CultureBank announces its West Oakland Artist Cohort

CultureBank, a program of YBCA, is thrilled to announce the launch of a new artist cohort in West Oakland, which coincides with initiatives in progress in Dallas, Texas and the Kansas City, Missouri region.  

In partnership with West Oakland based Zoo Labs, CultureBank has brought together six powerful local artists who are having positive social impact in their communities. The work of these artists is increasingly important following waves of real estate development and the rise of residents who are not deeply rooted in Oakland’s cultural history, as well as new issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This cohort will focus on addressing the questions and challenges related to physical space, belonging, and community wealth in West Oakland. Chosen by community members through a series of meetings led by artists, the cohort’s goal is to activate existing physical spaces in West Oakland neighborhoods in order to involve the creative community in determining the future of those places and a more equitable future for the city itself. Cohort members will work together and will be supported by grants that provide them with the capacity to complete this work.

The CultureBank West Oakland cohort members include:

June Grant

June is the Design Principal at blink!LAB architecture, a research-based, multi-disciplinary practice that is bridging economics, architectural form, urban design, industrial design, furniture, and fabrication. She has 20 years of experience in architecture and design and is heavily involved in design initiatives centered on strategic community regeneration.

Zakiya Harris

Zakiya, also known as Sh8peshifter, is a Cultural Architect with over two decades of experience working at the intersections of art, activism, and spiritual entrepreneurship. She has been a co-founder of many nationally recognized projects, such as Impact Hub Oakland, Grind for the Green, and Hack the Hood. She is also retained as a consultant by a diverse set of leaders managing programs where culturally relevant education and cross-sector collaboration are seen as assets. 

Hasain Rasheed

Hasain is a West Oakland native who has created colorful, emotional, photojournalistic storytelling for creative agencies, businesses, non-profits, government agencies, and other organizations locally and around the world since 1998. As a photographer, Hasain is known for his high-quality documentary work and has worked with many amazing groups in order to tell their stories. His current work engages with Black Cowboys and Black Farmers/Land Stewards.

Viviana Rodriguez-Smith

Viviana is a Xicana community advocate born in Mexico and raised in West Oakland. She majored in Sociocultural Anthropology and worked for 16 years as a health educator. In 2016, Viviana opened E14 Gallery showcasing master and upcoming visual artists with deep ties and strong love for Oakland as a commitment to upholding the values of Oakland: Art, Culture, Resistance, and Resilience.

Anna Shneiderman

Anna is an artist, entrepreneur, and cultural strategist. She co-founded Ragged Wing Ensemble, a multi-disciplinary theater company, and The Flight Deck, a shared performance venue in downtown Oakland that provides space to artists and produces original productions, classes, and workshops. Her current work is to forge a cooperative and regenerative economy for the arts that is deeply rooted in a sense of place. She is fiercely committed to shifting conditions so that under-resourced artists can thrive.

Josh ‘Bicaso’ Whitaker

Bicaso is a recording artist of Indy hip-hop crew Living Legends, an original founding member of Eastside Arts Alliance, and a storyteller, visual artist, founder, curator, and ED of Spirithaus Gallery. Through Spirithaus, Bicaso facilitates the art community in Oakland and understands the unique pulse of the community. He has lived in Oakland for 23 years.

CultureBank is led by Penelope Douglas, who has had an extensive career in community development and social investment. The model for CultureBank was developed during her artist residency at YBCA in 2016, where the program continues to be incubated. Douglas serves as a resident scholar with the Federal Reserve Bank’s Community Development Division in San Francisco.

CultureBank’s mission is to fully bring artists into the center of community investment strategies. CultureBank artist cohorts are also working together in Dallas through a partnership with Ignite/Arts, an initiative of the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University, and in the Kansas City, Missouri, region with InterUrban ArtHouse and Neighbor Built. This initiative supports YBCA’s commitment to artists and thinkers who can help us imagine, test, and realize new models. For more information on CultureBank, please visit