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National Field Leader in Residence

Working at the cutting edge of cultural policy and social change

The National Field Leader in Residence was an applied research and teaching project of the National Collaborative for Creative Work, in partnership with one of the academic units of Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. The program was a nine-month residency for non-academic cultural leaders who are working at the cutting edge of cultural policy and social change seeking to advance an area of their research in collaboration with ASU students, staff, faculty and local Phoenix metro community members. 

Field leaders and inquiries

lauren ruffin

Lauren Ruffin

For the 2021-2022 academic year, ASU partnered with Lauren Ruffin, who served as the Field Leader in Residence. Ruffin’s work as cultural leader explores building strong, sustainable, anti-racist systems and organizations. She is interested in how we can leverage new technologies to combat racial and economic injustice. Ruffin is co-founder of CRUX, an immersive storytelling cooperative that collaborates with Black artists as they create content in virtual reality and augmented reality (XR). She is currently the interim chief marketing officer of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA), where she focuses on amplifying the stories and activism of the YBCA community. Prior to joining YBCA, she was co-CEO of Fractured Atlas, the largest association of independent artists in the United States. In 2017, she started Artist Campaign School, a new educational program that has trained 74 artists to run for political office to date.

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2021-2022 Inquiry: Radical reimagining of wealth-generation and credit lending for digital creatives

Challenges and opportunities of securing the bag in the creative economy

2021-22 Field Leader Lauren Ruffin identified the importance of digital creatives influence on world-wide digital platforms. By midpoint 2021, creative-focused platforms have raised $1.3 billion in investments. With more than 220 platforms connected to 50 million creative entrepreneurs around the world, the growth of Influencer deals, NFTs, creator coins, digital art sales and superfan communities shows no sign of slowing down. Yet, these platforms have done little to change structural inequities that allow the creatives powering them to generate wealth. One key barrier to accessing capital for these workers is the current structure of credit-lending markets that focus on brick and mortar goods and services and physical assets as the cornerstone of cash and credit lending algorithms. 

Collaborative with the students and faculty within the School of Arts, Media and Engineering, and with the support of the National Collaborative for Creative Work, Ruffin’s residency helped imagine a new way to think about credit underwriting for digital creatives, using methods in character-based lending, alternate credit scoring and other predictive analytics based around community care and self-determination.

deborah cullinan

Deborah Cullinan

For the 2020-2021 academic year, ASU partnered with Deborah Cullinan, CEO of the Yerba Buena Arts Center. Cullinan’s work as cultural leader explores the belonging, safety and health within cultural institutions and communities. She is a co-founder of CultureBank and ArtsForum SF, co-chair of the San Francisco Arts Alliance and on the board of the Community Arts Stabilization Trust. She is a former Innovator in Residence at the Kauffman Foundation. She currently serves on San Francisco Mayor London Breed’s San Francisco Economic Recovery Task Force and also on Governor Gavin Newsom’s Jobs and Business Recovery Task Force. Her personal work explores the intersection of culture work, employment, belonging and health. Her personal work explores the intersection of culture work, employment, belonging and health with drive toward racial equity and justice.


2020-2021 Field Leader and Inquiry: Cultural, belonging and community healing

Culture, belonging and community healing

2020-21 Field Leader Deborah Cullinan identified the importance of developing a learning cohort composed of current ASU students, ASU alumni and a selection of community members interested in advancing localized work related to developing ways cultural practices fuel conditions necessary for people and communities to thrive. Her research framework is adapted from the WIN (Wellbeing in the Nation) network’s 7 Vital Conditions of Health framework, to include community cohesion and belonging, collective safety, civic muscle and lifelong learning.

Collaboratively with Johanna Taylor, of the Creative Enterprise and Cultural Leadership Master of Arts program, and National Collaborative staff, Cullinan created a space of shared learning, exchange and mentorship, designed to connect thinking and lived experience between students, community organizers and culture workers and cultural organizational leaders. Called the Cultural Leaders in Action cohort, this learning cohort, guided by Cullinan, examined the relationship between places, spaces and community wellbeing. Collectively they imagined and tested new ways to create inclusive, inspiring and engaging environments that fuel collaboration, shared learning, leadership and policy.


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