Join us for an incredible evening of community, culture bearers, advocates and presenters.
Learn about the Springfield AEP6 results & how the arts strengthen the community socially, educationally, and in healthcare promoting community and personal well-being.
We hope you will leave feeling inspired, uplifted and confident in using this data to advocate for your personal practice and Springfield.
Randy Cohen, Americans for the Arts, is Vice President of Research at Americans for the Arts, the national advocacy organization for the arts—where he has been empowering arts advocates since 1991. He recently published Arts & Economic Prosperity 6: The Economic Impact of Nonprofit Arts & Culture Organizations and their Audiences and Americans Speak Out About the Arts in 2023, a national public opinion study about the arts. He was a recent nominee for the Sidney Yates Advocacy Award for outstanding advocacy on behalf of the performing arts in America.
Lynnette Johnson is a poet, a performing artist, a voice actor and an event host. She is a mother, a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, an avid napper and a taco connoisseur. She has published four collections of poetry and her most recent book was also a one-woman show; Supreme. Lynnette’s primary focus in poetry is to edify women and Black folk. She discusses challenges, victories, relationships, injustice, God, love and unlove with a little humor and plenty of vulnerability. Lynnette looks forward to continuing to use her art to uplift and connect.
Emily Ruddock is the Executive Director of MassCreative, a statewide advocacy and organizing group working with the creative sector since 2012 to secure the public investments and policies to ensure a vibrant, equitable, and inclusive Massachusetts. Emily is nationally recognized for her advocacy leadership, serving on the board of the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network, working to establish the Creative State Coalition, and serving as a State Captain with Americans for the Arts. Before joining MASSCreative, Emily spent over a decade working with nonprofit arts organizations, including Merrimack Repertory Theatre, the Downtown Lynn Cultural District, and Actors Theatre of Louisville. She is a proud alum of Mount Holyoke College and the Maxwell School at Syracuse University.
Waleska Lugo-DeJesús is the Chief Equity Officer of Inclusive Strategies & Vice President Springfield Art & Culture Council – she is a nationally certified Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging facilitator dedicated to creating social change, with a human-centered, racial healing approach, addressing systemic racism for equitable environments. She has 20 years of innovative ability to broaden coalitions and build communities of inclusion.
Vanessa Ford, Associate Director of the Community Music School & Program Director, Trust Transfer Project – Vanessa’s rich Central American heritage has encouraged her to embrace family, appreciate every culture and racial background and to find a way to always be of service to others. Vanessa is the founding director of the Springfield CommUnity Chorale where she strives to bring singers together from all backgrounds, cultures & races. Among her many gifts, Vanessa has written and arranged many choral and praise and worship songs. Vanessa strives to use her gifts to touch the hearts of many and hopes to make a difference in the lives of others through her life, community service and music.
Andrew Cade, Senior Vice President of the Urban League of Springfield & Springfield Cultural Council, a longtime disc jockey, makes certain there is a place at the table for those who do not otherwise have a chance to say their piece. He has been involved as the Entertainment Coordinator for the Stone Soul Festival; a member of the Brianna Fund for children, the Carl Joseph Walker Hoover Foundation against Childhood Bullying, Women Who Are Legends, and St. John’s First Lady’s Luncheon Committee. He founded Ujima, a social organization that hosts bus trips to plays, concerts, and sports events.. An avid lover of tennis, Cade has taught youth tennis for decades and was instrumental in the establishment of Moving on Up with Tennis and Education in the City of Springfield.
Councilor Maria Perez, (Springfield City Council, Ward 1) is a graduate of American International College and Springfield College, where she majored in Human Service, with a focus on Social Work and Community Organizing. She has worked for the New North Citizen’s Council for the past 39 years, most currently Housing Chief Director serving the Hampden County, Hampshire County and the Franklin County community. Ms. Perez has dedicated over 45 years to the enrichment and empowerment of the Latino Community including, serving as Commissioner for the Board of Appeals for the City of Springfield, former School Committee Member, and former President of the Spanish Merchants Association. Ms. Perez is one of the founders of the Puerto Rican Day Parade, Founder and chair of the Madres Latinas Organization, Founder and chair of the Women on the Vanguard Inc. and former Vice-chair of the Springfield Partners for Community Action Inc. Currently Ward 1 City Council Member, Maria Perez has not only earned the respect and admiration of professionals and political figures, but most importantly the love and respect of her community. In fact, Maria is known for her favorite saying: “Por el Pueblo, Para el Pueblo, Con el Pueblo” which translates: “I am for the Community, I stand by the Community and I am with the Community.”
Representative Bud L. Williams, MA House of Representatives,11th Hampden, a lifelong resident of Springfield, exemplifies community service through his devotion to civic duties, his unflinching advocacy for the people he represents, and his unrelenting activism for social justice for all people. Throughout his career, he has helped many young people establish positive life goals and is appreciated by many for his unflinching advocacy. Currently serving in the Massachusetts House of Representatives for the Eleventh Hampden, he is also a member of the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus. Williams continues to demonstrate his strength making a significant contribution to positively impact the quality of life in the Springfield community at-large.