Philanthropy, Art & Culture 2021 |

ELI HELD (31), L.A.



About: I have always wanted to make a difference in my community. This passion led to a career as a firefighter-paramedic for the City of Folsom Fire Department in Greater Sacramento. I have been involved in emergency medical services for 12 years, actively raising money in support of the Muscular Dystrophy Association and Sacramento’s Firefighters Burn Institute. I enjoy spending time at Lake Berryessa, at Lake Tahoe, and in my backyard with friends and family. 

Company: Muertos Coffee is a coffee roasting company co-founded with my lifelong friend Doug Walker and fellow first responders. We donate 5% of all sales to individuals in need, families of line-of-duty death victims, and fire victims. We partner directly with foundations and associations to make a difference. 

Company HQ: Napa Valley region

Education: Business and marketing, EMT-paramedic, firefighter 1 and 2, Orange Coast College.

Industry: Consumer goods 

Awards and/or Accolades: Graduated with honors from fire academy as a top recruit.

Notable projects: In its first year, Muertos Coffee raised over $80K to support local and national causes and foundations, including the Los Angeles Fire Department, Cal Fire Benevolent Foundation, Phoenix Local 493, Sacramento City Fire, Boise Fire Department, Las Vegas Fire and Rescue, and the National Breast Cancer Foundation. 

Advice: You only are what you make of yourself.

Success: I am already successful. Nothing more successful and rewarding than helping others and making a difference for individuals around the nation.

Mentors: Josh Held, Brian Beck, Chad Pfeifer, Mel Elias.

Local companies you admire: I admire a lot of the mom-and-pop shops run by local entrepreneurs. Nobody can stop you but yourself!

First job: Worked construction as a young man learning what hard work and labor were like.

Guilty pleasure: Pizza and ice cream

In the morning: Shower and meditate

Before bed: Pray

What keeps you up: Thinking about my next move and what I am going to do to get there.

Year ahead: Continue to build my company and make a difference for others. Focused on a strong start to 2021 with momentum from 2020.




About: I was born in Israel and raised in Los Angeles. I founded Tieks in 2008 and launched the first collection in 2010. In launching Tieks, we sought to reinvent the ballet flat into something that could be portable and durable, with the ability to fold and fit into a purse. It was also imperative that we design a high-quality product down to the stitching and Italian leather—and create a shoe that would keep busy women comfortable on the road. Prior to Tieks, I worked in hedge funds, venture capital, tech, and real estate. When I’m not working, I love to travel and hike around Los Angeles.

Company: Tieks designs and sells a line of women’s flat shoes known for its signature split sole, Italian leather, comfort, and portability. We were one of the early brands to sell exclusively through our own website. Tieks is committed to women’s empowerment and, through the Gavrieli Foundation, has become the largest individual lender in the world on Kiva, sending over $10M to women entrepreneurs living in poverty around the world.

Company HQ: Los Angeles, CA

Education: BA, economics and MS, material science and engineering, Stanford University; MBA, Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Industry: Fashion

Awards and/or Accolades: Inc.’s 30 Under 30, Forbes’ 25 Most Innovative Consumer Brands, Entrepreneur’s Top 30 Startups to Watch, and O, The Oprah Magazine’s The O List.

Notable projects: In 2020, Tieks reoriented its manufacturing facility into a mask-making assembly line, producing masks that we donated to support local frontline health workers. We realized that Tieks could make a larger impact if we engaged our social media followers and customers in the work of mask making. We conceived of Operation #SewTogether, which provided a $50 gift card for every 25 masks sewn and delivered, and a $100 gift card for every 50 masks sewn and delivered. Through this initiative, we exceeded our goal of over 1M masks sewn and donated across the country. For Tieks for Heroes, we offered a $100 gift card for use on our line of ballet flats to frontline medical, first-responder, and military personnel. Hundreds of thousands of frontline heroes participated and received gift cards. Throughout the pandemic, we worked with local and national nonprofits to help secure and distribute PPE and support heroes on the front lines. We have participated in a range of efforts, from donating thousands of face shields to delivering 5,000 cupcakes to medical workers at local hospitals on New Year’s Eve. It has given our whole team a real sense of purpose that we can make a difference during this time.

Advice: Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff. This outlook and book changed the game for me.

Success: Success is not a destination, but a culmination of moments and experiences. It comes from striving to achieve new heights daily with a better mentality. Living with a sense of happiness and freedom, doing what you can for others each day, while creating strong, meaningful relationships is a marker of success.

Mentors: My parents have been my greatest mentors. They immigrated to America with four young kids and barely spoke English. I learned how to build a business by watching them. Through the power of their example, they taught me that I could accomplish any goal with perseverance, hard work, and integrity. I would not have been able to make the impact that I have without their unwavering support.

Local companies you admire: Double bottom-line companies that are making a difference locally and beyond, like Aspiration, AQP Capital, and Greater Los Angeles Hospital Registry. These companies focus on solving problems and empower people to spend and give in accordance with their values. I also admire Pecorino Restaurant in Brentwood and Chef Raffaele for his artistry as a chef—and for making the best cacio e pepe in L.A.

First job: My first job was at my parents’ family business, Gavrieli Plastics, a raw-materials distribution company. I shadowed my dad and worked in the warehouse, learning the ins and outs of the business, and driving the forklift way too much.

Guilty pleasure: An occasional cigar—my favorite is E.P. Carrillo Cigars.

In the morning: 100 pushups. Just kidding.

Before bed: I like to unwind by reading, listening to jazz music, and meditating.

What keeps you up: Good and sometimes crazy ideas.

Year ahead: Continuing to build Tieks, striving to be the best at what we do. I also want to make sure that I set aside more time to be with the people close to me.




About: A Texas native, I currently live in Jefferson Park in L.A. I founded Brightland to provide authentic, high-quality essentials like extra virgin olive oil and vinegar, after learning about the magnitude of quality and production issues in the industry.

Company: Brightland is a modern pantry essentials company that champions small California farms, regenerative agriculture, and elevated design.

Company HQ: Los Angeles 

Education: BA, NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study.

Industry: Food 

Awards and/or Accolades: Create and Cultivate 100, and featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Vogue, and more. 

Notable projects: Building Brightland

Advice: The race is long, and at the end of the day you’re only racing against yourself.

Success: Every day that you wake up with optimism.

Mentors: Nic Jammet, founder of Sweetgreen; Shilpa Shah, founder of Cuyana; Matt Taylor, founder of Tracksmith. 

Local companies you admire: Morrow Soft Goods, NOTO Botanics, Lady & Larder, and Highly Likely Café.

First job: Build-A-Bear at a Houston mall when I was in high school.

Guilty pleasure: Eating ice cream with a lot of Brightland olive oil while watching old episodes of Friends.

In the morning: Snuggling with my dogs

Before bed: Journaling. 

What keeps you up: Building a passionate, all-star team at Brightland. 

Year ahead: Be a compassionate, passionate, galvanizing leader. Build with intention and with purpose.




About: A proud Mississippian, I am dedicated to investing in partners, projects, and programs that eliminate barriers to access capital and credit for small and micro Black and Latino-owned businesses through the Rockefeller Opportunity Collective. Previously, I worked as a program officer at the Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock, and manager of VIP relationships, corporate responsibility, and philanthropy in a corporate social responsibility office that supported access to clean water and higher education. I also served as a member of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation’s Mississippi and New Orleans team managing a portfolio of nearly 140 grants totaling more than $90M.

Company: The Rockefeller Foundation’s mission—unchanged since 1913—is to promote the well-being of humanity throughout the world. Today the foundation advances new frontiers of science, data, policy, and innovation to solve global challenges related to health, food, power, and economic mobility. As a science-driven philanthropy focused on building collaborative relationships with partners and grantees, The Rockefeller Foundation seeks to inspire and foster large-scale human impact that promotes the well-being of humanity by identifying and accelerating breakthrough solutions, ideas, and conversations. In late October, the foundation made an unprecedented commitment of $1B over three years to help catalyze a more inclusive, green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Company HQ: New York, NY

Education: BA, English, Tougaloo College; JD, The George Washington University Law School.

Industry: Philanthropy

Awards and/or Accolades: Young, Gifted, and Empowered Awards Philanthropist of the Year 2020, Tougaloo College Young Alumnus of the Year 2013, UNCF Grace Walker Phillips Young Adult Leadership Award 2012, NAACP LDF Alumni Mellon Mays Fellow, William Winters Humanities Scholar.

Notable projects: Helping low-wage workers in cities across the United States achieve economic stability and build a path to economic mobility. Working as a racial justice organizer and civil rights attorney on cases such as Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder and Lewis v. City of Chicago/“The Chicago Firefighters Case.” Working with the Campaign for Youth Justice as federal field organizer, providing technical assistance and support to seven states on policy campaigns to end the practice of trying and sentencing young people as adults. Serving as a liaison between the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education on the Supportive School Discipline Initiative and the Department of Justice’s Task Force on Violence Against Children.

Advice: To quote American author John Edgar Wideman, “Don’t accept easy answers, especially self-serving answers from teachers, preachers, parents, military recruiters, employers, writers—answers that evade the questions you need to ask. Instead you must invent your own stories. Sing and dance life into them. Share them. Create new stories before the old ones grow stale. Shout them or say them silently to yourself when it’s the only way to preserve them and save yourself. And never, never fall asleep in someone else’s dream.”

Success: Success is an unattainable goal. Regardless of the years, whether one dies in youth, in middle age, or in old age, if we dream at all, our dreams will seldom, if ever, be completely fulfilled. A useful life and an abundant life require that we choose for ourselves dreams that will never completely come true, and choose ideals that forever beckon but forever elude. “To seek a goal that is worthy, so all-embracing, so all-consuming, and so challenging that one can never completely attain it, is the only life worth living,” said Rev. Dr. Benjamin E. Mays. That’s success.

Mentors: My greatest mentor is also my best friend, my grandmother, Fannie Mae Johnson. She holds me accountable to being a good and kind person. She interrogates my motives to ensure that my intentions and my actions match at every step. And, with easy restraint, she lends me so much grace in otherwise difficult situations.

Local companies you admire: B+C Restaurants, Juices for Life, Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts.

First job: A youth organizer for an environmental education and arts program at a nonprofit community organization in Holmes County, MS.

Guilty pleasure: This one is easy. Reality television.

In the morning: Prayer, meditation, gratitude

Before bed: Prayer, meditation, gratitude

What keeps you up: Not a lot. I have a healthy sense of concern about many things—the growing threat of white supremacy in the United States, the failure to fully fund and support traditional public schools for all children regardless of race or class or status, the lack of opportunity experienced by so many low-wage working poor—but not worry or the thing that keeps you up at night. Even when right is worsted, my experience is that wrong will not triumph. So, I rest to wake. And I even, when and if baffled, continue to fight for something that is truer and wiser and deeper.

Year ahead: Scale support for new and emerging organizations and programs that are working to eliminate barriers to capital access for Black and Hispanic people—especially those utilizing innovative or alternative capital structures.




About: I am an activist, philanthropist, marketer, and New York Times bestselling author of The Black Friend. I created the largest GoFundMe campaign in history, the #BlackPantherChallenge, which ultimately generated over $43M in earned advertising and media for Disney and raised over $950K to allow more than 75,000 children worldwide to see Black Panther for free. I am also the creator of the largest individual COVID-19 support effort, the #RentRelief campaign, which has raised over $2M. I write about marketing, culture, and politics for The Huffington Post, USA Today, NowThisNews, The Independent, and AdWeek.

Company: We Have Stories is owned and composed of a team of people from underrepresented and/or marginalized communities. The team is also 60% women. Clients who contract with us immediately have their projects do more, as we are committed to providing a portion of our profits to supporting underrepresented storytellers and content creators in need.

Company HQ: New York, NY

Education: BA, creative writing and political science, Hunter College.

Industry: Writing and editing 

Awards and/or Accolades: Forbes Under 30 2019, The Root’s 100 Most Influential African Americans 2018, Comic-Con Humanitarian of the Year. A national surrogate for the Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders campaigns. 

Notable projects: The Black Panther Challenge, The Rent Relief Campaign, and Charity Has No Boundaries Campaign. 

Advice: Show up as yourself as often as you can.

Success: There is no point at which I consider myself successful, which gives me the drive to keep pushing and being hungry.

Mentors: I wasn’t lucky enough to have any mentors.

Local companies you admire: I love the work that The Soze Agency does.

First job: A pet store in Scarsdale, NY.

Guilty pleasure: I love love love theater and showtunes generally.

In the morning: News

Before bed: Sports news

What keeps you up: Climate and social justice

Year ahead: Write another bestselling book and sell a million copies of my debut.




About: I’m driven by an insatiable urge to do good and make money, in that order. My first social entrepreneurship venture was opening The LAB Miami, a coworking space that encourages members to scale their businesses alongside improving the community around them. It was during this time that the idea for Simple Vodka was born. Rather than throwing all the untouched leftovers from our events at The LAB away, we began to take the trays over to a local food pantry. 

Company: Our mission is simple: develop a superior quality product, produce it sustainably, price it sensibly, and deliver positive social impact for our cause. Each bottle of Simple Vodka is made in America from 9.5 lbs. of locally sourced Idaho russet potatoes and fresh water piped in directly from the Snake River aquifer. That’s it—no added sugar, flavors, or preservatives. Each time we distill, we use sustainable energy sources, recycle our wastewater, and upcycle our by-product to minimize the impact on the environment. The final product is an ultra-smooth, gluten-free potato vodka that is genuinely tasty on its own and mixes seamlessly in any cocktail. For every bottle of Simple Vodka, we provide 20 meals to those in need in the US. That comes out to a bit more than one meal per drink. 1 drink = 1 meal. Simple. 

Company HQ: Brooklyn, NY

Education: BA, international relations, University of Pennsylvania.

Industry: Wine and spirits 

Awards and/or Accolades: Recognized as a 40 under 40 Tastemaker by Wine Enthusiast in 2018. Simple Vodka was recognized with the Double Gold Medal for taste (highest honor) at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition for two consecutive years.

Notable projects: The LAB Miami became the epicenter of Miami’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and hosted 225 events in the first calendar year, swelling our membership to 180 companies within six months. During a 12-month span, I secured more than $3.5M in grant funding for human rights development in Cuba. As assistant director of the Berkley Center for Entrepreneurship at NYU Stern School of Business, I coached hundreds of startups through the early stages of developing, launching, and scaling their concepts. Simple Vodka started in one Miami neighborhood at a couple of bars and has grown to be available in 32 states, and hundreds of retailers across the country. The brand has contributed more than 1M meals to those in need through local and national hunger-relief efforts.

Advice: Done is better than perfect. As a perfectionist, this took a bit of time to learn but is something I repeat daily when I find myself over-tinkering. Finishing something that could have been better is infinitely more valuable than chasing perfection with nothing to show for it. 

Success: Success is like knowledge: the more you accomplish, the more you realize there’s much more left to achieve. 

Mentors: The collective ethos and wisdom of the communities that I am a part of—call it crowdsourced mentorship. The most valuable thing a founder can do is surround themselves with people smarter than them and who possess a diversity of mindsets and backgrounds.

Local companies you admire: Devoción, my favorite coffee shop in Williamsburg. My go-to drink there is the Sparkling Cascara. Crafted Hospitality by Tom Colicchio, an amazing Simple Vodka partner committed to solving food insecurity. City Harvest, an organization that helps feed more than 2.5M New Yorkers in need.

First job: Cashier and stock boy at my granddad’s auto parts store. As the owner’s grandson, you’d think I’d have it easy, yet it was anything but that. It’s where I got my first taste of a hard-earned dollar.

Guilty pleasure: White Russian, a boozy, adult milkshake. I especially enjoy them during the holidays since eggnog is widely available. Rather than milk and Kahlúa, I make my own version with Simple and eggnog. Recipe: two parts vodka, one part cold brew, one part chocolate liqueur, and three to four parts eggnog (to taste). Shake it with ice and strain into a chilled coupe glass.

In the morning: I am not a morning person and it takes me a bit to get going in the morning. My typical routine involves hitting the snooze button a half-dozen times while cuddling my dog, followed by a silent cup of coffee while I skim my news sources.

Before bed: Inversely, it takes me a bit to wind down in the evening. I’ll reach for a cup of Sleepytime tea or a glass of wine as I take an inventory of the day and prepare my agenda for the following day. Compiling a to-do list is the only way I can truly get a restful night of sleep.

What keeps you up: Some of my best ideas come when I’m minutes from slumber. I keep a nighttime idea notebook near (but not next to) my bed. So when an idea strikes, I’ll start by pointing out all its flaws to convince myself it’s not worth getting up for … which rarely works and also leads to some funny morning reads.

Year ahead: Our primary goals for 2020 were to grow from three to five markets and provide another 300K meals to those in need. With the activation of our online channels and new retail launches, we are now available in 34 markets (+DC) and are on pace for 500K meals (bringing our total to 1.5M meals contributed). In 2021, we expect to more than double our lifetime contribution and help deliver at least 2M meals to those in need.

JOEY LICO (33), L.A.



About: Although I began my career in the nonprofit arts sector, I started working with The Cultivist right at its launch in New York. Alongside an initial six-person team, over the years we’ve built a five-office global brand that is synonymous with exclusive art access and education. From the beginning, I’ve curated inclusive programming that brings our members closer to the art they already love, while providing a platform for artists and institutions who have largely been left out of the art historical canon. I’ve spent the last decade making sure my passion and vocation were aligned, so it’s no surprise that I spend most of my free time with art and artists. Outside of that, I’m pretty nerdy about wine and fangirl around sommeliers on social media or at restaurants. 

Company: The Cultivist is a global arts club that facilitates seamless, more engaged access to the visual arts through virtual lectures, concierge services, art travel, and events.

Company HQ: New York

Education: BA, philosophy, Fordham University; MA, decolonizing research methodologies, NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study; PhD, cultural transformation and globalization, University of Amsterdam. I am wary of promoting an elite education. This was a journey I took because at the time my aptitude in school was the only way for me to gain access to opportunities within my industry, which have regularly been reserved for the wealthy. I don’t condone a system that overlooks talented individuals just because they don’t have the right names on a CV.

Industry: Arts

Notable projects: Working with the White House (under the Obama Administration) to bring contemporary art (and artists) to the forefront of public policy issues, such as criminal justice reform and immigration. This was an incredible endeavor combining my passions. But for The Cultivist: moving to Los Angeles two years ago, with a fairly new business to begin with, and having no local network I worked extremely hard to develop what is now our third-largest market (in under two years).

Advice: A folktale passed down by my family, the thesis of it being: “A person should help their neighbor without being asked.

Success: When I’ve finished a program with an artist and they tell me that they loved the conversation and they felt understood and seen. If I’ve been able to give them a platform for discourse that is meaningful to them and engages new audiences or facilitates another opportunity in the meantime, that’s so rewarding.

Mentors: I don’t have a mentor in the traditional sense, but there are two women who have been inspirations and invaluable sounding boards at various stages in my career: architecture consultant Karen Stein and Lucia Villar, a fintech executive.

Local companies you admire: Art Drunk, Another Tomorrow, Crown Affair, Gallery Girls, and the No. 29.

First job: Cleaning horse stables when I was 10 years old. Very glamorous work.

Guilty pleasure: Those Buzzfeed lists

In the morning: Get my coffee brewing, then at least three pages of uninterrupted creative writing.

Before bed: I have a very bad habit of reading Politico and The Hill before bed. I’m trying to change that by treating myself to House of Waris Botanicals Night of Nights tea—my hope is that if I start to make the wind down a special occasion I’ll be less inclined to jazz my brain up with the news.

What keeps you up: How can I be doing more for Latinx artists and how will that, in turn, uplift other systematically oppressed communities? How can I continue the urgent push for policy change and can that happen through the work of artists? How can I support the decolonization of the education systems that help perpetuate the inequities in my industry? And so, on goes the wheel of bedtime thoughts … I’m a delight to wind down with.

Year ahead: To continue to expand virtual forums sharing business skills (and communities) with artists and studios who need them. And to continue finding ways to make art approachable and exciting for the general public.




About: Equal parts head and heart, I’ve spent my career working for social change that sticks. With deep experience in government, advocacy, nonprofit, corporate, and philanthropic work, I founded my firm, Ethos Giving, to disrupt the status quo and help our clients take their social-impact efforts to the next level. Our two awesome preschoolers keep me grounded and dreaming.

Company: Ethos Giving is a social impact firm that works with corporations, individuals, and foundations committed to moving the needle with their philanthropic and community efforts.

Company HQ: Los Angeles

Education: BA, UCLA; JD, University of Arizona.

Industry: Philanthropy

Awards and/or Accolades: Nominated, Los Angeles Business Journal’s “Women of the Year: 2020.” Led The Wonderful Company team that won the US Chamber of Commerce’s coveted Corporate Citizenship Award for “Best Community Improvement Program” 2010. Recognized by the Los Angeles City Council for public service in 2009. Recipient of the Dannie Lee Chandler Memorial Award, awarded to a University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law graduating student who demonstrates the highest commitment to free speech and advocacy. 

Notable projects: Launching my own firm, Ethos Giving, in 2019 with a 2-year-old and newborn in tow. At the outset of COVID-19, co-creating the Greater Los Angeles Hospital Registry, which gets urgently needed PPE and support to L.A. County hospitals.

Advice: I failed my first attempt at the California Bar Exam. I dusted myself off and found an incredible tutor. She drilled into me some sage advice that not only helped me pass the bar, but has benefitted every facet of my life since: If everything is important, nothing is.

Success: Still working on it. 

Mentors: Rabbi David Saperstein, Lynda Resnick.

Local companies you admire: The Wonderful Company, Tieks by Gavrieli, Sweetgreen, LA LOOP, Patagonia, Rustic Canyon Family, Everytable, HopSkipDrive, SÜPRMARKT, Thrive Market, Flo by Moen.

First job: I served as an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center in Washington, DC, where I got to dive head first into legislative advocacy, programming, communications, and community organizing. It was the best first job I could have had.

Guilty pleasure: Pedicures and baking

In the morning: Coffee and kiddos (ideally in that order).

Before bed: Let’s be honest, answering emails.

What keeps you up: The question as to whether I’m doing enough—as a mom, as a social impact change agent, as a citizen—is constantly tapping me on the shoulder.

Year ahead: Continuing to grow the most effective social-impact services firm in the country.




About: For over a decade, I’ve been on a mission to apply my knowledge, background and curiosity to redefine the way art is experienced. Founding Artechouse with my husband has allowed me to create a supportive ecosystem for the future of art and a platform for some of the most prominent artists of today, which I am extremely proud of. What started out as the nation’s first innovative art destination is now a home, online and off, for technology-driven art. From physical, immersive art spaces in Washington, D.C., New York, and Miami to an extended reality mobile app, Artechouse connects progressive ideas, artists, and audiences and stimulates interest in the limitless possibilities of technology, science, and creativity.

Company: Artechouse is an experiential, technology-driven art company dedicated to producing and presenting groundbreaking 21st century art experiences for 21st century audiences.

Company HQ: DC

Education: BA, international affairs; MBA, George Washington University.

Industry: Creative Arts

Notable projects: Artechouse NYC became the world’s first art space to feature the largest, seamless megapixel count in the world with Barco-powered technology that brings these projected digital environments vividly to life and integrates L-ISA Immersive Hyperreal Sound technology with 32 separate channels for a truly immersive, multidimensional audio experience. With 21-foot-high walls and floor-to-ceiling projections, it creates a unique canvas for the artists and makes exhibitions truly immersive.

Best advice received: Early on, as an associate at Morgan Stanley, my boss gave me a card with a quote from Calvin Coolidge: “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

Definition of Success: How many lives and hearts we touch.

Local companies you admire: Urban Stems, Cava

First job: Growing up in a family of entrepreneurs, I was naturally part of everything my parents were doing. The first paid job I had, at age 12, was as a part-time waitress at my mom’s cafe. 

Guilty pleasure: Light-hearted mystery books

In the morning: I love cooking. Whenever my husband and I are in the same city, we make it a priority to make breakfast together. 

Before bed: Read a few pages from The Lives of Saints

Year ahead: Continuing on a mission to bring Artechouse to every city. We plan to announce at least three more new locations by the end of 2021. 




At 22 years old, Amanda Gorman, a native of West Los Angeles, has already become a household name as the youngest poet laureate in U.S. history. On January 20, 2021, Gorman recited her uplifting original poem “The Hill We Climb” at the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Prior to this momentous occasion, the Harvard graduate was honored as the first national youth poet laureate in 2017. 

It’s been a busy few months for Gorman, who recently appeared on the cover of Time magazine; the issue included an interview with Gorman and former First Lady Michelle Obama. 

Here, we look at Gorman’s thoughts and comments on life, poetry, and identity. 

On Her Speech Impediment 

“I don’t look at my disability as a weakness. It’s made me the performer that I am and the storyteller that I strive to be. When you have to teach yourself how to say sounds, when you have to be highly concerned about pronunciation, it gives you a certain awareness of sonics, of the auditory experience.” L.A. Times 

On Diversity in Poetry

“We really need to break out of the pathology that poetry is only owned by certain elites. Where we can start is highlighting and celebrating poets who reflect humanity in all of its diverse colors and breadth” –Interview with Michelle Obama in Time.

On Politics

“The decision to create, the artistic choice to have a voice, the choice to be heard, is the most political act of all. … Poets have this phenomenal potential to connect the beliefs of the private individual with the cause of change, of the public, the population, the polity, the political movement.” TED Talk, “Using Your Voice Is a Political Choice”

On the Power of Poetry

“Poetry is typically the touchstone that we go back to when we have to remind ourselves of the history that we stand on, and the future that we stand for.” New York Times

On Her Purpose 

“It’s not enough for me, even in my own life, to just write poetry about red wheelbarrows or a tree, though I can and sometimes I do. I have to interweave my poetry with purpose. For me, that purpose is to help people, and to shed a light on issues that have far too long been in the darkness.” Vogue