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Arts for Social Change Jam 2016


APPLY today!

We invite you to the 2016 Arts for Social Change Jam, a creative gathering for people working at the intersection of arts and social change to come together, reflect, share our challenges and breakthroughs, nurture ourselves, support and inspire each other, figure out ways to be more financially sustainable, find intersections for future collaborations, and build a more resilient network of artist-activists (artivists).


What is the Arts for Social Change Jam?

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

The Jam works on 3 three levels:

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  1. On the personal level, it is an open space 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, eat nourishing food, unlearn our fears and blocks, access our hearts, and open our minds to move more boldly in the world.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.


 “This work is so needed in these times. Bringing levity to the misery, courage to face the fears, love to confront the hate…these tools are what the world needs now more than ever, especially those of us trying to change it.”

– Jayeesha Dutta, 37, Multi-Disciplinary artists,  Cultural Organizer and Entrepreneur, Mind Power Collective, New Orleans, Louisiana


arts jam 2015_150708_4883_AeronMillerPhotoEvery Jam is an open space for the gifts and needs of the people that show up to emerge. When a number of Jam alumni hosted Arts for Social Change Jams in 2013, 2014, and 2015 we explored some of the following questions. This year, we anticipate deepening into them and adding yours!


  • What is my story as an artist?
  • How are we to be sustainable and valued for our artistic gifts?
  • What does success look like for artivists? Where am I challenged as an artivist? What does it even mean to be an artivist?
  • How do we collaborate as artivists across mediums, modalities, and issue focuses?
  • How do we create an enduring support network of people using their creative passions for social change?
  • How do our diverse identities relate to us as artists and as activists, and how do we build bridges across those identities with each other?
  • What feels like the purpose and value of artist-activists in these particular times?



“I attended my first Jam in 2006 and my life was changed… This Arts Jam was just as transformational. I feel like I’ve been to the mountaintop. Once again I had the honor of meeting diverse souls who shared my calling – Artivism! I leave this experience rejuvenated and grounded. I was given space to think, to plan, to question, to create and release.”

– Monica Raye Simpson, 34, Executive Director, Sister Song, Atlanta, Georgia


Who comes 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:


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  • Artistic Modalities: Musicians, Dancers, Visual Artists, Filmmakers, Creative Facilitators, Writers, etc.
  • “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’);
  • 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.)


“I could not have asked for a more nurturing and inspiring group… Thank you for creating a safe space for so many voices to speak their hopes, passions, struggles, pain and shame… I believe the Jam was a micro example of what should be possible at a macro level: nurturing, slow pace, warmth, abundant love and affection.”

– Shanti Ganesh, 41, PhD, research on creativity and resilience, UC Berkeley, California



Who is organizing and facilitating the 2016 Arts for Social Change Jam?

We are lucky to have an amazing team of organizers and facilitators for this year’s Jam:


Eva VG HGSC 2012

Eva Vander Giessen is passionate about storytelling as a force to put compassion into action. Originally trained as a therapist and performing artist, she is now Creative Director with MEET, bringing together Israeli and Palestinian youth through technology and entrepreneurship. Eva serves on the board of Afghan Friends Network and is active in the Playback Theater network in North America. Eva has performed in ensembles across North America and Europe, and is in awe of her “Jamily”. Her passion for the nexus of arts and peacebuilding continues to get her in and out of the best kinds of trouble around the world.






Renee' WilsonRenée 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 veteran member of The House Jacks, a 5-man all vocal band with whom he has produced 10 full-length albums and completed multiple world tours. For the past 18 years, Austin has directed ‘Til Dawn, Youth in Arts’ award-winning teen a cappella group that empowers youth to find their voices in many ways.  Austin is also an award-winning singer/­songwriter with 4 CD’s and 2 EP’s to his name.  His music is soulful and raucous, tender and comic.  Austin’s music has been featured on “The Sing Off”, “Road Rules”, an Australian ad campaign and three feature film soundtracks.  He’s appeared in Rolling Stone and has performed with icons such as Bonnie Raitt and up and coming artists like Jem, Vienna Teng, Rachael Yamagata and Amos Lee.  He’s an organizer and facilitator for YES! and a former board member for Rainforest Action Network.  He even has a side career in soundalike singing voiceovers for games including Guitar Hero and Karaoke Revolution, Austin is a renaissance man. But, who cares about all that? Because what really matters is what Bonnie Raitt told him, “You can really F*ckin sing!”




M_photoMarielle Amrhein is a dancer, social justice educator, writer and counselor originally from New York, but now living and loving in Oakland, California. She has worked extensively doing community-building and peacebuilding through the arts for youth in underserved communities in San Francisco Bay Area, New York City, and New Delhi with the organizations Global Kids, American India Foundation, Katha, Stepping Stones Project, and Interchange, and is currently the Executive Director of the Berrett-Koehler Foundation supporting intergenerational leadership development. She has participated and created dance performances addressing issues of incarceration, environmental justice, immigrant rights, and celebrating the feminine. Marielle finds deep joy and truth in supporting our personal healing, so that we may contribute more fully to our world. She lives with her beloved husband and new babe and is fond of mountaineering, yoga, running, cooking, biking, traveling and reading.



Aeron Miller graduated in ’07 with a BA degree in Photography and Spanish American Studies from Mills College. While in college Aeron studied painting and photography in Barcelona Spain where thru her investigation of the Gypsy culture thru photojournalism, she began to see the power and potential her artwork could have in educating and inspiring change.  She also Co-Founded and is Artistic Director of Beyond Fire Tribe (recipient of the Dr. Leland & Sally Lewis Performing Arts Award), a Northern California based collaborative performing arts troupe which brings together fire, dancers, musicians, aerial, and acrobatics, to create entertaining, educational, and community building performances.  She has served on the Board of Directors for the South Yuba River Citizen’s League and her photographs from Brazil were recently featured online and in the book, ‘Walk Out, Walk On’ by Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze of the Berkana Institute.



305278_10150359822245140_747470139_10190432_242988494_nShilpa 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.



IMG_6044If Nandita’s background were a dance, it might look like the jitterbug; all over the floor, sometimes upside down, yet always full of passion. Her need for creativity, heart for community, and insistence on impact has weaved her through nonprofits, schools, community art spaces, step teams, and the delightful terrains of others’ imaginations. She spent the last few years as a teacher in schools for under-resourced children in Boston and India, as a curatorial assistant at Elsewhere Museum, and as a community manager for Idealist.org. She now teaches independently in New York City while working on her writing, dance, artivism, and on being a whole, true, loving human. Nandita is deeply invested in the ways that art, healing, belonging, justice, empowerment, and innovation intersect. Through her work, she aims to sink further into those intersections in order to advocate for them in the social sector.



Cameron CampbellCameron Campbell, otherwise known as Kamran Khan and MC Eucalips, is a beatboxer, drummer, musical minstrel and sound healer. He is the founder and CEO of Beatbox Without Borders. He is deeply rooted in using humanly produced sound, and sound in general to create transformative experiences for individuals and societies. He was born and raised in India and Indonesia, into a family with a missionary past, but his ancestors are Scottish highlanders on his father’s side, and Tasmanian tradesmen on his mother’s side. He also has a background in social entrepreneurship, solar energy, experiential education, WordPress webdesign, spontaneity and existential wanderlust. He lives on earth….sometimes.




Location, Travel and Costs of Attending

arts jam 2015_150709_0653_AeronMillerPhotoThe Arts for Social Change Jam will take place at the Ben Lomond Quaker Center, near Santa Cruz, CA. Participants will share rooms in doubles and triples, and delight in delicious and nutritious primarily vegetarian food for the Jam.


Travel costs are the responsibility of the participants, though we will help in arranging carpools from the Bay Area and nearby airports, like San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland.


The tuition for the program is $800 which breaks down into $375 for lodging, food, and local transport and $425 for program (materials, childcare, stipends for organizers and facilitators).


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. We also can create a monthly payment plan that works for you. 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).


If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to write to us at <artandsocialchangejam[at]gmail.com>



APPLY here!


We cannot wait to JAM with you!

Austin, Aeron, Eva, Marielle, Renee’, Shilpa, Cameron, and Nandita



Arts for Social Change Jam 2015 Participants!

Participants from other Jams sharing their experience…

“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


“Because art might be the most powerful healing force we have, along with its partner, love, I am massively grateful as an artist to have had this chance to discover, network, brainstorm new work, heal old wounds, meet amazing talent who shared their big brains, courageous hearts and powerful gifts every day.”

– Ruth Kirschner, 69, Playwright, San Francisco, 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, Co-founder, Santa Fe Museum of Languages, Santa Fe, NM


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graphic by Nancy Margulies