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Cultural Space Ambassadors

Project Status: In Operation

A body of artists and cultural workers influencing how cultural space is preserved in Oakland by leveraging existing community knowledge to cultivate a thriving arts sector. The CSAs serve as a channel for CAST to stay connected to the many community organizations across the neighborhoods in which we work.

2018-19 cohort of CSAs meet at Oakstop.

2018-19 CSA Co-Facilitator Katherin Canton. Photo by Together Pictures

CSA Chi Chi Okonmah presents at "Our Stories, Our Spaces", December 2019.

Creating A Network

Beginning in 2018, the The Cultural Space Ambassadors (CSA) initiative was formed to influence how cultural space is preserved, created, and reimagined in Oakland, comprised of artists and cultural workers from various niches within the cultural ecosystem. CAST created the CSA program in direct response to community feedback and requests for more peer-to-peer networking opportunities on the issue of arts & culture real estate and rapid displacement. The CSA program provides a forum for knowledge-exchange and relationship building that allows artists and cultural workers to determine the most pressing concerns/questions for them and how they would like to address those concerns/questions as a networked body.

As representatives of their respective work, as well as for CAST’s work to secure & steward space in Oakland, CSAs are neighborhood leaders using their community knowledge to cultivate a healthier, thriving arts sector.

CAST Director of Community Engagement Tyese Wortham and co-facilitator Katherin Canton engage the Cultural Space Ambassadors in their first discussions at the kick-off meeting in December 2018.



The Ambassadors

CSA Pam Mei Harrison and CAST Director of Community Engagement Tyese Wortham at “Our Stories, Our Spaces”, an event organized by the CSAs in December 2019. Photo by Together Pictures

In the first 2018-2019 cohort, 11 artists and cultural workers interested in creating and preserving space in Oakland explored innovative solutions to run their operations and secure long-term space, while disseminating new models to the broader arts ecosystem through their existing networks. This body was instrumental in shaping CAST’s real estate efforts in Oakland by co-designing the next iteration of Keeping Space – Oakland (KSO).


In its second 2020-2021 cohort, the CSAs gathered a new set of 11 emerging, mid-career, and established BIPOC artists and cultural workers whose work explores innovative space preservation models. Their expertise ranged from mural-making, movement, and textiles to Afro-futurist prototyping, fundraising, and organizing to heritage & traditional culture practices, native arts and culture, and more. CSAs represent the Oakland arts ecosystem across artistic disciplines, geography, business models, space type, ownership status, leadership status (including new & emergent voices), Oakland rootedness, and demography.


Our Voice, Our Future

Our Voice, Our Future spotlights both the individual and collective efforts of the 2020-2021 Cultural Space Ambassadors (CSAs) on the preservation of the cultural soul of Oakland and the restoration of cultural infrastructure for this vibrant city on the Bay. Led by Cultural Strategists Chi Chi Okonmah and Elena Serrano, former alumni of the 2018-2019 CSA cohort, the 2020-2021 CSA cohort built upon the work of the first CSAs in Our Stories, Our Spaces, shifting into a collective and purely artist/cultural worker-led approach to cultural space preservation, creation, and reimagination.

Our Voice, Our Future began in early July featuring the Cultural Strategists and continued through the month with individual spotlights on each CSA culminating in an outdoor closing event on July 18, 2021.

Explore their profiles highlighting the individual and collective work of the CSA network.

Tyese Wortham

Director of Community Engagement


Artists and arts organizations have told us of their urgent need for help. Originally focused on arts nonprofits, Keeping Space – Oakland is exploring ways to better assist this wide-ranging network of artists, artist collectives, and arts enterprises, and to support them to thrive in Oakland’s challenging commercial real estate environment. With the Bay Area’s escalating commercial rental costs, Keeping Space – Oakland investments are timely and crucial to ensure Oakland’s cultural character remains amidst rapid change.