September 14, 2023

Inland Empire Artists Receive Millions of Dollars in Grants Designed to “Put Artists to Work” in the Region 

By Jim Roberts

Creative Corps Inland SoCal, a state-funded initiative of the California Arts Council (CAC) in collaboration with the Inland Empire Community Foundation (IECF), Arts Connection – The Arts Council of San Bernardino County, Riverside Arts Council, and the California Desert Arts Council, has unveiled the names of 53 recipients of more than $3.8 million in grant funding. The grants, specifically designated for artists, community-based organizations, and public agencies, aim to support creative initiatives that advance awareness around public health, the environment, social justice, and civic participation. Grantees were selected through an external evaluation process that included community stakeholders from across Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

In the Coachella Valley, standout professional photographer Dean Mayo was awarded a grant for his project entitled, “The Social Determinants of Poor Health Outcomes in Eastern Coachella Valley Illustrated.” Mayo, and his project collaborator Bob Marra, plan to show through Dean’s photography combined with Bob’s written essays and personal stories how the immense socio-economic challenges facing low-income, underserved people in Eastern Coachella Valley negatively impact their health and well-being. Their work will be brought to life through community exhibitions throughout the coming year along with a website that will host the photos and stories they create.

As a photographer based in the Eastern Coachella Valley since 2005, Mayo’s artistic practice and process have been primarily focused on showcasing the beauty of the region through the lens of his camera. His work has encompassed several environmentally-significant areas such as Joshua Tree National Park, The Salton Sea, The Turbine Fields, The Coachella Valley Preserve, San Jacinto National Monument, and the Indian Canyons. Through his work, he has significantly increased public awareness of the natural beauty and environmental sensitivity of these areas.

Over the past few years, Mayo has been awarded a grant through the California Desert Arts Foundation for an amazing photo of the Salton Sea, and he also won first place in the San Jacinto National Monument photo contest through Palm Springs Life which featured his iconic photo of Tahquitz Falls which brought awareness to the fragile environmental area of the Indian Canyons. Additionally, he has created two especially important bodies of work which are collections of photos to highlight environmental challenges and opportunities.

“One of my recent environmental projects focused on the Joshua Tree in the Mohave and Colorado Deserts where local residents and community organizations have tried to protect these amazing plant species under the Endangered Species Act,” said Mayo. “Another major project I conducted was the photography of the extremely unique environment and landscapes of Iceland. The purpose was to highlight the natural beauty of the country and the importance of its efforts to maintain a large volume of undeveloped, unspoiled land.”

“I have witnessed the transformative power of art, and today I am delighted to congratulate the awardees. As a lover of creativity, I have no doubt that their artistic endeavors will serve as a catalyst and touch the hearts of anyone who comes in contact with these powerful projects. We look forward to bringing more opportunities to the residents of the Coachella Valley and beyond.” – Kristen Dolan, Executive Director, California Desert Arts Council

“We set out to create a participatory and inclusive process and it has been incredible to witness the resulting community engagement and the collaboration between artists and organizations. I am looking forward to the next phase when we will see the development of so many amazing projects that will inspire and uplift our region!” – Rachel A. Dzikonski, Executive Director, Riverside Arts Council

“This brings me a lot of hope for the region. This initial investment is just the beginning. We will continue to work to ensure regional support for artists and culture bearers to thrive across the region. Many consider this funding a life-changing opportunity, and as first-time recipients, they have the potential to shape the future of our civic and social infrastructure for years to come. ” Jennifer Kane, Executive Director, Arts Connection – The Arts Council of San Bernardino County

“The impact of this funding to our two-county region will be enormous, synergistic, and hopefully long-lasting. Seizing this moment to leverage and attract sustainable investments is paramount to supporting more artists working with communities for a vibrant and resilient region.  We are excited to continue our journey of discovery, learning, and enjoyment!”   Celia Cudiamat, Senior Vice President,  Community Impact & Grants, Inland Empire Community Foundation

Creative Corps Inland SoCal announced the following grantees:

Individual Artists (26 total)
Darren Villegas
Theodore Meyer (Collective)
Amanda Dumaguindin
Audrey Maier (Collective)
Emilia Ortega-Jara (Collective)
Tamara Cedre (Collective)
Cynthia Huerta
Dean Mayo
Makeda Kumasi (Collective)
Adeola Davies-Aiyeloja
Ben Allanoff
Christy Roberts Berkowitz
Cj Jilek (Collective)
Sarah Wilson
Jonny Miller Jr. (Collective)
Adriana Lopez-Ospina
Maria Gonzalez
Pat Murkland
Larry Burns
Rosy Cortez
Timothy Dupree (Collective)
Jose Covarrubias (Collective)
Bernard Hoyes
Emmanuel Doublin
Maisy Kasgnoc
Benjamin Jeong

Organizations and Agencies (26 total)
About Families Inc.
Academy of Musical Performance
Akoma Unity Center
Artists Council
Bezerk Productions
City of Moreno Valley
City of San Bernardino Parks, Recreation and Community Services
Civil Rights Institute of Inland Southern California
Culturas Music & Arts
Green Room Theatre Co. Coachella Valley
Groundwork Arts
Inland Congregations United for Change
Inland Empire Labor Institute
Inland Futures Foundation KVCR
Joshua Tree National Park Association
Lifting Our Stories
Palo Verde Valley Transit Agency
Power Speaks Louder
Public Art Advisory Committee (City of Twentynine Palms)
The City of Ontario, Department of Museum Arts & Culture
The Garcia Center for the Arts
The Center for Social Justice & Civil Liberties
The Pass Chorale
Youth Mentoring Action Network

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