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Arts for Social Change Jam

Arts for Social Change Jam

June 5-9, 2013




“Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.”

– Bertolt Brecht


It is our honor to invite you to apply to the Arts for Social Change Jam.  This Jam will connect 30 diverse, engaged and committed artists-activists (artivists) from North America to retreat with good food, natural beauty, deep reflection, personal sharing, strategic dialogue, visioning, and community building.  


It will take place from Wednesday, June 5, at 3pm to Sunday, June 9, at 10am and be held at the beautiful Woolman Retreat Center in Grass Valley, CA.


What is the intention of the Arts for Social Change Jam?

The Arts for Social Change Jam is a creative gathering that will foster greater connectivity and interdependence among artist-activists to sustain ourselves and support our movements.  


It will tap into transformation, connection and rejuvenation for artivists at three levels:


On the personal level, it is a place for participants to reflect on our life journeys and what makes us who we are today. It is an opportunity to deepen our purpose, ask meaningful questions, unlearn our fears and blocks, access our hearts, and open our minds to move more boldly in the world. There will be time for silence, reflection and creation.  It is a time to recharge and renew ourselves and to practice some deep self- and community-care.


On the interpersonal level, we come together to share our cultures, our creativity, our collaborative spirits, our stories and our struggles so we can deepen in our understanding of, and connection to, each other.  The Jam will bring together as diverse a group of artivists as possible. Over the course of the Jam, we hope to explore how the arts can bring more personal and collective healing to the divides that often separate or isolate us.  The Jam aims to create a fertile ground for synergies to arise and cross-pollination to happen.


On the systemic level, we become clearer about the importance of our work in the world and its potential for even deeper, more meaningful impact. We will have opportunities to discuss art as a strategic tactic for inciting social change, for eliciting exciting collaborations, for facilitating juicy dialogues, and for clarifying the big picture.


We come together to reflect, share our challenges and breakthroughs in our respective work, nurture ourselves, support and inspire each other, figure out ways to be more financially sustainable and find intersections for future collaborations.    


We hope it will enable each participant to feel rejuvenated, supported by community and stronger in their capacity to affect meaningful positive change through the arts and carry their dreams and manifestations forward.


Who is being invited to the Arts for Social Change Jam?

Because we seek to bring together as diverse a group of people as possible we are looking for a range in:

  • “Artist-ship” (leadership, from ‘person on the ground’ to ‘director’ and ‘founder’)

  • Years of experience (from ‘a couple years into the journey’ to ‘been at it for a good part of your life’);

  • Modalities of artistic engagement (i.e. theater, dance, music, poetry, painting, sculpting, creative writing, spoken word, creative facilitation)

  • Issue or work-focus (i.e. community media, local economies and globalization, indigenous issues, education, food sovereignty, cultural regeneration,  interfaith, health and well-being, ecology, youth, sustainable living, human rights, etc.)

  • Identity and world view (i.e. class, ethnicity, race, religion, culture, sexuality, age, etc.)


Where did the idea for an Arts for Social Change Jam come from?

Jams have been happening since time immemorial. When musicians come together to 'jam', they bring their own unique instruments, skills and styles together to create a collective sound that has never been heard before.


YES! “Jams” have been happening since 1999. YES! collaborates with other like-hearted peers around the world to co-create Jams of creativity, passion and commitment, where diverse visionaries and social change-makers combine their inspirations and skills to create something greater than the sum of their parts.


Similar Arts-Activist gatherings and retreats have taken place in the Bay Area and beyond, and some of this gathering’s leadership have been involved with bringing artivists together over the years with groups such as Art in Action, United Roots, Generation Waking Up, etc. We have come together to deepen the potential of this conversation in collaboration with some of the alums of the North America YES! Jam & the Leveraging Privilege for Social Change Jams, who have longstanding engagements in the arts.


Who is the ‘we’ calling this Jam together?

The first-ever Arts for Social Change Jam is emerging through the work of a dynamic and creative team:


Renée Wilson is a multi-talented singer, songwriter, actress, filmmaker, facilitator and yoga teacher who brings her entire heart and soul to her work and life. Renée has been seen on television, stage and film, most notably starring in the Academy Award – winning film Ray along side Jamie Foxx and has participated in and co-facilitated many Jam spaces. In 2010 Renée directed and produced Crepe Covered Sidewalks, an award winning feature documentary about her home town of New Orleans and her family's experiences with hurricane Katrina and is beginning pre-production on her next film project.  Currently Renée is teaching yoga privately, composing music for her 2nd album and is performing in and around the Bay area.  She loves flowers, is passionate about social change through art and action and lives in San Francisco with her husband Aaron.


Austin Willacy is a critically acclaimed singer/songwriter who has toured extensively throughout the U.S and Europe as a member of The House Jacks, a multi-award winning a cappella rock band currently featured on The Sing-Off on NBC.  Austin is also the director of ‘Til Dawn, Youth in Arts’ award-winning teen a cappella group and has facilitated over 35 youth retreats.  In addition, he has co-facilitated four Leveraging Privilege for Social Change Jams and one North America Jam for YES! and served on the board of Rainforest Action Network for four years. This is Austin’s 7th year of service on the board of the Freight & Salvage.  He donates his musical talent to a wide range of educational, social and environmental organizations.


Eva Vander Giessen is passionate about building bridges across cultures through storytelling. Eva currently supports the development of Playback Theater in North America with Arts Rising. Originally trained as a somatic therapist, she now performs Playback and consults organizations on storytelling as a mechanism for social change. Eva serves as a member of the Hayward-Ghazni Sister City Committee, and on the board of directors of Afghan Friends Network, an international organization facilitating self-sufficiency and cultural exchange. Eva has performed in dance and theater ensembles across North America and Europe. She is inspired by women who speak up, people who sing, San Francisco neighborhoods, and her friends on the organizing team.  


Aryeh Shell is a community theater artist, popular educator and organizational consultant who has facilitated transformational workshops and creative projects for over a decade throughout the United States and Latin America, with organizations such as Teatro Visión, Art and Revolution, Teatro Trafo, Living Arts Playback Ensemble and EcoViva.  She is currently working with ArtCorps to co-design a certification program in Arts for Social Action and will be rolling out these trainings throughout the world. She was the Cultural Activism Director for an immigrant rights organization for five years and founder of the Herstories Project, a multi-cultural theater project for self-identified women to speak their truth and honor their ancestral legacies. She is a budding tango and flamenco dancer, long-time massage therapist, loves to cook, garden, write poetry, practice mindfulness, listen deep and live loud.



Melanie Ida Chopko is an illustrator, musician and graphic recorder living in Oakland, California, Her compositions and creations blur the line between artist, musician and storyteller, performer and audience, and pull from the traditions of Appalachia, Brazil and Northern Soul. A graduate of Eugene Lang College, The New School, Melanie holds an interdisciplinary degree in systems thinking and visual art, and is fascinated by Chinese medicine. Can she check your tongue?



Shilpa Jain is currently rooting herself in Oakland/Berkeley, CA, where she serves as the Executive Director of YES!.  Prior to taking on this role, Shilpa spent two years as the Education and Outreach Coordinator of Other Worlds and ten years as a learning activist with Shikshantar: The Peoples’ Institute for Rethinking Education and Development, based in Udaipur, India, where she served as coordinator of the Swapathgami (Walkouts-Walkons) Network.  Shilpa has facilitated dozens of transformative leadership gatherings in India, Jordan, Senegal, Lebanon, Egypt, Thailand, Canada, Peru, and the US, working with hundreds of young leaders from over 50 countries. She is passionate about cooperative games, dance and music, organic and natural farming, upcycling and zero waste living, asking appreciative questions and being in community.


Costs of Attending

The tuition for the program, room and board is $700. Nutritious, local, seasonal and mostly organic food is included!



It also includes childcare for parent artivists to participate. Please let us know your needs in this regard, so we can figure out the best way to meet them.



We never want money to be a barrier in participating in a Jam, so we will do everything we can to make it work for you to attend.


Some partial scholarships and work trades may be available. Additional donations above the event price are welcome and help us provide scholarships to support the broad spectrum of participation on which this event thrives (they are also tax-deductible).


We would love for you to apply to join us at the first-ever Arts for Social Change Jam! You can apply online here! For more information or a doc version of the application, please contact: artivistjam2013@gmail.com





What some of the Jamily have shared about their experience…


“Before I was in a Jam.  Now, I’m spreading the Jam”

 Cameron Campbell, 29, Beatboxer/Sound Healer, Sunnyvale, CA


I love the dear friendships and network of support that have been with me since the first Jam I attended in 2001. The people I met at Jams have become advisors, board members, funders, collaborative partners, and among my closest friends… I appreciate the safe space created at Jams that allows each person to take risks at their own pace and in doing so empower one another to take greater risks in our own lives and work.”

–  Kavitha Rao, 35, Cofounder of Common Fire Foundation, Tivoli, New York


“I am deeply grateful for the shared visions that have lead this incredible group of people together in this magical location for a week. I have gained insight into other communities to which I’ve never been, but also into myself, my community, and my reasons for wanting to change the world I walk through every day, the world I visit when I travel, and the world I read about, watch, and listen to in the media. Thank you for broadening my perspective and opening my heart even wider.”

– Austin Willacy, 35, Singer/Songwriter & Youth Mentor, Berkeley, CA


“(The Jam was) a time to question, pull off masks, center myself, be inspired, and love. I have never been surrounded by so many incredible young people who live and breathe their radical center. I felt gently and safely yet firmly and fiercely moved through an experience of reconnection with myself and a community of social changemakers for justice. The Jam brought me into focus for myself and the work I am doing in the world.”

– Lisl Schoepflin, 24, Panta Rhea, Bay Area, CA


“Blessed to witness such a powerful example of people coming together and cultivation enough love to hold the hard conversations and interactions necessary for change. The Jam has given me renewed energy and a deeper sense of my own strength and vision moving forward. I have witnessed sweet expressions of love and concrete examples of the work it takes to be in community working towards justice with one another. I am so excited to carry back all the love and learning from the Jam to my loved ones, friends and family, the young people who I spend my days with and my community as a whole. I am honoured to be part of the Jamily.”

– Jessie Workman, 28, Youth Shelters, Santa Fe, NM


"The North America Jam has filled me up, inspired me, cared for me, and connected me deeper with my heart. I can unequivocally say that the world needs more of YES! The world needs more safe spaces to process trauma and pain, and more circles of understanding, dancing and celebrating. The Jam experience showed me what is possible, the magic that can happen when a group comes together, with intention and purpose and allows each group member to be fully seen and cared for, getting what they need: Love.”

–  Dan Jubelier, 19, Generation Waking Up and Tufts University student, Boston, MA