Cultural Trailblazers 2021-2022

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.

2021/2022 recipients include:

Iris Escobar Alba


Bios below


Ceci Bastida

Born and raised in Tijuana and now living in Los Angeles, Ceci Bastida joined the iconic Mexican ska-punk band Tijuana NO when she was just 15 and became one of the first women to rise in the ranks of contemporary Latin rock. In 2000 spent eight years as part of the touring band of acclaimed singer Julieta Venegas, including a featured role in her 2008 MTV Unplugged special. Bastida embarked on her solo career in 2006 with the ep Front BC, and in 2010 released Veo La Marea (I See the Tide), a mix of electronica, rock, and hip-hop that The Fader dubbed “bodacious, clicky, and gongy” and the Los Angeles Times described as “a marching-band traipsing through the Amazon rainforest.” The album, which included songs about immigration and the drug war, featured guest spots by Diplo, Rye Rye, and Tim Armstrong. It earned her a Latin Grammy nomination, appearances on NPR’s Weekend Edition and KCRW’s Morning Become Eclectic, and a spot on the 2011 Lollapalooza bill. Her solo album, La Edad de la Violencia (The Age of Violence) was produced by Luke Top (Fool’s Gold) & XXXChange (Spank Rock) and includes songs inspired by the rise of everyday violence in the US and Mexico—from the drug war to the Sandy Hook shooting and the Boston Marathon bombing—and by Haruki Murakami’s novel Kafka on the Shore. In 2016 she released Sueño featuring collaborations with Aloe Blacc, Mexican Institute of Sound, Spoek Mathambo, and Mariel Mariel. Bastida is also a member of the all-star band Mexrrissey, a Mexican homage to the songs of Morrissey and The Smiths. They released No Manchester in 2016 followed by two years of intense touring in Europe, the U.S., Australia and New Zealand. She is currently finishing her fourth album which will be released in 2021 and includes collaborations with Palestinian Hip Hop artist/filmmaker/activist Tamer Nafar, Andrew Dost (Fun), LA-based DJ and producer Dave Nada and Colombian duo Salt Cathedral.

Audrey Chan

Audrey Chan (b. 1982, Chicago, Illinois) is a Los Angeles-based artist, illustrator, and writer. Her research-based projects use drawing, painting, public art, and video to challenge dominant historical narratives through allegories of power, place, and identity. She received a MFA from California Institute of the Arts and a BA with Honors from Swarthmore College. Chan was the inaugural Artist-in-Residence at the ACLU of Southern California. In 2021, she was named an Established Artist Fellow by the California Arts Council and a DCA Cultural Trailblazer by the City of Los Angeles. She was commissioned by LA Metro to create a large-scale public artwork for the future Little Tokyo/Arts District Metro Station, opening in 2022.

Carmina Escobar

Carmina Escobar is an extreme vocalist, improviser, sound and intermedia artist from Mexico City currently based in LA. Escobar investigates and expresses emotions, politics, states of alienation, and the possibilities of interpersonal connection through voice performances, installations, and video pieces that seeks to challenge our understandings of musicality, gender, queerness, race, the spoken word, and the foundations of human communication. She has presented her work in Mexico, Cuba, Europe, USA, and Canada in festivals and venues such as PST:LA/LA, Fabrica de Arte (HVN), CTM Festival (BRL), RedCat, The Broad, The Kitchen, among many others. Escobar has been an artist in residence in Montalvo, STEIM, Binaural Portugal, OMI, Electroacoustic Music Studio in Krakow, Fonoteca NacionalMX, Indexical, The MacDowell Residency, and in late September of this year at the BEMIS Center in Nebraska. Carmina has received three Endowment Of The Arts in Mexico, the USArtist International Award with the project Estamos Ensemble, Master Scholarship of NALAC, the 2020 FCA Artist award in Music/Sound, and the NPN 2020 Creation Fund Artists with the project SHAMANA DE CABARET. She is co-founder of LIMINAR ensemble; HOWL SPACE radical/experimental pedagogical voicehub, and BOSS WITCH PROJECTS, an artistic production company focused on the interconnection of experimental scenic works, sound/video art, interdisciplinary/intermedia works within natural landscapes, launching on 2021 with scenic piece BAJO LA SOMBRA DEL SOL, and VOX CLAMANTIS a trilogy of vocal recordings with Ron Athey, all produced in various ecosystems of California. Currently she is a faculty member of the VoiceArt program at CalArts.

Rina Mehta brings to the art form of Kathak, classical dance of North India, a singular voice and vision. An artist and an entrepreneur she displays her depth of training with legendary Kathak master, Pt. Chitresh Das, on and off the dance floor. Mehta exhibits in her artistic work a deep grounding in tradition and a pioneering and searching spirit. Described as “regal” and “brilliant” by critics, her performances and artistic work are paving a path forward for the legacy of Pt. Chitresh Das and Kathak dance itself.

Rina is a founding artist of the Leela Dance Collective, which brings together leading artists from around the world to advance a collective vision for Kathak. Rina’s original works include SPEAK, a kathak-tap collaboration; Chandanbala, the story of the revered Jain saint interpreted through the Kathak tradition; and Son of the Wind, the story of the India’s mythological hero, Hanuman, brought to life through dance-drama. She has received funding to create and tour her

works by such prestigious institutions such as the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Arts Council, New Music USA, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, and the Zellerbach Family Fund.

Prior to her work with the Leela Dance Collective, Rina was a principal dancer with the Chitresh Das Dance Company, performing and touring with the company’s critically acclaimed productions including Shabd, Pancha Jati, and Sita Haran across the United States and in India. She has received the Alliance for California Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Grant and twice been nominated for an Isodara Duncan Dance Award for Company performance as part of the Chitresh Das Dance Company. She has performed at such prestigious venues/festivals nationally and in India as REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/Cal Arts Theater), Meany Hall for Performing Arts (University of Washington), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, UCLA’s World Festival of Sacred Music, Tata Theater/NCPA in Mumbai, and the Shaniwarwada Dance Festival in Pune, as a soloist and with the Chitresh Das Dance Company.

Rina has also been a dedicated kathak educator for more than 15 years. She is the founder of The Leela Academy, which provides comprehensive education in kathak dance to children, teens and adults in the greater Los Angeles area. In addition, she is a regular visiting educator at kathak institutions around the world including the Chhandam School of Kathak in San Francisco, Sureela Academy in Denver and Chhandam Nritya Bharati in Mumbai, India. Rina also teaches workshops and conducts lectures on kathak dance at colleges and universities such as UCLA, University of Denver, Chapman University and San Francisco State University. Most recently, Rina developed an arts education performance that introduces school children across Los Angeles county to the artistic and cultural heritage of India. The program is a part of the prestigious Music Center on Tour program.

Rina’s work is grounded in the belief that Kathak dance can be a powerful tool for empowerment and social change. She is the recipient of the prestigious Fulbright award and researched the effectiveness of Kathak dance education as a social intervention in underprivileged communities in Mumbai, India.

Rina’s most ambitious initiative is The Leela Endowment, the first and only initiative of its kind, aimed at providing the financial infrastructure necessary for dancers to thrive and continue to advance India’s rich artistic heritage.

Yann Novak

Yann Novak (b.1979) is an interdisciplinary artist and composer based in Los Angeles. His work is guided by his unique perspective as a queer autodidact. Informed by his partial color blindness and dyslexia, Novak uses sound and light to explore how these intangible materials can act as catalysts to focus our awareness on our own direct experience. Novak’s diverse body of work—audiovisual installations, performances, architectural interventions, sound diffusions, recording, and prints—invites participants to imagine how divergent our individual perceptions of reality can be.

His work has been experienced through exhibitions at Dimensions Variable, Miami (2020); Human Resources, Los Angeles (2017); The Getty Villa, Pacific Palisades, California (2016); The Broad, Los Angeles (2015); Commonwealth & Council, Los Angeles (2014); Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, California (2011); The Henry Art Gallery, Seattle (2009); SFMoMA, San Francisco (2009); and Soundfjord, London (2010); among others. Novak has performed at Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Omaha (2021); PICA, Portland (2019); Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane (2019); Desert Daze, California (2018); Fylkingen, Stockholm (2018); Iklectik, London (2018); de Young Museum, San Francisco (2016); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2016); Vincent Price Art Museum, Monterey Park (2014); The Stone, New York (2011); LACMA, Los Angeles (2010); and Mutek Festival, Montreal (2007); among others. His compositions have been released by Room40, Touch, LINE, 901 Editions, and Dragon’s Eye Recordings, among others.

Novak is a recipient of the California Community Foundation Fellowship for Visual Artists (2019). He has participated in numerous artists residencies including Melbourne Electronic Sound Studio, Melbourne (2019); EMS Elektronmusikstudion, Stockholm (2018); Mountain School of Arts, Los Angeles (2015); Taliesin Artist Residency, Spring Green, Wisconsin (2014); Touch Mentorship Programme, London (2014); Jental Artist Residency, Sharidan, Wyoming (2010), among others. Novak’s work has been the subject of articles and reviews in publications including C Magazine, Drain Magazine, Inside Art, LA Weekly, Los Angeles Times, Neural Magazine, Signal to Noise, The Stranger, and The Wire, among others.

S. Pearl Sharp

S. PEARL SHARP illuminates and instigates as filmmaker, poet, playwright, story teller, essayist and artivist. Her essays & commentaries heard on NPR and Pacifica Radio are collected in The Evening News. S. Pearl loves collaborating, experienced on her poetry w/jazz CD Higher Ground and short fiction CD Uncertain Rituals. An award winning filmmaker, her work includes The Healing Passage/Voices From The Water and numerous cultural arts docs for the City of Los Angeles’ CH 35.,

Image: S. Pearl Sharp performs at Strong Words storytelling venue, May,
2021. Photo credit: Michael Hirabayashi

Kyungmi Shin

Kyungmi Shin is a mixed media artist whose work investigates cultural hybridity that results from immigration and colonization. In her recent body of work in painted photo collage and ceramics, she combines family photographs with historical Chinoiserie paintings, Christian narratives from Medieval manuscripts, and Buddhist and Korean Shaman paintings. She immigrated from South Korea in 1983 to the US, and currently lives and works in Los Angeles, and since 2016, maintains a studio home/ artist residency in Ghana with her partner Todd Gray. She received her MFA from UC Berkeley. She is a recipient of California Community Foundation Grant, AIR Grant from the city of Los Angeles, Pasadena City Individual Artist’s Grant, and Durfee Artist Grant. She is awarded over 20 public art projects nationally, and her work is in the collection of JP Getty Museum, and Berkeley Art Museum (BAMPFA). Her work has been exhibited at JP Getty Museum, Orange County Museum of Art, Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, and Sonje Art Center, Seoul, South Korea.

Keith Walsh

Keith Walsh is an artist living in Inglewood California. He is a 1992 MFA studio art and art history graduate of Tufts University. Walsh has been residing in Los Angeles and teaching at regional colleges and universities for over two decades.

His labor-intensive drawings are based upon extensive research and map the intertwined histories of liberation and socialist activism in Los Angeles and the U.S.

Walsh’s work has been featured in Artforum, Artsy, Art and Cake, Artillery, Artweek, Hyperallergic, The LA Times, the LA Weekly, and Visual Art Source, among others.

In 2021 he had a solo exhibition at r_d_f_a in Los Angeles. His work is currently included in the exhibition Angela Davis: Seize the Time at the Zimmerli Museum at Rutgers University. Walsh has recently exhibited at the 2020 Dallas Biennial, the Kleefeld Art Museum, Long Beach, PRJCTLA, Los Angeles Municipal Gallery, Long Beach City College, Golden West College, Huntington Beach, and South Los Angeles Contemporary. Angela Davis: Seize the Time will travel to the Oakland Museum of California, in February 2022. Learn more here:



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