A message from our new Executive Director Gwen Loeb

AOK Executive Director Gwen LoebIt is an honor to be joining AOK. I am deeply committed to the mission, in part because I want to pay forward the arts education I was privileged to receive throughout my youth. In my art-based preschool, I learned to read music before I could read language and then attended public school where I played the oboe, sang, and acted. By high school, I was active in band, orchestra, choir, madrigals, drama club, and speech team, and in my junior year, I transferred to Interlochen Arts Academy and went on to obtain a BFA in theater.

To this day, I work as a professional union actress. In fact, I’ll be performing all summer in Bay Area parks with San Francisco Shakespeare Festival. If you see the show, come say hello!

In addition to acting, I have worked for over 25 years as an organizational development and fundraising executive with numerous arts, social justice, and environmental non-profits. I have also worked as a teaching artist, teaching theater to ages 3-80 in Minneapolis, Arizona, Oregon, and the Bay Area.

As we get to know each other, you may hear me refer to AOK as an Arts Justice organization. Here’s why:

Numerous exhaustive studies have proven that arts education accelerates brain development, raises IQ, and radically improves the brain’s ability to synthesize and use information. Arts education is a major educational advantage. When art is treated as a privilege rather than a necessity, it is the most vulnerable children who are denied this educational advantage. By denying that advantage to students in under-resourced schools, we are creating an obstacle to future achievement. Arts for Oakland Kids seeks to remedy this injustice by providing grants for arts programs that serve the brilliant children in Oakland’s most financially challenged schools. Arts Justice.

I look forward to working with all of you as we build a more just and equitable arts education and integrated arts environment in Oakland.



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