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Kennedy Center Announces 2019-2020 Citizen Artist Fellows

Kennedy Center Announces 2019-2020 Citizen Artist Fellows

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts announces the 2019-2020 cohort of Citizen Artist Fellows, a curated group of artists who use their artistic practice to create positive social impact. Now in its fourth year, the Citizen Artists Fellow program recognizes a 2019-2020 class of eight change-makers representing every region of the country. Through a year-long engagement with the Center, Citizen Artist Fellows receive a national platform to advance their work, performance and career development opportunities, and mentorship from Kennedy Center leadership.

Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellows are chosen through a competitive nomination process and represent the artistic, geographic, and cultural diversity of America. The 2019-2020 Fellows:

  • David "Olmeca" Barragon (Los Angeles, California), a hip hop artist, producer, and activist whose bilingual music reflects his history working on human rights issues.
  • Sky Cubacub (Chicago, Illinois), artist, designer, and leader of Rebirth Garments, a clothing line created for people on the full spectrum of gender, size, and ability.
  • Mark Gonzales (Los Angeles, California), a poet, writer, and futurist reshaping ideas of what is socially possible through strategic storytelling.
  • Alysia Lee (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), singer, arts education advocate, and founder and artistic director of Sister Cities Girlschoir, working to empower girls through comprehensive choral training.
  • Emily Marks (Memphis, Tennessee), artist, advocate, and founder and director of Lionheart Live Arts & Youth Theatre, dedicated to reinvigorating performance for youth and communities.
  • Yvonne Montoya (Tucson, Arizona), dancer, choreographer, and founding director of Safos Dance Theatre whose work is inspired by the language, cultures, and aesthetics of the Southwest.
  • Christina Soriano (Winston-Salem, North Carolina), a dancer and professor researching how improvisational dance can improve brain and body health in older adults.
  • Mi'Jan Celie Tho-Biaz, Ed.D (Santa Fe, New Mexico), an oral historian and documentarian using the power of narrative as a transformative tool for social change.

"We looked for exceptional artists from across the nation who embody President Kennedy's legacy and ideals," said Mario Rossero, Senior Vice President of Education. "They work in multiple art forms and come from communities both large and small, but our Citizen Artists all use the arts as a powerful tool for change. The Kennedy Center is honored to play a role in uplifting these artists, as well as advancing their collective impact as a cohort. Our intention is that this Recognition Program takes Citizen Artist Fellows on a journey of investigation, activation, and participation."

The 2019-2020 Citizen Artists Fellows begin their tenure on Monday, April 29 at the Arts Summit, the Kennedy Center's annual convening that brings together artists, change-makers, and thought leaders from across disciplines to discuss how arts and creativity can address critical issues and positively impact society (please see here for more information on Arts Summit). On-site convenings like the Arts Summit and the Citizen Artist Fellows Retreat are valuable touchpoints throughout the year for the Fellows, as the conversations, ideas, and relationships built during these opportunities will shape their current and future work.

The Citizen Artist Fellow program was launched in 2016 as part of the Center's celebration of President John F. Kennedy's legacy and his ideals of courage, freedom, justice, service, and gratitude-enduring principles that guide Citizen Artists' work. The program recognizes emerging artists across the country who use their artistic practice to promote dialogue and affect change within communities. Past Citizen Artist Fellows include violinist and social justice advocate Vijay Gupta, visual artist and community arts educator Michelle Angela Ortiz, and rapper and poet Omar Offendum. Fellows have access to a host of Kennedy Center artists and staff experts to support their ambitions. Additionally, they receive a platform for their work, including opportunities for performances and exhibitions at the Kennedy Center and beyond. In return, the Citizen Artists enrich the Kennedy Center community by sharing their individual artist perspectives and serving as advisors to the Center on new trends, issues, and audiences.

For more information about the Kennedy Center Arts Summit and the Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellow Recognition, please visit

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