National Accelerator for Cultural Innovation

Imagining design and arts-led social transformation for public good

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National Accelerator for Cultural Innovation

Why we are here

The National Accelerator for Cultural Innovation at ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts brings together disruptive cultural innovators to prototype, incubate and scale use-inspired practice, policy and peer networks that propel artists and designers as leaders for social transformation and public good.  

The Accelerator lifts up work centered on its mission driven by students and faculty within ASU; serves as a testing ground for cultural and community policy innovation, tests scalable revenue-generating cultural knowledge enterprises, and provides a community for artists, designers, culture bearers, public and nonprofit sector leaders throughout the U.S. to dynamically test ideas and models that address our driving question:

How do we imagine artists and designers as co-creators of change for transformational public good?

For this to happen we must...

  • Widen and deepen adoption of ethical and equitable community-centered arts and design practices in academia and in the field

  • Interrupt and change how public systems (e.g., transit, health, justice, and housing) engage, employ and validate artists and designers 

Anchoring beliefs

  • Community is the center of wisdom and power
  • Inequity must be acknowledged
  • Small changes are catalytic and necessary for scale
  • Student opportunities must be generated, when possible
  • Partnerships are central
  • People lead transformation

How we work

Programs and projects

Create ongoing programs or time-limited engagements with culture bearers and innovators that drive mission and defined outcomes


Coordinate partnership or project/idea through project scope and resource alignment with ASU assets (faculty, students, centers, leadership). Then, implement and/or scale providing a strength test of the concept for the field.

Product creation

Integrate project learning into use-inspired and revenue-generating digital learning, training and education formats, peer networks or other open-source products that validate and reinforce the mission.

Upcoming opportunities


Practices for Change Fellowship

Arizona State University's Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts is seeking seven individuals with field experience exploring arts, culture and design-based collaborations in the work of equitable community development practices. We are interested in learning from and with individuals whose main work experience is sited in non-arts systems such as health, justice, sustainability, housing or community development. These individuals will be funded to work in tandem with ASU as the inaugural cohort for the Practices for Change Fellowship funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Herberger Institute, in partnership with the Center for Performance and Civic Practice (CPCP), will support fellows who seek to expand their own practical field work via a partnership with resources at ASU that will work to codify and advance learning through student engagement, community inquiry and knowledge/content creation for the field.

Apply Now

Questions? Contact Estrella Esquilín at

Fellowship details at a glance

Deadline to apply: March 29, 2019, 11:59 p.m.

Up to seven fellows selected, with applicants from across the United States, who have successfully collaborated with artists/designers/culture workers within interdisciplinary non-arts sectors.

Occurs between July 1, 2019-June 30, 2020.

Research stipend and travel/housing costs subsidized.

  • Practical field and community experience working with artists or in artist-based equitable development (e.g. housing, transit, justice, sustainability)
  • U.S. resident
  • Non-academic (an ideal candidate is someone who works outside of an academic institution, who does not already have the structural or financial support for research or prototyping)

Fellows are expected to:

  • Attend a pre and post-program convening at ASU (two two-day visits)
    ○ Convenings + Cohorts—Through this fellowship ASU is exploring the resources necessary to support mid-career leaders as they advance evolving practices like creative placemaking in their respective disciplines. We seek to explore frameworks that can better activate and support community-based leaders in the field through listening and active peer support. The Fellows collectively will help us identify and scope opportunities for advancing the field through grassroots leadership development and cultivation.
  • Design and develop an action/work plan with ASU Herberger Institute project manager
  • Conduct two three-day research and student engagement visits at ASU
    ○ Student Engagement—Each fellow will be asked to support at least two student engagement opportunities. This can include guest teaching in an undergraduate course, co-design of graduate seminar or an approved alternate student activation.
  • Meet monthly as a cohort or one-on-one via phone/Zoom
  • Produce content to develop a field report and series of learning tools that advance the field of practice, and/or produce local programming.
    ○ Field Content Creation—Each fellow will be asked to work with Herberger Online, our digital learning division, to create a competency-based learning module and/or contribute to the design/development of a degree based online course that centers their research or area of practice.
    ○ Writing + Public Communication—Each fellow will be asked to create a paper and/or a series of essays, blogs, or newly-imagined and potentially non-academic formats of documentation alongside field-based application of the work. Each fellow will be asked to contribute to a podcast series that is in development at ASU.

Arizona State University will:

  • Provide administrative support and coordinate finances for travel and research production (including publication of blogs, materials necessary for podcasting, etc.)
  • Support in promotional and media related to the project
  • Collaborate to produce a final field report and series of learning tools that advance the field of practice

Center for Performance and Civic Practice will:

  • Facilitate pre-program orientation and post-program convenings
  • Provide virtual process support and coaching for research and engagement plans
  • Co-design and collaborate on post-program field convening

Fellows will attend a framing workshop with the Center for Performance and Civic Practice and receive monthly coaching in project design from CPCP and ASU team. At the end of the process, CPCP and fellows will also co-design a convening open to the field that shares their learning, practices and knowledge. This convening will happen at ASU and be open to other local and national leaders in the field as a knowledge exchange.

While other areas of social impact might be considered, ASU will partner with each fellow to develop a support plan that includes how they can connect with ASU resources, researchers, students and faculty to advance their idea/practice/concept that examines one of these key questions:

  • What art and design-based practices can be used to develop and replicate transformative public policy in non-art systems?
  • What new financial models could support and sustain art and design-based practices in non-arts systems?
  • What new structures could support artists and designers collaborating in creative placemaking in non-art systems?
Funding and Resources

Funding for the fellowships is provided via NEA Our Town Grant and the National Accelerator for Cultural Innovation at ASU. The fellowship includes:

  • Annual Stipend (Independent Contractor): $10,000
  • Travel and Housing Funds: up to $4,500 (Securing travel and housing is the responsibility of the individual fellow; however these resources and reimbursements will be managed via ASU staff.)

ASU is a comprehensive public research university, measured not by whom it excludes, but by whom it includes and how they succeed; advancing research and discovery of public value; and assuming fundamental responsibility for the economic, social, cultural and overall health of the communities it serves.

ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts’ mission is to position designers, artists, scholars and educators at the center of public life and prepare them to use their creative capacities to advance culture, build community and imaginatively address today’s most pressing challenges.

The National Accelerator for Cultural Innovation at ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts is an applied practice space bringing together disruptive cultural innovators to prototype, incubate and scale use-inspired practice, policy and peer networks that propel artists and designers as leaders for social transformation and public good.   


ASU provides equal opportunity to qualified employees and students, and to members of the general public who have a disability and provides reasonable accommodation as appropriate in employment, the application for employment, services, programs, and activities. Individuals with a disability are those who have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity, have a record of such impairment, or are regarded as having such impairment.

Disability Resources


  • ACD 401 - Prohibition Against Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation
  • ACD 405 - Individuals with Disabilities


Who we are

Jen Cole

Jen Cole

Jennifer Gilligan Cole (Jen) is the Chief of Staff of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University and the Director of its National Accelerator for Cultural Innovation. In her roles at ASU, she coordinates innovation work across the Herberger schools and art museum and seeks to identify, invest in, prototype and scale practices and policies that center artists and designers as co-creators of social change in justice, health and sustainability. She previously served nine years as Executive Director of the Metro Arts: Nashville’s Office of Arts + Culture where she led the city’s efforts in art, culture and creative economy. She has over 20 years of experience in organizational leadership and change management. Cole is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Mary Washington College (now the University of Mary Washington) in Fredericksburg, VA where she earned her degree in English.

Estrella Esquilín

Estrella Esquilin

Estrella Esquilín is the Program Manager for the National Accelerator for Cultural Innovation, creating the conditions for arts and community partnerships for the advancement of resilient and equitable communities. She has over a decade of experience doing creative and collaborative community engagement with private and public non-profit organizations - most recently at the city of Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture (POAC) as the Communications and Community Engagement Manager. She has a heart for working with creative people of all ages and backgrounds to find inspiration for their artistic practice, civic engagement and professional development. Esquilín is also a practicing visual artist with an M.F.A. in Interdisciplinary Studio Art from Arizona State University and a B.F.A. in Printmaking from Kansas City Art Institute in Kansas City, Missouri.

Iris A. Medina

Iris Medina-Torres

Iris A. Medina is the Administrative Specialist for the National Accelerator for Cultural Innovation facilitating extensive work within the realms of social justice, public health, and neighborhood development. She has a long and diverse career in project management, program design, development and administration - more than 20 years of collaborations with non-profit and government agencies in San Juan, Puerto Rico – with an interest in working toward poverty elimination strategies, asset building, HIV/AIDS and homelessness awareness. Most recently Medina-Torres served the Salón Literario Libroamérica PR/Festival de la Palabra, where she led the work and pivoted programs toward community outreach and partnerships in response to Hurricane Maria. She is a published writer and poet with a Bachelor's in Political Science and a certificate in Public Policy Implementation from the University of Puerto Rico.