Photo by Chris Tejeda.

Taking the ART of Engagement to the #NextLevel

On the first day of March, hundreds of young professionals braved the rain for a day of inspiration, education, and connection. The reason? Emerge Summit, the region’s largest annual young professional conference organized by Metro…

On the first day of March, hundreds of young professionals braved the rain for a day of inspiration, education, and connection.

The reason? Emerge Summit, the region’s largest annual young professional conference organized by Metro EDGE, a program of the Sacramento Metro Chamber Foundation. Now in its fifth year, the event takes young professionals — and a few seasoned ones — out of the office for a day to focus on professional and personal development, skills sometimes left on the back burner in our day-to-day lives.

Starting and ending at the Memorial Auditorium, the conference offers attendees a variety of breakout activities to join — panel discussions, keynotes, and bus tours – all curated to spark creative thinking and take lives and leadership to the #NextLevel, the hashtag and theme for this year’s event.

After years of sponsoring the Emerge Summit, Sacramento365 made the move to host our very own breakout session with The ART of Engagement: How to Create a Sense of Pride, Place, and Change, a panel discussion bringing together artists and executives all working to build up and support Sacramento’s arts community.


Photo by Riverview Media Photography.


The inspiration for this topic and holding a panel has been a couple years in the making. Focusing on the arts was a no-brainer: the mission of our parent organization, Visit Sacramento, our close relationship with the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission, various arts organizations, and local artists through our Featured Artist series have time and time again reiterated the need for outlets for creatives to share their diverse experiences, needs and wants with our community.

(To steal a line from our session sponsor, Dignity Health, “a truly healthy community is one in which artists flourish and art is widely accessible.”)

And plot twist, Sacramento’s famous Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig, also had something to do with it. After delivering her 2016 Emerge Summit keynote address, an audience member asked, “What can young professionals do to better support the arts?” Her response was to “make it a habit.”

With The ART of Engagement, we expanded on her answer and shared the many ways the community can make the habit a lasting and impactful one.

We gathered a five (of the many) stellar arts leaders in Sacramento for two lively conversations at the Residence Inn’s The Hotel Bar.


Our Moderator:

Jonathon Glus is the Director of Cultural Services and Creative Economy for the City of Sacramento. As part of the newly formed position, his top focus has been on creating a new Cultural Plan, Creative Edge, the city’s first comprehensive cultural plan in nearly 25 years. Its goal is to create a map forward to expand the creative economy and ensure equitable access for all Sacramentans.

Glus moved to Sacramento in July after serving as the President and CEO of the Houston Arts Alliance for nine years. [Read his Sacramento365 Featured Artist Profile here.]


Photo by Carlos Eliason.


Our Panelists:

Mike Testa is the President and CEO of Visit Sacramento. A Davis native, Mike has been leading regional destination marketing efforts in the region for more than 20 years.


Photo courtesy of Visit Sacramento.


Kimberly Garza Stanush is the Founder and Director of ATLAS Lab Inc. Kimberly runs on the passion to bring play and conviviality to Sacramento’s urban fabric. If you’re a dog owner that lives on the grid, you may have experienced some of her work…Truitt Bark Park. [Read her Sacramento365 Featured Artist Profile here.]


Photo by Jamila B. Khan.


Bryan Valenzuela is a multi-talented artist that doesn’t shy away from tackling new art mediums. His glass work masterpiece, “Multitudes Converge”, suspended above the Golden 1 Center’s southwest escalator was his first foray into glass and sculpture work and is also part of the City’s largest public art investment. [Read his Sacramento365 Featured Artist Profile here.]


Photo by Wes Davis.


Estella Sanchez’s formal title is Executive Director, but many recognize her as the “Godmother” of Sol Collective. For over 15 years, Estella has brought art without borders into one space and has set a model followed by many across the country. [Read Sol Collective’s Sacramento365 Featured Artist Profile here.]


Photo by Kenny Reprado.



The ART of Engagement Highlights

With questions ranging from placemaking to relationship building, we’ve highlighted a few our favorite gems from our morning discussions:


“Sacramento doesn’t have those world landmarks [that people flock to], so we have to convey our personality, give them a reason to come here. We have the restaurants, the Golden 1 Center, the history, but what is the passion of Sacramento? That’s where art comes in. Art conveys who we are, our personality, and our talents.”

-Mike Testa on what it means to be a destination city.

“The beauty of Sacramento is that we big enough to be on the map and small enough to come together and make change happen.”

Kimberly Garza Stanush, reflecting on collaborating here locally.

“[Art] has always been a tool to share our [community’s] story, share our own narratives…we can do this citywide. Art is a way to talk about our personality as a city…instead of letting outsiders describe what Sacramento is and isn’t, we can tell our story [through local artists]. Sacramento is redefining itself and finally realizing the power art has to tell the world who we are.”

-Estella Sanchez on using arts as a community building tool in Sacramento.

“There’s a ton of talent in our city and people [outside of Sacramento] don’t get a chance to see that. When we…put on [temporary] events like ArtHotel, ArtStreet, Wide Open Walls, and…invest in artists and tell them to do something big, we, the city, get a gift. [These events] create excitement and pride.”

-Bryan Valenzuela on how the community wins with growing arts investment.


Photo by Chris Tejeda.


“For a long time, we were seeing people hide behind whatever they needed to hide behind. We have a saying at Visit Sacramento that ‘we have to cut down the trees people are hiding behind. When you cut enough of them, eventually [people] have to stand up and show us who [they] are.’ And I think Sacramento is going in that direction.”

-Mike Testa on the need for Sacramentans to embrace a bigger and bolder vision for the city.

“I grew up in Sacramento, but in my 20s, I left. I came back here and I wasn’t hearing much going on. So I wondered, how I could get involved in my city if there’s no formal way to do something? Not knowing I was being entrepreneurial, I created my own opportunities. I started talking to like-minded people and connecting.”

-Kimberly Garza Stanush on mapping out your own success.

“When we see representations of ourselves, we feel a sense of pride…at our gallery, when we have exhibits [with work including] people who look like myself, look like people in my community, it can be very empowering.”

-Estella Sanchez on the importance of representation.

“Sacramento has an inferiority complex. If we invest in our city, we can be whatever we want to be.”

-Bryan Valenzuela on how Sacramento needs to own its identity.


Photo by Chris Tejeda.


“There’s a lot going on in this city that we don’t give ourselves enough credit for…Over the last few years, I see a confidence in who we are and a desire to be different; we’re not afraid to go out on a limb.”

-Mike Testa on the changing face of Sacramento.

“Invite yourself to the table. Sit on a board, volunteer. There are ways to support cool things happening without being a creative.”

-Kimberly Garza Stanush on how you can get involved locally.

“When we start talking about larger institutional venues and smaller art spaces, we first need to think about the local community and how they can be a part of these spaces, how they value those spaces. Smaller venues, like [Sol Collective], can help develop and cultivate art lovers who later either perform or support more established institutions. Investment in smaller spaces is needed too. Supporting both go hand in hand.”

-Estella Sanchez on the importance of supporting creative and performing arts venues at every scale.

“Usually what happens when people make a new establishment, venues, you build it out and then try to sneak some art in. It could be really amazing to get an artist consultant…in at the beginning. You’d then create very beautiful buildings that people want to go to, that people want to inhabit, to be a part of rather than producing more nondescript places.”

-Bryan Valenzuela on the importance of getting artists involved early in local projects.


Photo by Chris Tejeda.


Get Involved

Sacramento365 believes we must all proactively work together to help our creative community flourish. Building on the ethos of the Emerge Summit, we have outlined a few opportunities young professionals/non-artists to take their support for our local arts community to the #NextLevel.

If you didn’t get the chance to sign up at our Get Involved table, click on the links below:

  • #TweetSeats: Live tweet during upcoming Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera concerts as a #SacPhilOperaInsider
  • Join The Pack: Donate your time and talents to keep Truitt Bark Park safe and fun for users.
  • Creative Edge Town Hall: On April 23, hear the progress of the city’s Cultural Plan, a roadmap to expand Sacramento’s creative economy and ensure equitable access to the arts for all Sacramentans.
  • TopoSHARE: A project of panelist Kimberly Garza Stanush, TopoSHARE is a temporary art installation comprised of a series of colorful milk crates that allow the community to gather, give, and play. She is seeking volunteers to help assemble the installation and spread the word. Email for details.
  • Photography Month Sacramento: Through a series of events and hands-on activities, scheduled throughout our region, Photography Month Sacramento will create a new bi-annual event for the visual arts. Participating museums, galleries, schools, restaurants, bars, retailers and more, will create their own exhibits, displays, lectures, workshops, and events to celebrate the art of photography.
  • $35 under 35 Club: California Musical Theatre’s $35 Under 35 Club gives theatergoers Age 18-35 years of age access to purchase tickets to upcoming Broadway Sacramento and Music Circus shows for just $35.
  • Sol Collective: Stay in the loop on all of the center’s creative program, services, and events here.
  • $9 at 9pm: Did you know that B Street Theatre offers special discount tickets on select Saturday nights?


Photo by Chris Tejeda.


Keep Up with Sacramento365

Throughout the month of March, we are sharing excerpts from the robust conversation on our social platforms.