[creative partner] for people working

for a more just, sustainable and beautiful world.

About Us

We believe that social change is a creative process, and that culture has transformative power.

We help artists, cultural leaders and other sectors mobilize culture and creativity to make positive change in their communities and beyond.

As a society, we are in a moment of profound upheaval and change. Climate change, growing inequality, mass migration, gun violence, the opioid epidemic–these are symptoms that “business as usual” is not working for many people or the planet.

But what comes next? And, how do we get there?

We believe that imagining and building a better world that is more equitable and sustainable–as well as more beautiful and joyful–requires unleashing and amplifying culture and creative people power. Cultural equity and democratized creative practice are not only features of the future we want, they are critical to helping us getting there. And we believe there is no sector that will be immune from the impacts of climate change, or does not have a role to play in a just transition to a more sustainable future.

All of our projects are distinct, designed collaboratively with our partners. We specialize in helping people explore uncharted territory, and developing and realizing boundary-crossing ideas in the service of a more just, sustainable and beautiful world.

Our Services

  • Research
  • Strategy Development
  • Program Design & Management
  • Program Assessment
  • Leadership Training and Coaching

WHO WE ARE

Holly Sidford

Holly Sidford

Co-Director

Holly is an expert systems thinker–seeing connections and making more than the sum of the parts. Her endless curiosity, penetrating intelligence and commitment to excellence underpins all of Helicon’s work. Holly draws on her training as an historian and her experiences as a program developer and funder to inform Helicon’s efforts to elevate the role of artists, recognize the full diversity of creative expression and make the arts and culture a more central part of community life.

Holly has a knack for identifying the most important issue facing the field at the time, and her work is often a thought-provoking catalyst for change. Reports such as Bright Spot Leadership in the Pacific Northwest (Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, 2012) and Fusing Art, Culture and Social Change (National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, 2011) have stimulated field-wide discussion. Earlier in her career, her work at the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund helped shift national discourse and practice in the ways cultural organizations engage audiences and communities.  In 2000, Holly’s work prompted unprecedented research on artists, Investing in Creativity (Urban Institute, 2003), and the creation of Leveraging Investments in Creativity (LINC), a unique ten-year initiative to expand support and recognition for artists nationwide.

Holly serves on the board of Sadie Nash Leadership Project, an award-winning leadership program for young female leaders in metropolitan New York, and Fractured Atlas, a national organization pioneering technology-based ways to empower artists, cultural organizations and other creative enterprises.

Alexis Frasz

Alexis Frasz

Co-Director

Alexis has 15 years experience working at the intersection of arts and culture and social change as a researcher, writer, strategist, and educator. Her work is informed by diverse fields of knowledge including cultural anthropology, Chinese Medicine, psychology, design thinking, permaculture, Buddhism, martial arts, and solidarity economics.

She leads Helicon’s work at the intersection of culture, the environment, and social justice–including research into how culture can help us address our environmental challenges and transition to a more just and regenerative society.  She is a network-builder, researcher and strategic advisor for partners in both the cultural, philanthropic, and environmental sectors helping devise and implement strategies to drive change. Her research (with Holly Sidford) on art and social change  has informed artist training curriculums and philanthropic programs worldwide. She teaches and mentors cultural leaders in the U.S. and Canada on how to embody creative civic leadership in today’s complex social, ecological and economic context. She is actively engaged in Helicon’s ongoing work to confront  structural inequities in the cultural sector. Currently, she is working with various partners to bring artists and cultural leaders into greater solidarity with broader movements for social, ecological, and economic justice.

Alexis graduated Summa cum Laude from Princeton University with a degree in Cultural Anthropology and has pursued Master’s level study in Chinese Medicine.  She has a Permaculture Design Certificate, and she continues to experiment with the principles in her backyard and in her work. She is an advisor to Food Shift, the NorCal Resilience Network, the Headlands Center for the Arts, and The Artist’s Literacy’s Institute. She lives in Oakland and studies with integrated spiritual/psychological teacher, Jennifer Welwood.

Marcus Renner

Marcus Renner

Affiliate Researcher

Marcus is a freelance educator, organizer, writer, and researcher. He holds a M.S. in Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development from the University of Wisconsin and an M.F.A. in playwriting from the University of California-Riverside. He has experience with grassroots organizing on issues related local food, waste, and energy policy, transportation, sustainable business, neighborhood economic development, and conservation of biodiversity. As an artist, his focus is on writing stories and devising theater that amplifies the voices of community residents and generates dialogue on important issues. He is currently working on a book about the intersection of the community arts with the movement to create sustainable local economies. 

Masum Momaya

Masum Momaya

Affiliate Researcher

Masum Momaya, Ed.D. has more than 15 years of experience as a social justice educator, researcher, writer, grantmaker and museum curator.  Her professional mission is to support advocates, activists, artists and scholars in crossing borders, expanding narratives, offering new expressions, building solidarity and raising difficult conversations.  She draws from her interdisciplinary academic studies at Stanford University and Harvard University, her work for women’s rights at the Third Wave Foundation, the Association for Women’s Rights in Development and the International Museum of Women, experiences of living, traveling and conducting research in 32 countries and most recently her work on narratives of race and immigration at the Smithsonian. Masum lives near Chicago.

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” -Buckminster Fuller