Creative Facilitation Gatherings at the Academy for the Love of Learning

In 2015/16 the Academy for the Love of Learning brought 25 creative facilitators from diverse communities together in a participatory process, informed by the Academy’s transformative learning model and depth facilitation practices. The goal was twofold: to begin developing a cohort with common language and shared experience and to delve into the inquiry:

How can we develop a framework for creative facilitation and social change practice that strengthens the field statewide?

This inquiry led us into a process to decide how best to implement our findings and to expand the cohort to include creative practitioners from places outside of the Santa Fe /Albuquerque urban areas. It was out of this process that our Creative Facilitation Gathering was envisioned and implemented.

The first gathering was held in January 2017 and brought together a diverse group of change-makers to share, learn from their peers, play, take risks, and be safe, to be out of comfort zones and deal with difficult conversations in an empathetic, compassionate way.  A horizontal leadership was activated to create a learning ecosystem that expands the notion of community engagement that now is rippling over the terrain of New Mexico.

The gathering provides:

    • A platform through which creative engagement facilitators can share place-based, effective practices and experiences.
    • To create a shared leadership between a diverse group of practioneers
    • To deepen change-making practices through peer to peer learning and feedback processes.
    • To innovate new forms; and engage a new generation of practitioners, as well as new communities in this means of catalyzing change.
    • To expand the base of creative facilitators around the New Mexico.

The next gathering will be held in January 2018 where we will expand on what we learned this year and deepen our creative inquiries.

“This was one of the most welcoming environments I’ve been to in my time in Santa Fe. It was inspiring to see all the compassion and empathy that everyone possesses. I’m thankful and grateful to have shared such a wonderful experience with all of you. I learned so much during our time together. I’ve been applying it to my personal life and profession. It’s been fun and challenging to try new approaches. I’ve been in deep thought and the knowledge we shared resonated with me deeply.”  -Keith Grosbeck

2018 Creative Facilitation Cohort Members:

  • Aaron Stern
  • Amy Lin
  • Chrissie Orr
  • Vanessa Torres
  • Michael Thompson
  • Jamie Figueroa
  • Jesse Fisher
  • Nicole Lovato
  • Randle Charles
  • Michael López
  • Luz Marina Serrano
  • Carlos Gabaldon
  • Lupita Salazar
  • Mi’Jan Celie Tho-Biaz
  • Edie Tsong
  • Adriana Ortiz-Carmona
  • Joel Glanzberg
  • Leland Chapin
  • Natalie Banally
  • Keith Grosbeck
  • Mattee Jim
  • Tannia Esparza
  • Gabrielle Uballez
  • Shashyázhí Charley
  • Desiree Beltran

Featured Creative Facilitation Cohort Members:  

Aaron Stern:

Aaron Stern was an integral voice in the initiating group of the Creative Facilitation Cohort. A 3-year member of the cohort, Aaron works with local, national, and international communities, animating the emergence of a culture of learning as a practice for waking up to what it is “to be fully human!”

When asked, “What hopes do you find fulfilled in creative, community engagement practices?”, Aaron states, “I believe that learning is a natural human capacity that can bring us together into mutual healing, wake us up to our deepest potential as human beings and bring us into the experience of deep life satisfaction, individually and collectively. But we must reimagine our understanding of learning and its place in our lives, in order for this to happen.”

Adriana Ortiz-Carmona:
Adriana Ortiz-Carmona was a part of the 2017 cohort, and is gladly attending the 2018 gathering again. Adriana primarily engages with Working Classroom as a teaching artist, alumni, board member, and longtime artist volunteer. She has also created visual art for campaigns in collaboration with Young Women United and Enlace Comunitario. “Women, immigrants, queer individuals, and youth are who I choose to engage with because exploring where our identities intersect and where we connect is a powerful and crucial creative practice I believe in.”

When asked, “What hopes do you find fulfilled in creative, community engagement practices?”, Adriana states: “I see representation being a huge driving force for myself because it has the power to instill passion for the arts in others whilst instilling a passion for self-identity. As a queer, immigrant, and woman of color, my artistic presence is questioned and overshadowed many times; that is why I do what I do. I explore self-portraiture figuratively in my artwork in attempt to understand and love myself. I keep creating despite myself and systemic doubts because seeing others who looked like me be artistically active gave me momentum. Furthermore, I really enjoy storytelling through art because I believe it is a practice that disrupts preconceived notions about us while uplifting our self-narratives and autonomy.”

Chrissie Orr:
Chrissie Orr has been involved from the conception of the CFC and along with Molly Sturges she convened the first meeting that was held in a coffee shop in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

I absolutely believe in the power of social practice/ arts and community engagement work to activate positive change wither for an individual or for an entire community. I have been a practitioner for over 30 years but I am still honing my practice to make sense in this rapidly changing world. I keep myself as a learner and an explorer into new territories and to create beautiful trouble wherever I go.  To see and feel change and transformation and to see and feel that spark lighting in someone’s eyes and to see and feel the transformation of the earth as seeds begin to sprout is what keeps me doing what I do. It has not always been easy and there are times that I despair that the  creative work that is animated does not do enough.  At times like this I have tried to give it up and to go back into my lone world as a visual artist but it never lasts long. The pull of collaboration and community is too strong.

Desireé Beltrán:

Desireé Beltrán will be participating in her second Creative Facilitation Gathering through the Academy in 2018. Born in Capultitlán, Mexico, Desireé emigrated as a child to Santa Fe, NM. Desireé’s lived experiences as a queer immigrant woman of color shaped her desire to be an agent of change.  For over a decade, Desireé has worked to address gender, racial and economic justice in the areas of child welfare, education, reproductive rights, and immigrants’ rights.

When asked, “What hopes do you find fulfilled in creative, community engagement practices?”, Desireé’s states that her “deepest desire is to bridge my passion for social justice with my love for the creative process to heal historical trauma and amplify the voices of marginalized peoples.”


Edie Tsong:
Edie Tsong is a 3-year member in the Creative Facilitation Cohort. Edie worked with Cut+Paste Society, a women’s community of artists and writers from 2010-2015. I constantly collaborate with artists and writers including Sydney Cooper on forget your perfect offering, a community altar; and Love Letter to the World with Michael Lorenzo Lopez.

When asked, “What hopes do you find fulfilled in creative, community engagement practices?”, Edie states: “I continue to do this kind of socially engaged work to help create meaningful connections between familiar and unfamiliar people.”


Jamie Figueroa:
Jamie Figueroa is a new member of the Creative Facilitation Cohort. Working as a facilitator, re-sensitizing, and creative writer, Jamie has worked with intertribal indigenous youth (The Identity Project); Native artists in higher education (The Institute of American Indian Arts); multi-ethnic, multi-racial, intergenerational women artists of various disciplines in local community (Little Globe, Women & Creativity, Cut + Paste Society, Metzcla Collective); youth who the border has crossed and local youth (El Otro Lado); and multi-ethnic, multi-racial, intergenerational men, women, and non-binary gender, interdisciplinary artists in higher education (Goddard College, MFA-Interdisciplinary Arts, Indigenous and Decolonial Arts Concentration).

When asked, “What hopes do you find fulfilled in creative, community engagement practices?”, Jamie states: “Co-creating, co-learning, guiding, and sharing are essential nutrients for the solitary time spent reading, researching, and navigating imaginal realms for all of the creative writing and story making that I do. I appreciate the alone concentrated time I spend engaged deep in relation with the unseen as one of the many aspects of my multi-dimensional life. The opposite, however, is a necessary counterbalance, a way of honoring and giving thanks. Sharing the process of calling in individual voices to remake collective spaces; inviting whole, authentic, sovereign states of being; using language as the art form with which to include and engage ancestors, place, and the families from out of which we grew; as well as claiming our bodies as the rightful ground of authority with which we are completely present, means being with others. It means being with others who are intentional, willing to play, and in love with learning. At any given time during facilitation, I may be leading, following, sensing into, supporting, and/or nudging along. I am always grateful for the experience as well as for the strength and vulnerability of those who participate.”

Jesse Fisher:
Jesse Fisher is a new member to the Creative Facilitation Cohort. In the past, Jesse has done work with and around members of the community on Pajarito Mesa and Albuquerque’s panhandling community.

When asked, “What hopes do you find fulfilled in creative, community engagement practices?”, Jesse states: “My work is motivated by perceived inequities, both locally and nationally, and a desire to communicate those inequities to the general public in the hopes that they will then be addressed through the political process. On a personal level, documentary filmmaking provides me the opportunity to experience more closely the many, disparate lives of my fellow New Mexicans and, more broadly, my fellow humans, which is one of the great pleasures and privileges of my life.”

 Joel Glanzberg:

Joel Glanzberg is a 2-year member of the Creative Facilitation Cohort, and is a tracker and teacher of patterns in landscapes; internal as well as external ones. Classes and projects have spanned four continents including writing the living systems portion of green building standards for Abu Dhabi, co-writing regional sustainability and economic plans, designing several thousands of acres of farm and forest lands, watershed wide restoration projects, as well as the well-known Flowering Tree homestead, the development of Regenesis Collaborative, and ecological arts projects with internationally known artists Helen and Newton Harrison.

When asked, “What hopes do you find fulfilled in creative, community engagement practices?”, Joel states: “Drawing from two or three decades of experience in permaculture, traditional tracking, martial arts practice, as well as living systems thinking, I help people to see and think as nature does and to solve problems by finding the ‘difference that makes a difference.’”


Mi’Jan Celie Tho-Biaz:
Mi’Jan Celie Tho-Biaz first engaged with CFC in August 2015. Mi’Jan engages with communities committed to social transformation, specifically through storygathering events, oral history projects and Healing Justice narrative collaborations. The communities that she is committed to working with are disconnected youth, women of color leaders in the nonprofit sector, indigenous cultural workers, and Black + Indigenous + Latina: birthworkers, seed keepers, artists, cultural workers and reproductive justice organizers.

woman speaks at podium with image of garden behind her
When asked, “What hopes do you find fulfilled in creative, community engagement practices?”, Mi’Jan states: “I do what I do because I believe that oral history and testimonial collection work can be powerful forms of engaged community listening, ceremonial practice and performative art. Moreover, my labor is rooted in surfacing, centering and amplifying the ancestral healing lineages and current practices in people of color communities.”

Randle Charles:
Randle Charles is a 3-year member of the Creative Facilitation Gathering, the 2nd and upcoming 3rd as an Academy staff member. He has worked closely in and with many diverse communities through out New Mexico, most currently as the Project Manager for the Academy’s City That Learns.

When asked, “What hopes do you find fulfilled in creative, community engagement practices?”, Randle states: “I get to continue and deepen that work in new capacities through the Academy’s Foundational studies programs, Teacher Renewal, Inspire, El Otro Lado in the Schools and many other community collaborative events and trainings. Much of my personal art practice and professional work as a (Creative) Facilitator has been focused on understanding and in various ways engaging colonization and its effects in different communities. This persistent quest towards decolonization and cultural vitality has lead me to believe that colonization transmuted into opportunity, challenges us to explore what highest aspirations of human potential looks like.”