Cultural Trailblazers 2020-2021

Cultural Trailblazers 2020-2021 - Julie Weitz looks up to the sky from the interior of her studio. In the background are paintings and a computer screen

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

2019/2020 recipients include:

The 2020-2021 Cultural Trailblazers


Bios below


Portrait of Will AlexanderWill Alexander

Writer, artist, philosopher, and pianist, Will Alexander was born in Los Angeles, California in 1948 and has remained a lifetime resident of the city. He earned a BA in English and creative writing from the University of California–Los Angeles in 1972. Alexander’s books of poetry include Across the Vapour Gulf (2017), Compression & Purity (2011), The Sri Lankan Loxodrome (2009), Asia & Haiti (1995), and The Stratospheric Canticles (1995). He has taught at many colleges and universities, including the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, the University of California, and Hofstra University, among others. His collection Singing In Magnetic Hoofbeat: Essays, Prose, Texts, Interviews, and a Lecture (2013) was awarded an American Book Award. His other honors include a Whiting Fellowship for Poetry, a California Arts Council Fellowship, and the 2016 Jackson Poetry Prize.



A crowd gathers around DCA Cultural Trailblazer Jay Carlon while they lay on a on a bench during a performance piece at Cal State Los Angeles.Jay Carlon

Born and raised on California’s Central Coast, Carlon’s work is inspired by growing up the youngest of 12 in a Filipino, Catholic, and agricultural migrant-working family. In 2016, he formed CARLON. He is committed to connecting his art practice to sustainability and his personal and collective  journey of decolonization.  Jay’s work has been presented in Los Angeles at REDCAT, The Broad Museum, Los Angeles Dance Project, Annenberg Community Beach House, LA Dance Festival, Electric Lodge, Los Angeles Performance Practice, homeLA, and Beach Dances; in New York at 92ndY and The CURRENT SESSIONS; in Phoenix at Breaking Ground Festival; in Monterrey, Mexico at Espacio Expectante; and in Bangkok, Thailand at Creative Migration. Jay is a performer and directing associate with aerial spectacle theatre company Australia’s Sway Pole, where he has performed at the 2014 Olympics, the 2016 World EXPO, and the 2018 Super Bowl. Carlon has also performed with the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center, Palissimo, Oguri, No)one. Art House, and danced for Rodrigo y Gabriela on Jimmy Kimmel Live (choreographed by Annie-B Parson), in Solange Knowles’ art film Metronia (2018) choreographed by Gerard & Kelly, and was appointed Choreographic Associate for Kanye West’s opera, Mary (2019).

Credit: Bench Dance (“Flex” excerpt) photo by Cheryl Mann

DCA Los Angeles Cultural Trailblazer D’Lo, a queer/transgender Tamil-Sri Lankan-American actor/writer/comedian, raises his hand while performing comedyD’Lo

D’Lo is a queer/transgender Tamil-Sri Lankan-American actor/writer/comedian whose work ranges from stand-up comedy, solo theater, plays, films and music production, to poetry and spoken word. He’s been seen on HBO, Amazon, Netflix, and CW. D’Lo is currently in development on a scripted series based on his life that is set up at BTR Media and Paul Feig’s Powderkeg Media. His next solo play To T, or not to T? will be performed at The LGBT Center in October 2019.

His tv/film credits include co-starring in the HBO series LOOKING as Taj, on the Amazon series TRANSPARENT, the Netflix series SENSE 8 and USA’s Mr. ROBOT. In Sundance Fellow Adelina Anthony’s feature-length film BRUISING FOR BESOS he plays the supporting role of Rani. He also appears in various Buzzfeed and Fusion videos, on the web-series EASTSIDERS and DYKE CENTRAL and the Issa Rae/Project Greenlight produced MINIMUM WAGE. His is working on his own web series PRIVATE DICK. He has also been featured in The Guardian, NBC, and The Advocate. The documentary by Crescent Diamond based on D’Lo’s life/work, called Performing Girl, won the best short documentary award at Outfest 2013, and he was part of the Emmy-Nominated mini-doc series THIS IS ME produced by Rhys Ernst and Zackary Drucker.

His work has been awarded grants from the City of Santa Monica, Durfee Foundation, National Performance Network, Ford Foundation and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. As a writer he has been published in various anthologies and academic journals, and he is the creator of the “Coming Out, Coming Home” writing workshop series which have taken place with South Asian and/or Immigrant LGBTQ Organizations nationally, which provide a transformative space for workshop participants to write through their personal narratives and share their truths through a public reading.

A still from DCA Cultural Trailblazer Dana Berman Duff. The bottom of a chair hovers far above a blue ocean.Dana Berman Duff

In 2019 Duff’s large multi-channel video installation titled “What Does She See When She Shuts Her Eyes” (in collaboration with Sabina Ott) was mounted at Aspect Ratio in Chicago and at Alchemy Moving Image Festival in Scotland. Her works in small format film and video have been screened in numerous festivals including the Toronto International Film Festival, International Film Festival Rotterdam, the Biennale de l’Image en Mouvement (Geneva), Edinburgh International Film Festival, ExIS Festival (Seoul), Experiments in Cinema (Albuquerque), Rencontres Internationales (Paris/Berlin), Cairo International Film Festival, Dortmund/Cologne International Women’s Film Festival, San Francisco Cinematheque, and many more. Her recent film, A POTENTIALITY, was awarded an Alice Guy Special Mention at the 2020 FIDMarseille Film Festival. A retrospective of her short films is scheduled in Los Angeles for spring 2021 at REDCAT.

Duff’s sculpture and drawings are included in collections at the Museum of Modern Art, the New Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Brooklyn Museum in New York City, the Carnegie Museum, Pittsburgh, and the Phillips Collection, in Washington D.C., as well as in a number of private collections.

A longtime educator, Duff taught art and experimental film for thirty years at colleges and universities including NYU, Bennington, UCLA, Art Center Pasadena, and for many years at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles where she was founding director of Sculpture/New Genres.

She received her BFA at Cranbrook Academy of Art and MFA at the California Institute of the Arts. She lives and works in Los Angeles and rural Mexico.

Ken Ehrlich

Ken Ehrlich was born in Taos, NM and received a BA from New College of California and an MFA from CalArts. His wide ranging practice in sculpture, photography, video and performance has been presented internationally, including at the California Pacific Triennial at the Orange County Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Hammer Museum and High Desert Test Sites. His writing has been published widely, including mostly recently a text on networks, infrastructure and logistics in Blind Field Journal and a text on networks in Drain Magazine. He co-edited the Surface Tension book series for Errant Bodies Press. He currently hosts the bi-monthly radio show *segments* on KCHUNG Radio and is on the organizing committee of The Public School, Los Angeles. He has taught at UC Irvine, Woodbury University, CalArts and UC Riverside.

David Horvitz

Playful and poetic, the works of David Horvitz, an ocean romantic, based in Los Angeles, California, meddle with the systems of language, time and networks. Eschewing categorization, his expansive nomadic body of work, traversing the forms of photographs, artist books, performances, memes, mail art, sound, rubber stamps, gastronomy, weather, travel, walks, and watercolor, is presented through examining questions of distance between places, people and time in order to test the possibilities of appropriating, undermining or even erasing this distance. Harnessing image, text, object and flows which he mobilises to circulate and operate independently from himself, penetrate ever more effectively the intimate sphere. Left face to face with his works, in the postal system, libraries, and airport lost and found services, even engaged into action, our attention to the infinitesimal, finding loopholes and alternative logics within them, to the minute but important details and to the imaginary comes to the fore. As lullabies imprinted in our head, Horvitz deploys art as both object of contemplation and as viral or systemic tool to effect change on a personal scale. David Horvitz makes fictions that insert themselves surreptitiously into the real. Shifting seamlessly pebbles often possess a naturally frosted finish.

Elizabeth Huey

Elizabeth Huey’s paintings explore human connection and healing. Born from a substratum of expressive paint, the architectural and figural elements in her work hail from a multiplicity of styles and eras. Huey draws imagery from her own photographs as well as an ever expanding collection of found snapshots. Historical research is employed to delve into the complexities of her subjects. Driven to depict the inner motivations of the heroic, Huey’s paintings are portraits of the miraculous. The spatial arrangements and scale shifts support a hypnagogic sense of seeing things from the inside out. One gets the sense that myriad forces are at work in the minds of each protagonist. Ultimately, Huey’s paintings are about remembrance and reconstruction: a totemic reminder of our human capacity to overcome trauma and draw invention and intimacy from catastrophe.

Born in Virginia, Elizabeth Huey earned an MFA from Yale University and a BA in Psychology from George Washington University. She studied painting at both the Marchutz School in Aix-en-Provence, France and the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting, and Sculpture in Manhattan. Huey has exhibited both nationally and internationally, and her work is held in museums and other prominent collections. She has been awarded multiple grants and residencies including the Terra Foundation Residency in Giverny, France, a Johns Hopkins University Travel Fellowship, the Artist Research Fellowship from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., and the Alma B Shapiro Award and Artist Residency from Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, NY. Elizabeth Huey lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.

David Kelley

Kelley produces digital video installations and photography, leveraging experimental documentary and ethnographic techniques to create art that places these practices in dialogue with performance, sculpture and conceptual cinema.” Though some of his work is created in-studio, many of his projects are site-specific, and he has produced films in locations all over the world, including the Three Gorges Dam in China, Manaus in Brazil, rural Laos and Turin, Italy. Each one not only spotlights locally-relevant issues, but weaves them in and out of narrative storytelling, punctuated by surreal sequences that invoke the legacy of avant-garde cinema even as he deals with more practical consequences of modernization and development across the world.

Kelley has exhibited work internationally, including BAK in Utrecht, the Netherlands, deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Massachusetts, the Nanjing Art Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, MAAP in Brisbane, Australia and the Jim Thompson Art Center in Bangkok.

His collaborations with fellow incoming faculty member Patty Chang have earned them both recognition and awards. Their film “Flotsam Jetsam” exhibited at the 2008 New Directors/New Films Festival and won the Golden Pyramid at the Cairo IMFAY Media Arts Festival. Another collaboration, “Route 3,” a three channel video about a recently completed highway in Laos, has been exhibited in venues in Massachusetts, Brisbane, Hong Kong and the Bangkok Experimental Film Festival.

Kelley earned a bachelor’s degree from Trinity College and a MFA from the University of California in Irvine; he is also an alum of the Whitney Museum’s Independent Study Program.

A sculpture by DCA Cultural Trailblazer Kristi Lippire. Two horses made of wire and steel pull a figure of a woman Kristi Lippire

Kristi Lippire is an artist who makes objects that explores scale and content through materiality. Everyday materials are as considered as the subjects she makes her work about and the materials fluctuate with the needs of each artwork. By using ordinary materials (papier-mache, collected earth, etc.) in unusual ways, Lippire can suspend disbelief of how an object is constructed, revealed only through further inquiry. Kristi Lippire lives and works in Los Angeles.

Lippire received her MFA from Claremont Graduate University and BFA from California State University, Long Beach. She has been internationally shown in numerous exhibitions and has participated in a number of artist residencies including Fabrika Projekt in Moscow Russia, a three-week instructional residency in Oaxaca, Mexico learning about natural pigments, their history, cultivation and use. She is currently working on several new bodies of work, one that explores natural pigments and their application to sculpture and a second body of work creating commemorative, female sculpture for famous women of history and today.

Interior of gallery with reflective sculptures by DCA Cultural Trailblazer Shana LutkerShana Lutker

Shana Lutker is a Los Angeles-based artist. Shaped by the archives of psychoanalysis and surrealism, her interdisciplinary work in sculpture, performance, writing and installation foregrounds an unstable relationship between subjects, memory, and history. Recent exhibitions include Current LA:FOOD, the LA public art triennial; Virginia Woolf: an exhibition inspired by her writings at Tate St. Ives; and An Analphabet at Vielmetter Los Angeles. She was included in the Whitney Biennial in 2014 and Performa in 2013, and has had solo exhibitions at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and Perez Art Museum Miami. Her work has been covered in, ArtforumArtilleryBlouin ArtInfoFrieze, HyperallergicLos Angeles Times, and The New York Times, among others. Lutker is the Executive Director of Project X Foundation for Art & Criticism, a nonprofit art organization that publishes the contemporary art quarterly X-TRA, the website, and presents public programs. She received her MFA from UCLA and BA from Brown University.

Duane Paul

Afro-Caribbean Artist – Raised in New York City – Lives in Los Angeles CA. Much of Paul’s  art is process driven, the process of making, physically working and manipulating material is as important as the “finished” piece. The nature of his process and practice is to build layers and layers creating sculptural records documenting exploration of a concern. Through the device of repetition, Paul creates a symbolic language -a code- for establishing and solving the themes the artist is currently exploring. As a multi-medium artist, the methods of his exploration are varied: sculpture, painting, installation and photography, are used/useful modes to extrude and explore themes. 

Elyse Pignolet

Born in Oakland, CA, Elyse Pignolet is an American with Filipino heritage. She studied fine arts at California State University, San Francisco. She continued her studies at California State University, Long Beach, on a CSU exchange program. In 2001 she lived in Madrid and Barcelona, Spain, studying arts and Spanish. She completed her BFA degree at CSU Long Beach in 2007. Her studies included an intensive ceramics exchange through mainland China in 2007, and participation in the International Ceramics Biennal in Korea, also in 2007. Pignolet has conducted extensive research in Portugal, with an emphasis on “azulejo” tile painting techniques, as well as in Mexico City. Pignolet currently is based in Los Angeles, with a studio in San Pedro, CA.



Miguel Reyes

Reyes is a Los Angeles-based portrait and figurative painter, muralist, printmaker and illustrator.  Miguel incorporates expressionist brushwork and a saturated palette in celebration of the classic latin tradition.  Miguel’s accomplishments as a photographer informs the way he creates paintings and prints.  When not working from life, Miguel begins by shooting his own photographs on the street, clubs, in studio and elsewhere. Whether working from life or photos, his pieces always create an intimate connection between subject and viewer.

His art has been exhibited throughout the U.S including – Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Alaska. Miguel has created.  Miguel’s work is in the collections of LACMA print collections, Laguna Art Museum, Watts Towers Arts Center, University of Austin, TX, and Fine Arts gallery Museum, Chicago.

Miguel’s artwork has been published in LA Times magazine, Blue, Chicano and Latino Artist of Los Angeles, and Saludos Hispanos magazine.

Geometric black and white artwork by Laurie Steelink, a member of the Gila River Indian CommunityLaurie Steelink

Multidisciplinary artist Laurie Steelink identifies as Akimel O’otham, and is a member of the Gila River Indian Community. Born in Phoenix, Arizona and raised in Tucson, she received a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute, and an MFA from Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University. She served as archivist for the Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection in New York, and was director of Track 16 Gallery in west L.A. from 2002 to 2016. In 2012, Steelink founded Cornelius Projects, an exhibition space in San Pedro, CA that she named after her father. The curatorial focus at Cornelius Projects is primarily the cultural history and the artists of San Pedro and the Harbor Area. Steelink’s work has been exhibited internationally, and she has participated in Native American Indian Marketplaces at the Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles, and with the Santa Fe Indian Market in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

DCA Cultural Trailblazer Julie Weitz looks up inside of her studio. Behind is a piece of multicolored hands and a screen with a digital art pieceJulie Weitz

Julie Weitz is a Los Angeles based artist whose work spans several media including video, film, performance and installation. Her practice is grounded in Jewish folklore, mysticism, humor and ritual. Weitz also works as a writer, educator and activist.

Weitz earned her MFA in painting at the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 2004 and BFA at the University of Texas, Austin in 2001. From 2004-2013, she was a tenured professor of painting at the University of South Florida. Since 2010, Weitz’s focus has been the production of experimental videos; these videos form the basis for broader immersive experiences, as well as live performances, narrative short films, and public art installations. Such work is presented in galleries and museums, alternative venues, and online.

Photo credit Aaron Farley

DCA Cultural Trailblazer Sholeh Wolpé is an Iranian-born poet, playwright and librettist. Sholeh dances with a turquoise fabric in a dark roomSholeh Wolpé

Sholeh Wolpé is an Iranian-born poet, playwright and librettist. UCLA’s inaugural Writer-in-Residence in 2018, Sholeh is presently the current Writer-in-Residence at UC Irvine. Wolpé is the recipient of the 2014 PEN/Heim, 2013 Midwest Book Award, 2010 Lois Roth Persian Translation prize as well as artist fellowships and residencies in the U.S., Mexico, Spain, Australia and Switzerland. Her most recent books include Keeping Time With Blue Hyacinth (Univ. of Arkansas Press), and The Conference of the Birds (W.W. Norton). Wolpé’s literary work numbers over twelve collections of poetry, books of translations, and anthologies, as well as several plays . She has performed her literary work with world-renowned musicians nationally and internationally. More information:

A still from a video of DCA Cultural Trailblazer Suné Woods' work. Two people, one dressed in red the other in leopard print tussle under water.Suné Woods

Suné Woods is an artist living in Los Angeles whose work takes the form of video installations, photographs, and collage. Her practice, which examines absences and vulnerabilities within cultural and social histories, uses intimate sites such as the family to understand larger sociological phenomena, imperialist mechanisms, and formations of knowledge. She is interested in how language is emoted, guarded, and translated through the absence and presence of a physical body.


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