's 2017 and 2018 spokesperson for Indies First, and served as the national spokesperson for the 2018 celebration of School Library Month in April 2018, sponsored by the American Association of School Librarians (AASL). Jason's many works of fiction include When I Was the Greatest, Boy in the Black Suit, All American Boys (cowritten with Brendan Kiely), As Brave As You, For Every One, Miles Morales: Spider Man, the Track series (Ghost, Patina, Sunny, and Lu), and Long Way Down, which received both a Newbery Honor and a Printz Honor. He is on faculty at Lesley University, for the Writing for Young People MFA Program and lives in Washington, DC. You can find his ramblings at

  • Julie Shapiro

    Julie Shapiro (@jatomic) is the executive producer of PRX's Radiotopia podcast network, and of the Ear Hustle podcast. From 2014-15, Julie was the executive producer of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation / Radio National's (RN) Creative Audio Unit. In 2000 she co-founded the Third Coast International Audio Festival, where as artistic director she shaped the Festival's creative trajectory and nurtured a robust international listening culture.

  • Carla Sheffield

    The murder of my son not only changed my life forever but it changed my perspective on the criminal justice system. The rise of police brutality and the justifications by their superiors only makes a bad situation worse. The discriminatory practice by the cops and courts need to mission is is twofold retrain and license officers while; bridging the gap between police and people in the black community.

  • Fay Victor

    "She's essentially invented her own hybrid of song and spoken word, a scat style for today's avant-garde." –Giovanni Russonello, The New York Times.

    Brooklyn, NY-based sound artist/composer Fay Victor hones a unique vision for the vocalist's role in jazz and improvised music regarding repertoire, improvisation and composition. Her 'everything is everything' aesthetic permeates her work in performance where a standard can lead to a free improvisation or an outburst...and back again. In over a 20 year span, Victor has released 9 albums as a leader to critical acclaim as well as seminal sideperson projects with leaders such as Anthony Braxton, Roswell Rudd, Nicole Mitchell, William Parker and Marc Ribot. Victor's most recent release as a leader is Wet Robots (ESP Disk, July 2018) with her latest group, SoundNoiseFUNK, featuring Joe Morris (guitar), Sam Newsome (sop. saxophone) & Reggie Nicholson (drums). Wet Robots has received 4.5 stars in Downbeat Magazine and placed #4 in the Jazz Vocal Category for NPR's Jazz Critic's Poll 2018 (in a tie with Kurt Elling)

  • Earlonne Woods

    Earlonne Woods was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles. At 17 he was sent to prison for kidnap/robbery of a drug dealer and sentenced to 10 years. He served 6 years three months and was paroled in 1995. Still engaging in criminal activity In 1997, he was arrested and sentenced to 31-years-to-life for an alleged attempted second degree robbery under California's Three Strikes Law. While incarcerated this time, he received his GED, attended Coastline Community College and completed many vocational trade programs. In November 2018, California Governor Jerry Brown Commuted Earlonne's sentence after 21 years of incarceration. Upon his release, Earlonne was hired by PRX as a full-time producer for Ear Hustle a podcast he co-host and co-created while in prison.

Citizen Artist Fellows

  • David Olmeca Barragan

    Olmeca is a Hip-Hop artist, producer, activist and scholar who has been featured on BBC London, Complex Magazine, Noisey, Huffington Post, NPR, Democracy Now and CNN Latino. His music has been featured on various documentaries including PBS “Independent Lens”, and “Two Americans,” a documentary about the immigration issues in Arizona. He has written music for t.v. shows including “Sons of Anarchy”, “CHANCE” on HULU, and new series, “The Mayans” on FX. Noisey Magazine writes, “Olmeca is a teacher of underground hip hop in Los Angeles and the Chicano community. An artist directly responsible so that rap in Spanglish is a thing. A chat with this shaman of the 21st century…” Olmeca grew up in the barrios of L.A. and Mexico, a reality that brewed his blending of music genres and cultural sensitivity. While everyday people respect his lyrical content, music connoisseurs value the production, and educators utilize Olmeca’s music in their classrooms.

    David Olmeca Barragan

  • Sky Cubacub

    Sky Cubacub is a non-binary Filipinx human from Chicago, IL. Rebirth Garments is their line of wearables for the full spectrum of gender, size, and ability. They are also the editor of the Radical Visibility Zine, a magazine based off of their manifesto. Our identity is that of Queer and Disabled, encompassing queer, trans, gender nonconforming identities, apparent and non-apparent disabilities/ disorders—physical, mental, developmental, intellectual etc. In particular, our trans and disabled communities have very particular clothing needs that are not adequately served by mainstream clothing designers. Instead of being centered on cisgender, heterosexual, white, thin people, Rebirth Garments is centered on Queer and Disabled people. Rebirth Garments challenges mainstream beauty standards that are sizeist, ableist, and conform to the gender binary. Instead, we maintain the notion of Radical Visibility, a movement based on claiming our bodies and, through the use of bright colors, exuberant fabrics, and innovative designs, highlighting the parts of us that society typically shuns.

    Sky Cubacub

  • Alysia Lee

    As an artist, arts educator, teaching artist and arts advocate, Alysia has a broad perspective of the arts ecosystem. She is the Founder and Artistic Director of Sister Cities Girlchoir, an El Sistema-inspired, girl empowerment, choral academy with programming in Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey. Lee provided strategic oversight of the program growth from the 20-participant pilot to 300+ membership. Alysia's work with SCG has received recognition for advancing access, equity, visibility, representation, and power-sharing between artists, organizations, and communities. Key to her method is leadership development, building strong partnerships, and intersectional approaches to engagement while centering artistic excellence, creativity, social justice, and multiculturalism.

    Alysia Lee is the education program supervisor for Fine Arts education for the Maryland State Department of Education where she shares her vision of statewide equity and excellence across five arts disciplines: music, dance, visual arts, theatre, and media arts. She is a proud member of the State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education (SEADAE).

    Alysia Lee

  • Yvonne Montoya

    Yvonne Montoya is a mother, dancemaker, consultant, independent dance scholar and founding director of Safos Dance Theatre based in Tucson, AZ. Originally from Alburquerque, NM, Yvonne is a process-based dance maker who creates low tech site specific, site adaptive pieces for non-traditional dance spaces. Her work is grounded in and inspired by the landscapes, languages, cultures, and aesthetics of the U.S. Southwest. Yvonne is the lead choreographer for Safos. Under her direction, the company won the Tucson Pima Arts Council’s Lumie Award for Emerging Organization in 2015. She is currently working on two projects, “Motherhood and the Performing Arts” which explores the challenges and joys of juggling of motherhood with a career in the performing arts, and “Stories from Home” a series of movement vignettes based on her family’s oral histories. 2017-2018 Yvonne was a Post-Graduate Fellow in Dance at Arizona State University where she founded and organized the inaugural Dance in the Desert: A Gathering of Latinx Dancemakers. Currently, Yvonne is working on Dance in the Desert 2019.

    Yvonne Montoya

  • MI’Jan Celie Tho-Biaz

    Dr. Mi’Jan Celie Tho-Biaz, Ed.D., is a cultural leader, oral historian and documentarian who works with communities across the themes of sovereignty, transformation, healing and equity to honor their past, make meaning of their present, and vision loving and liberated futures.

    One of Santa Fe New Mexican's 2017 “10 Who Made a Difference,” and University of San Francisco’s 2018 “Living the Mission” award recipient, Mi’Jan Celie is the founder and directs the New Mexico Women of Color Nonprofit Leadership Initiative at the Santa Fe Community Foundation, and she currently teaches with the Banff Centre.

    Previously Mi’Jan Celie designed and led the Steinem Initiative's public policy digital storytelling pilot at Smith College, served as Visiting Scholar at the Interdisciplinary Center for Innovative Theory and Empirics at Columbia University, Documentarian-In-Residence at the Institute of American Indian Arts, and recently keynoted at Stanford University’s “Culturally Responsive Pedagogy and the Arts” conference, as well as the Create Justice Forum at Carnegie Hall.

    MI'Jan Celie Tho-Biaz

  • Emily Marks

    Emily Marks is the Executive and Artistic director of Lionheart Live Arts and Youth Theatre in Memphis, TN. As an Artist, Curator and Producer, she has built a national reputation for reinvigorating performance for youth and communities in adventurous new formats. She is an Arts Leadership Fellow at APAP and The University of Southern California, an alum of the Wesleyan Institute of Curatorial Practice in Performance, a 2018 MAP creation fund artist and an alum of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab. Emily is proud to be the founder of Girls Rock Austin- a nonprofit dedicated to empowering girls through music creation and performance that recently celebrated its 12th anniversary. She advocates nationally on the topic of creating safer spaces for artists in the performance field and has been featured on panels for The National Performance Network, APAP, The American Realness Festival Discourse Series and TYA USA NAtional Festival and Conference. Emily is proud to serve on the National Board of Directors for The International Performing Arts for Youth (IPAY

    Emily Marks

  • Christina Soriano

    Christina Tsoules Soriano is an associate professor of dance and the Associate Provost for the Arts at Wake Forest University. At Wake, she regularly teaches Improvisation, Dance Composition, Modern Dance technique and a course she co-teaches with chemistry colleague entitled Movement and the Molecular. Christina has regularly taught a community dance class in Winston-Salem, NC to people living with Parkinson’s Disease for the last seven years, and has been involved in three scientific studies that look at the ways improvisational dance can help the mobility and balance of people living with neurodegenerative disease. She has received funding from the National Parkinson Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC, and most recently the NIH to conduct a randomized clinical trial, testing her improvisational dance method in a community of adults living with Mild Cognitive Impairment and their carepartners. More information about this work can be found at

    Christina Soriano

  • Mark Gonzles

    Mark Gonzales is a futurist. He develops tools, tech, and narratives to ignite civic imagination and shape human existence. He is the Chair of the Dept. Of The Future, and a 2019/2020 Kennedy Center Fellow of the Citizen Arts. With 20+ of experience spanning over a dozen countries, the portfolio of Mark Gonzales reads like a lookbook of possibility. It includes connecting artisans, investors and urban planners to tell the future story of space, pairing kid lit creators with architects to create more child inclusive cities, convening public trust tables disguised as dinner table conversations, and building real-world applications for the emerging empathy technology field. A chance meeting in the sacred city of Bethlehem between Mark Gonzales and a beautiful Tunisian from Paris led to a life partnership and two children. Their family splits time between Northern Africa, the UK, and the US, building a new generation of trans-Atlantic partnerships that do good, revitalize economy, and foster global citizenship.

    Mark Gonzles

Arts Summit 2018: An Illustrated Story

Arts Summit is a day of inspiration and transformation, with thought leaders and artists from across disciplines sharing their stories and ideas, and asking some of the most important and provocative questions of our day. These speakers – and all of the guests who committed to creating change – are our heroes. This illustrated story synthesizes the most powerful messages and moments of Arts Summit 2018.

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