Our speakers are thoughtfully selected to provide timely and relevant information to the arts, culture, science, and nonprofit field. This year we focused on speakers who could share insights and ideas across sectors regarding social responsibility and civic engagement. Learn more about our speakers below.
Shamell Bell is a mother, community organizer, choreographer and PhD student in Culture and Performance at UCLA’s World Arts and Cultures/Dance. Bell received her M.A. in Ethnic Studies from UC San Diego and B.A. with Honors in American Studies and Ethnicity specializing in African American Studies at the University of Southern California. Involved in the original formations of the #blacklivesmatter movement, she is a core organizer with Black Lives Matter Los Angeles alongside prominent organizers Patrisse Cullors and Professor Melina Abdullah. Her activism focuses on using her artistic talent and knowledge of arts and culture for the movement. She is also a member of Blackout 4 Human RIghts with notable directors Ryan Coogler, Ava Duvernay, Jesse Williams, among others, serving as a community organizer liaison assisting with campaigns such as #Justice4Flint and #iKneelwithColin.
She also co-founded, the Black Infinity Complex, a liaison organization building coalitions and an united front between those fighting against Black premature death and state-sanctioned violence. The Black Infinity Complex launched a freedom school based off of Fred Moten and Stefano Harvey’s “The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study” that received rave reviews in Robin DG Kelley’s “Black Study: Black Struggle” in the Boston Review (March 2016).
Shamell’s work on what she refers to as “street dance activism” situates dance as political action from her perspectives as a dance and performance scholar, a dancer, and an active member and choreographer for the Black Lives Matter movement. Shamell has a long history and experience with street dance movements and as a dancer in David LaChapelle’s documentary “Rize,” in addition to featured roles in various music videos, award shows, and tours. She also conducted original research with the Ranger$, a well-known dance crew in the Jerkin’ movement, for her undergraduate senior thesis. Shamell’s doctoral research currently extends this work with a performance studies lens and historio-geographical anaylsis of street dance movements in South Central Los Angeles. Her passion is to create a dialogue between the street dance community, activist community, and the academy that includes the street dancer’s actual presence at academic institutions in the form of dancing, speaking, teaching, and writing. When she is not occupying the police station or leading chants at demonstrations with BLMLA, she can be found playing with her 6 year old son, Seijani aka “Johnnie”, and even including him in peaceful demonstrations.
Photo credit: Shane Lopes
Milenko Matanovic is an artist and community builder. As a young man, he left an art career as a member of the celebrated OHO Group, an art collective in his native Slovenia, and immigrated to the United States. Believing that magic happens when art, creative thinking, and community join forces, Milenko founded the nonprofit Pomegranate Center in 1986. In the 30 years since its founding, Pomegranate Center has helped communities around the world build more than 50 Gathering Places, convened hundreds of community engagement plans, and trained hundreds of people the Pomegranate Method for community facilitation.
Milenko stepped down from the role of Executive Director in 2017 and now focuses his time on writing, public speaking, training, art, and leading the Institute for Everyday Democracy, a program housed within Pomegranate Center that focuses on researching and developing a body of thought about how we all can improve our democratic practices.
Monica O. Montgomery
Monica O. Montgomery, is an arts and culture powerhouse, using creativity and social change as a means of bridging the gap between people and movements. As a sought after keynote speaker, Tedx Talk alum, consultant and professor, she uses her platforms (museums, universities and public speaking) to build power and be in service to society. She is an assistant professor with Pratt Institute and New York University, and an adjunct professor with Harvard University, and is the creator of the course Museums, Public Programs & Social Change. She has lectured at Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University, American University, University of Pennsylvania, University of the Arts, and City College of NY.
Monica O. Montgomery is an alumna of Temple University with a Bachelors of Arts in Broadcast Communication and LaSalle University, with a Masters of Arts in Corporate Communication.
As strategic director of Museum Hue, she trains leaders and partners with universities and museums to facilitate diversity, equity & inclusion initiatives. Additionally, Monica is the founding director and chief curator of Museum of Impact the world’s first mobile social justice museum, inspiring action at the intersection of art, activism, self and society. She holds leadership positions in Museums As Sites of Social Action and American Alliance of Museums and is a dynamic facilitator who can connect with all ages and has keynoted at conferences locally and globally.
Mike Murawski is an educator, author, and cultural activist. He currently serves as the Director of Education & Public Programs for the Portland Art Museum and Founding Editor of ArtMuseumTeaching.com, a digital community and collaborative online forum for reflecting on issues of teaching, learning, and experimental practice in the field of museums. Murawski earned his MA and PhD in Education from American University in Washington, DC, focusing his research on educational theory and interdisciplinary pedagogy in the arts. Prior to his position at the Portland Art Museum, he served as Director of School Services at the Saint Louis Art Museum as well as head of education and public programs at the Kemper Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis. He believes in a human-centered approach to museums that envisions them as relevant, inclusive, and responsive institutions in their own communities, and is passionate about how we can come to see museums as agents of social change.