Events | How to: Community Engagement? Swenja Zaremba in Conversation with Community Initiatives

Los Angeles, Goethe-Institut Los Angeles | December 6, 2022 | 5:30 PM (PST)

How do cultural workers, artists and cultural institutions develop strategies to engage with local communities and each other in a meaningful way? 2022 Thomas Mann Fellow Swenja Zaremba in conversation with with local community initiatives.

In 2021, the Goethe-Institut Los Angeles launched "The Neighborhood Interpretive Center:" a hyperlocal initiative of cultural programs that focus on and uplift the MacArthur Park/Westlake neighborhood and surrounding areas. The project engages with local partners to present programs developed with and relevant to the community, with a greater understanding of the area's unique history, dynamics, heritage, and distinctiveness.

2022 Thomas Mann Fellow Swenja Zaremba's project in Los Angeles is dedicated to collaborative spaces on the local level and inclusiveness in public collaboration. During her time in L.A., she will examine how local participatory approaches can strengthen trust in interactions between civil society and institutions to see what transformative potential for public organizations as well as for civil society networks these approaches hold.

Join the "Neighborhood Interpretive Center" project partners Byron, Pauletta Pierce, Robin Garcia, the Frida Kahlo Theatre, Homies Unidos, and Thomas Mann Fellow Swenja Zaremba for a collective gathering and evening of conversation focused on community engagement.

This event is free of charge and open to the public. Please RSVP and find further information here.



Goethe-Institut Los Angeles Project Space

1901 W. 7th St. Suite AB

Los Angeles, CA 90057



Swenja Zaremba co-heads the German network of the Anna Lindh Foundation on behalf of the Goethe-Institut e.V. and is research associate at the Centre for Cultural and General Studies (ZAK) at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). She studied Literature, Journalism and Communication Science in Karlsruhe and Nancy. In addition to coordinating public science projects at ZAK, other positions took her to the headquarters of the Goethe-Institut as a trainee and to the University of Damascus for a teaching assignment. She publishes on topics in the field of international cultural relations, civil society and participation, interculturality and internationalization. She was a member of the working group "Civil Society in Foreign Cultural and Educational Policy" and is a member of the working group “Middle East/North Africa" of the German Foreign Office. Swenja Zaremba is a 2022 Thomas Mann Fellow.

Festival de Barriletes

For the past four years, on November 1st, All Saints' Day, giant kites have been created and installed at MacArthur Park as part of the annual Festival de Barriletes LA. Through kites inspired by Maya communities, art, and traditions, the festival seeks to commemorate and amplify the struggles of people whose lives have been lost to various forms of state violence. At the Goethe-Institut, writer, artist, and educator Byron Jose led a series of English-language immersion training and kite construction workshops for Maya children and im/migrant youth displaced in the MacArthur Park area. Participants worked toward acquiring language skills, learned about indigenous communities in Guatemala, and how they celebrate this day to honor and send messages to their dead through giant colorful kites. The Goethe-Institut Project space served as the venue for the kite building workshops, additional public programs, and a final exhibition of the kites created for the 5th annual installation.

Vibing with Cultural Leafs

With the understanding that cultural awareness can help us better understand differences and cross barriers, cultural worker Pauletta Pierce led an eight-week workshop for Westlake community members aged 13-24, who have little or no experience in the arts. These workshops explored how bias and information are processed as a way of understanding culture. At the Goethe-Institut, Pierce implemented Zaretta Hammond’s “Culture Tree” teaching model where participants constructed a mixed media Culture Tree presentation called “Vibing with Cultural Leafs." With an emphasis on the rich, diverse cultural history of the Westlake/MacArthur Park neighborhood and cooperation with local artists like Pop Locker Street Dancer O.G. Jeckle, teaching artist Joan Zamora and Youth IT Video Creator Angelique R. Hurtado incorporated various disciplines, including dance, video production, and street art, as part of the workshops. The project culminated with a public presentation of the participants’ “Culture Tree” at the Goethe-Institut.

Voices in the Water

This storytelling, movement, and memory sound installation by Robin Garcia and Nefertiti Altan, through an afro-diasporic storytelling format, reflects on the stories, songs, and significance of water from the diasporic, immigrant, black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities in and around the MacArthur Park/Westlake area. The team drew on their experience working in and around the area and experience using contemporary dance methods. A remembering/oral history methodology was utilized to activate the vibrational consciousness of memory in the body, making for a somatic experience as community members shared their ancestral and cultural stories about water. Black and Indigenous elders and culture bearers were also part of the storytelling project that further anchored and highlighted the cultural and ancestral traditions of surrounding communities. Stories gathered became be the platform from which an immersive soundscape of intertwining voices, sounds, and rhythms was designed to fill the gallery space in a call and response format.

Disrupting the Mainstream

For thirty-five years, Grupo de Teatro SINERGIA has produced predominantly original works in Spanish and English. The plays have been directed and performed by L.A. Latinx/Mexican and Central American theatre artists. In 1994, under the Artistic Direction of Rubén Amavizca-Murúa, the group moved into what is now The FRIDA KAHLO Theater in the Westlake district of Los Angeles. The group's productions focus on historical, political, and social themes that are relevant to and directly affect the primarily immigrant community. These original productions have also toured both nationally and in Mexico. Some of the original works presented by the group have also been produced in Belgium, Latvia, and Spain. The Goethe-Institut Project space served as the venue for "The FRIDA KAHLO Theater - Disrupting the Mainstream," a Spanish and English language audio-visual retrospective and exhibition. The restrospective documents the history of the FRIDA KAHLO Theater and its impact on the community, highlighting the group's most significant productions. In addition to the performance of excerpts from select plays from the theater's history, the exhibit also featured work generated by young artists and community members in the form of photography, animation, and theatre for youth. A panel discussion with FRIDA KAHLO Theater artists, L.A. historians, journalists, and scholars placed the theater's body of work in a cultural and historical context.


Serving the Pico-Union, Westlake, and Koreatown communities, Homies Unidos presents trauma-informed and culturally competent art, education, and leadership development activities tied to social justice advocacy programs. For their project, the Goethe-Institut Project space served as a venue for "Encuentros-Encounters," offering an intergenerational and cross-cultural dialogue around pressing social issues such as immigration, mass incarceration, and climate change. At the heart of the project is an art exhibition featuring the work of artist Kiara Machado, as well as works created by participants from Homies Unidos' youth programs. Public events will included artist talks, a film screening, musical performances, and educational workshops focusing on intracommunal solidarity and arts production.

This is an event of the Goethe-Institut Los Angeles in collaboration with the Thomas Mann House Los Angeles. Part of the Neighborhood Interpretive Center, a hyperlocal initiative of cultural programs that focus on and uplift the MacArthur Park/Westlake neighborhood and surrounding areas.


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