Episode 16: Roberto Bedoya

(un)making

Episode 16: Roberto Bedoya

By Weston Teruya September 8, 2017

Weston Teruya welcomes artists, arts administrators, and cultural workers of color to get real about their lives, practices, and careers. Each episode is an in-depth look into how art gets made, but more importantly how these folks are seeing to the system of art’s (UN)making.


In this episode we talk with writer, self-described “arts policy wonk,” and City of Oakland Cultural Affairs Manager Roberto Bedoya. Roberto is a vocal champion of cultural equity and inclusion in the arts and has worked for decades to foster arts and civic engagement projects. Through his work, Roberto often raises questions about how arts policy impacts communities’ sense of belonging and who gets to shape our collective spatial narratives and imaginaries. In recent years, he’s probably best known for his writing that has examined the complications of creative placemaking--a framework that funders and governmental agencies have used to foster a sense of place through arts-based community development. In a recent essay for Creative Time, Bedoya offered the alternate lens of “placekeeping” as a strategy that centers the existing--and often everyday--culturally rooted aesthetic and community-building work of communities of color and the ways these practices speak to a sense of belonging and ownership of space that came long before these new investments. He presents this counterproposal to elevate the people and culture that often has to struggle against displacement, alienation, and the overwriting of their existence once new developments come into a neighborhood with the hope of “making” a place. In our discussion, we talk about what Roberto has learned in his time since joining the City of Oakland Cultural Affairs Department, their current Cultural Planning process, and the importance of humbling yourself to listen and learn when first entering a new community.

We recorded this conversation a few months back, so Roberto described a future cultural planning process that is now underway. A full list of community conversations, both formal and more informal can be found on the City of Oakland Cultural Affairs website here. Those discussions will be in every district, and are key to helping shape the vision for the city’s arts policies moving into the future.

If you’re interested in learning more about Roberto’s work, he’ll be in conversation with artist Lauren Marie Taylor, on Monday, September 11th from 6:30-8:30 at Real Time & Space as part of Lauren’s artist-in-residence talk at RTS. You can also find some of his key writings online, including: “US Cultural Policy: Its politics of participation, Its creative potential” for the National Performance Network; “Placemaking and the Politics of Belonging & Disbelonging” for the Grantmakers In the Arts Reader; and the aforementioned “Spatial Justice: Rasquachification, Race and the City” for Creative Time Reports.

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Prior to joining the City of Oakland as the Cultural Affairs Manger, Roberto Bedoya served for nine years as the executive director of the Tuscon Pima Arts Council where he created the P.L.A.C.E. (People, Land, Arts, Culture and Engagement) Initiative, a civic engagement and placemaking platform that supported artists’ projects addressing critical community issues. He also served as Executive Director of the National Association of Artists' Organizations (NAAO), during the height of the Culture Wars when the organization joined Karen Finley, John Fleck, Holly Hughes, and Tim Miller as co-plaintiffs in filing suit against the NEA. Early in his career, Roberto also served as the Managing Director and Literacy Director at Intersection for the Arts. His chapbook, “The Ballad of a Cholo Dandy,” was published by Chax Press in 2014.

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