Cultural Trailblazers

DCA’s mission is to strengthen the quality of life in the City of Los Angeles by stimulating and supporting arts leaders. A new method for DCA to promote the social and economic impact of the arts is through distinguishing regional innovators as Cultural Trailblazers. These peer-selected artists have been chosen for their contribution to the community and caliber of their work.

We will be featuring the work of these artists weekly on this page and on our social media channels.

Roxanne Steinberg

Roxanne Steinberg dances to transcend familiar vocabularies and bring about a heightened sense of perception, connectivity and flow of primordial associations. A graduate of Bennington College, she has led Body Weather training in Los Angeles since 1988. She has performed worldwide, solo, with her partner Oguri, sister Morleigh Steinberg and with composers and musicians Yas-Kaz, Paul Chavez, Kenta Nagai, Tatsuya Nakatani, Leon Mobley, Myra Melford, Alex Cline, Pheeroan Aklaff, Motoko Honda, Will Salmon, and dancers Min Tanaka and Amagatsu of Sankai Juku and artists Hirokazu Kosaka, Carole Kim and Bill Viola. Her solos have been presented at the REDCAT, Dance Conversations at the Flea, NY, the Basilica in Hudson NY and in Flower of the Season, the dance series she co-directs at the Electric Lodge. She has led workshops at Cal Arts, UCLA, Bennington College and choreographed works for Cal State LA and Body Vox in Portland. In Spring 2017, she danced the role of Pearl in Danny Ezralow’s production, Pearl, in China. She is engaged in Lauren Bon’s art practice at the Metabolic Studio. Grants: Department of Cultural Affairs Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Arts Commission, Durfee Foundation. She is an artist-in-residence and based at the Electric Lodge in Venice since 1997.

Alexis Zoto

Alexis Zoto’s work is inspired by her Albanian Orthodox heritage and her experiences as a woman, artist, educator, wife, and mother. Her art deals with themes of acculturation and feminism. Often she pairs stories from antiquity with family lore to create works that manifest themselves as contemporary baroque assemblages or works on paper. Her most recent work draws from research on motifs from traditional Albanian kilims (flat woven rugs).
Alexis Zoto has shown widely in Los Angeles, as well as nationally and internationally. Her site specific installations have been exhibited at a wide range of venues from the Venice Biennale in Italy to the Tom Bradley International Terminal at the Los Angeles International Airport.
Alexis Zoto was born in Philadelphia, PA and currently lives and works in Los Angeles, California. She is currently an Associate Professor at the University of Southern California Gayle Garner Roski School of Art and Design.

Banafsheh Sayyad

Banafsheh Sayyad is a Persian dance artist and transformational teacher. She communicates mystical concepts in a passionate yet meditative way, invoking the ancient roots of dance as devotion, celebration, and prayer while blazing a unique trail in contemporary dance with a masterly fusion of high-level dance technique and spiritual embodiment.

She is one of the few bearers of authentic Persian dance in the world, an innovator of Sufi dance previously only performed by men and a pioneer in contemporary Persian dance. Internationally known for her innovative movement vocabulary and high artistic standards, she draws from her extensive background in Sufism, Persian dance, Tai Chi and flamenco to present a new form, rooted in tradition yet universal.

Banafsheh comes from a long lineage of pioneering performing artists. Her father is the legendary Iranian filmmaker, writer, theater director, and actor Parviz Sayyad.

She holds a Masters of Fine Arts in Dance from UCLA where she taught Persian dance. Also a Doctor of Chinese Medicine, she is interested in uncovering healing aspects of movement. Banafsheh’s award-winning work has been presented in North America, Europe, and Australia where she has gained a tremendous audience and critical acclaim. Her dance film with renowned mystic and scholar, Andrew Harvey, In the Fire of Grace, traces Rumi’s journey of the Soul in dance.

Her teaching is considered “life-changing”. She has created a healing, Spirit-based dance modality called Dance of Oneness® which she teaches around the world, guiding people to find themselves and their sense of sovereignty through dance with movements that enable them to transform their incongruities and live the sacred in everyday life. A certification program, Dance of Oneness® is dance as a spiritual path and science of embodiment—a joyful, loving and contemplative way to embody Spirit and live freely, peacefully, passionately and of service in the world, dedicated to sacred activism in the sociopolitical sphere. Operating in 3 dimensions: the art of dance, rigorous technique and self-expression; wisdom teachings; and healing; Dance of Oneness® is based in Sufi ritual and whirling, flamenco, Persian and Modern dance, Tai chi and Chi gong. Sufi teachings and the poetry of Rumi, Divine Feminine wisdom, the Gurdjieff Work, Chinese Medicine and the Chakra system are the theoretical groundwork.

Banafsheh lives in Playa Del Rey and performs and teaches across North America, Europe, and Turkey at famous retreat centers like Esalen, Omega, Kripalu, Menla, Multiversity, Schweibenalp Center of Unity and Hollyhock to name a few as well as institutions like CalArts and the Dance Center of Columbia College. Look for her international workshops as well as local ones in the Los Angeles area in 2018 in addition to online sessions. She teaches people of all ages, culture, and background in dance and movement – from absolute beginners to the very advanced to embody and empower their true Self with the motto, “don’t be limited by your limitations!” She is currently working on her book, Dance of Oneness which will be published in late 2018.
Visit www.banafsheh.org

Dan Levenson

Deeply rooted in an overarching conceptual theme, the paintings of Los-Angeles based artist Dan Levenson connect to both art historical tradition and fantasy. “My work illustrates the story of the fictional State Art Academy, Zurich (SKZ), located in an imaginary Switzerland in a generic modernist past. The objects I make, student painting storage lockers, desks, chairs, drawing horses, aprons, etc., are artifacts rescued from the ruins of the school. When I paint, I follow the school’s strict formalist pedagogy, geometrically dividing metrically sized canvases to create black and white abstract compositions, later adding color. I expand on the story through performance, installation, and video.”

Visit danlevenson.com

dan Levenson Cultural Trailblazer

Wakana Kimura

Born in Japan and graduated from the Tokyo University of the Arts with a BFA, Wakana Kimura moved to the United States in 2007 and graduated the Otis College of Arts and Design in Los Angeles with MFA in 2011.

Recently, Kimura was commissioned by Zenshuji Soto Mission to create the Nehanzu: Parinirvana painting, chosen to be the artist fellow of the TAF (The Artist First) foundation, and 2017-2019 Mural Artist from DCA (Department of Cultural Affairs) City of Los Angeles. Her exhibition was held in the Pomona College Museum of Art, at the LA Art Core, and the Brand Library & Art Center. She has exhibited throughout Japan and the United States.
Visit wakanakimura.com

Wakana Kimura CHARACTER part 2011 © Wakana

Neha Choksi

Neha Choksi makes work in various media, including performance, video, sculpture, photo, sound, and hybrid installations. Often her work explores how we seek, experience and acknowledge absentings and transformations in material, temporal and psychological terms. Increasingly her work includes her own intellectual, cultural and social contexts to explore loss, transience and change as a continual shedding of old selves and experiences concomitant with the creation and renewal of new ones. She does this by setting up simple situations and memorable interventions, disrupting logic to open a space for poetry, absurdity, humor, surprise and existential insight. Choksi’s work has been exhibited worldwide in galleries, museums, festivals, film screenings, and are in notable public and private collections. A recent institutional solo exhibition of her work was mounted at the Hayward Gallery Project Space, London (2015), and another is forthcoming at the Manchester Art Gallery (2017). Several new commissions include work for the 20th Biennale of Sydney (2016), Los Angeles Museum of Art (LAMOA) at Occidental College (2017), Dhaka Art Summit (2018), 18th Street Arts Center (2018), and the University Art Museum, California State University, Long Beach (2019). Her work has been shown at the Office of Contemporary Art Oslo, Spencer Museum, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, the Frestas Sorocaba Triennale, Whitechapel Gallery, the Shanghai Biennale, the Asia Pacific Triennial at the Queensland Art Gallery, Kristianstads Konsthall, the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, John Hansard Gallery in Southampton, Wanås Foundation, Khoj, and the Khoj Performance Festivals in Delhi, among others. Additionally, her work has been selected twice for the Sculpture Park at the Frieze Art Fair, London, and was included in the 10th Venice Architecture Biennale. She was recently honored with the India Today 2017 Award for the Best New Media Artist of the Year and with the designation of 2017/2018 Cultural Trailblazer by the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs. She serves as the 2017-2018 Regional Representative for the Annual CAA Conference Committee. Choksi is on the editorial board of the X-TRA, a contemporary arts journal published in Los Angeles. Her work is represented by Project 88. She lives and works in Los Angeles and Mumbai.

Neha Choksi DCA Cultural Trailblazer

Ser Anzoategui

Ser Anzoategui is non-binary playwright/solo performer/artivist/actor/producer from Los Angeles with Gender pronouns: ‘They/Them/Theirs.
Transnational storyteller, embodying gender border crossings by the seconds, this playwright/performer creates a world where the audience is a full sensory participant; creating rituals/queering them to share message.

Most known for their solo show, ¡Ser!, a Queer transnational solo theatre soccer show spectacle. ¡Ser! garnered 5 LA Weekly Nominations (including Best Solo Performer), two LA Weekly awards, and multiple raving reviews.
Ser’s second solo about queer and trans topics, Catholic School Daze, sold out in theatres throughout Los Angeles and universities. Karen’s solo work led to their casting in a guest star role in the Emmy nominated original HULU series East Los High, Season 3 & 4.

Ser Anzoategui

Chiwan Choi

Chiwan Choi is the author of 3 collections of poetry, The Flood (Tía Chucha Press), Abductions (Writ Large Press), and The Yellow House (Civil Coping Mechanisms). He wrote, presented, and destroyed the novel Ghostmaker throughout the course of 2015. He is also Editor at the arts and culture blog, Cultural Weekly. Chiwan is a partner at Writ Large Press, a LA based indie publisher, focused on using literary arts to resist, disrupt, and transgress.

Visit chiwanchoi.com

chiwan 001

Neel Agrawal

Neel Agrawal is a multi-percussionist based in Los Angeles performing with leading artists in a wide range of musical contexts. He plays tabla, drum set and various percussion instruments from around the world.

Neel was recently recognized as an inaugural 2017-18 “Cultural Trailblazer” by the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs for his work in bridging cultures through world music. In 2016, Neel was selected to participate in “Celebrate the Connections”, an urban arts and education tour of India sponsored by the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, coordinated by Cultural Vistas in New York.

He completed a fellowship at the Harvard Library Innovation Lab for his groundbreaking research on African Drumming Laws. Additionally, Neel was the section leader of the Michigan State University Drumline, where he received two national tenor drumming awards from Percussive Arts Society.

Visit Neel’s website.

Neel Agrawal

Meg Wolfe

Meg Wolfe is a choreographer, performer, curator, producer, and dance instigator. She has been making collaborative dance and performance works as well as visual objects in Los Angeles since 2004. She is the founder and director of Show Box L.A.; and most recently, opened the studio, we live in space.

Wolfe’s first curatorial project was the roving low-tech performance series, Anatomy Riot (2005-2012). There were very few dance-­based alternatives at that time, and AR became a meeting place for artists to share their explorations and a destination for audiences seeking innovative work. Started in the back room of a sushi bar, Anatomy Riot grew and moved around town to theaters, lofts, warehouses and ballrooms, and presented the work of over 250 local and visiting artists. Wolfe was also co-founder & co-editor of itch dance journal (2006-2013); and organized Dancebank, a series of collectively-run classes and workshops (2007-2011).

In 2009, Wolfe formed Show Box L.A., platform for dance experiments in LA. Since its inception, SBLA has fostered the development and production of over 100 works, brought visiting artists to perform and teach, offered dance residencies, and connected artists with each other and new audiences along the West Coast.

In 2016, seeking a home base for making her own work, Wolfe opened the storefront studio, we live in space. The studio has already served as rehearsal space and creative hub for over 80 local and visiting artists.

As a choreographer, her most recent full-evening work, “New Faithful Disco” was a 2016 National Performance Network (NPN) Creation Fund and Forth Fund Project co-commissioned by REDCAT, Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA), DiverseWorks, Z Space, and NPN; and was noted in Artforum’s “Best of 2016 – The Year in Performance”. The creation of NFD was supported through development and technical residencies at REDCAT; Performance Works NorthWest Alembic Residency; UCLA World Arts & Culture/Dance Hothouse Residency; Show Box LA with support from the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts; and a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant.

Wolfe began making dance works in 1992, presenting in NYC venues such as Dance Theater Workshop, Danspace Project at St. Mark’s, Dia Center for the Arts, The Kitchen, The Living Theater, Movement Research at Judson Church, Nuyorican Poets Café, and others. Locally, Wolfe has appeared at the FRESH Festival, Bootleg Theater, Live Arts Exchange Festival, the New Original Works Festival at REDCAT, Confusion is Sex #3, HomeLA, Luis de Jesus Gallery, Off Center Festival/Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Sea and Space Explorations, Anatomy Riot, Highways Performance Space, and others. She has danced in the works of Vicky Shick (1999-2003); as well as in projects by Jerome Bel, Molissa Fenley, Clarinda Mac Low, and Susan Rethorst.

Awards include support from the National Performance Network Creation Fund, Center for Cultural Innovation and Durfee Foundation ARC Grants, CHIME, the Danspace Project Commissioning Initiative and Meet the Composer; and by residencies at REDCAT, Performance Works NorthWest, multiple residencies at the Djerassi Resident Artist’s Program, and the Hothouse program at UCLA, among others.

Elana Mann

Elana Mann (b. 1980, Boston, MA) has presented her artwork in city parks, museums, galleries, and buses including: the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; Commonwealth & Council, Los Angeles; Ben Maltz Gallery, Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles; REDCAT, Los Angeles; The Ford Foundation, New York; The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.; A Gentil Carioca, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; The Getty Villa, Los Angeles; LA Metro Freewaves project; and the Lu Xun Academy of Fine Arts, Shenyang, China. She is involved with numerous collaborative/collective endeavors and most recently organized Chats About Change with Robby Herbst, a series of grass-roots conversations with artists involved in creative social change. She is a recipient of awards from the California Community Foundation, the Center for Creative Innovation, and the Rema Hort Mann Foundation. Her projects have been covered by Artforum, the Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, NPR, O Globo, El País, La República, and X-Tra Magazine, among others. Her writing has been published in periodicals and books such as Afterall journal, Art 21, and In the Canyon, Revise the Canon. She received her BFA with honors from Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO and her MFA from California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA. Mann lives in South Pasadena with her partner and son.

Visit elanamann.com

Elana Mann

Amir H. Fallah

Amir H. Fallah was born in Tehran, Iran in 1979. He received his BFA from Maryland Institute College of Art in 2001 and his MFA from University of California Los Angeles in 2005. Fallah’s artistic oeuvre encompasses painting, photography, sculpture, and installation combined with a visual vocabulary that includes collage and complex patterning. The works present a critical observation of the deconstruction and appropriation of portraiture in its various forms. Fallah’s practice presents an alternative perspective to entrenched art historical portraiture traditions and the dynamics of modern day art collection and art making. Intertwined with these concerns are his reflections upon identity and personal narrative.Fallah has exhibited widely in exhibits across the United States and internationally. These include Embedded Memories, Mohsen Gallery, Tehran, Iran (2016); The Caretaker, Nerman Museum Of Contemporary Art, Overland Park, KS (2015) ; Perfect Strangers,18th Street Art Center, Santa Monica, CA (2015) ; From The Primitive To the Present, Charlie James Gallery, Los Angeles, CA (2015) ; JOYCE Gallery, Hong Kong (2014); The Collected, The Third Line, Dubai, UAE (2013); The Collected, Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco (2013). His numerous group exhibitions include Illusions of a Perfect Utopia, Walter Maciel Gallery, Los Angeles, California, USA (2014); I’ll Show You Mine, Palo Alto Art Center, Palo Alto, USA (2014), Theory Of Survival: Fabrications, Southern Exposure, San Francisco, USA (2014), Between The Folds, 10 Year Anniversary Show, Gallery Poulsen, Copenhagen, Denmark (2013); SUPERCALLAFRAGILEMYSTICEXTASY -DIOECIOUS, Lancaster Museum of Art and History, California, USA (2013); Show Off, Salsali Private Museum, Dubai, UAE (2011); Amir also participated in the We Must Risk Delight- Twenty Artists From Los Angeles, 56th La Biennale Di Venezia, Venice, Italy (2015) and the 9th Sharjah Biennial, Sharjah, UAE (2009). Fallah is a 2017 recipient of the California Community Foundation Fellowship for Visual arts and a 2015 recipient of the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grant. His works are part of several private and public collections, including the Nerman Museum Of Contemporary Art and the Salsali Private Museum Collection, and the Microsoft CollectionFallah lives and works in Los Angeles, California.

Visit amirhfallah.com.

Steven Reigns

Steven Reigns is a Los Angeles-based poet and educator and was appointed the first Poet Laureate of West Hollywood. Alongside over a dozen chapbooks, he has published the collections Inheritance and Your Dead Body is My Welcome Mat. Reigns holds a BA in Creative Writing from the University of South Florida, a Master of Clinical Psychology from Antioch University, and is an eleven-time recipient of The Los Angeles County’s Department of Cultural Affairs’ Artist in Residency Grant. He edited My Life is Poetry, showcasing his students’ work from the first-ever autobiographical poetry workshop for LGBT seniors. Reigns has lectured and taught writing workshops around the country to LGBT youth and people living with HIV. Currently he is touring The Gay Rub, an exhibition of rubbings from LGBT landmarks, facilitates the monthly Lambda Lit Book Club, and is at work on a new collection of poetry.

Visit stevenreigns.com.

LA Poet Steven Reigns Helps LGBTQ Seniors find their voice through poetry. Pictured here is founder of My Life is Poetry workshop. His students will present their work at The Los Angeles LGBT Center on October 3rd, 2017. – Photo: Evans Vestal Ward. All Rights Reserved.

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