Vanessa Camarena-Arredondo, Program Officer

Vanessa Camarena-Arredondo joins Akonadi Foundation as the Beloved Community Fund Program Officer. She brings to the Foundation over 20 years of experience promoting social equity in communities of color through her work in philanthropy, the arts and cultural sector, community health, and as a leadership development coach.

She has dedicated the last decade to working with individual artists and to working with cultural and social service organizations as a coach to support individuals and, in turn, organizations in making a deeper impact with their work. In this capacity, she supported the leadership of the Rockwood Institute in establishing a Fellowship for Leaders in Arts & Culture that is awarded to those who are concerned with racial equity and social justice. She was trained as a leadership coach with Leadership That Works.

Vanessa served as the Arts & Culture Fellow at The San Francisco Foundation under the leadership of John Killacky. While at The San Francisco Foundation, Vanessa made over 200 grants and helped to raise $1.5 million to support Bay Area artists and arts non-profits. She spoke on the need for inclusion and diversity in the arts and helped to direct funding and support to artists and communities of color.

Her advocacy and direct service work, while with the Latina Breast Cancer Agency (San Francisco) and Breast Cancer Connection’s Gabriella Patser Program (Bay Area-wide), includes connecting recent immigrant women and poor and working class women of color to breast health services in the Mission District and throughout the Bay Area. She dedicated a number of years to working with LGBTQAA youth at Bienestar in East Los Angeles. For several years she managed the public altar component of Self Help Graphics Day of the Dead, a seminal art space located in the heart of Boyle Heights (East Los Angeles).

For the past three years, Vanessa has directed Studio Grand, a multidisciplinary art space in Oakland’s Grand Lake neighborhood. The space was founded by a friend and fellow musician, Holly Schneider. In 2014, Vanessa took on leadership of Studio Grand. She promoted programming that reflected the cultural diversity of Oakland, collaborating especially with artists, cultural workers, healers, and movement builders who are concerned with racial equity and with advancing narratives about people of color.

Originally from East Los Angeles, Vanessa was raised by a single mother who is a native of Mexicali, México. Her family first came to Richmond, CA, with some settling in San Francisco’s Mission District and others in Los Angeles. Vanessa has lived in the Bay Area for 14 years where she has called the Mission and West Oakland home. She has much respect for the struggles of native Bay Area residents and immigrant communities. She sees it as her duty to serve these populations.

Vanessa was one of the lead vocalist for Las Bomberas de la Bahia, a nine-piece all female dance and music group who performed and honored the Afro Puerto Rican tradition of Bomba for eight years. These days, she enjoys being an audience for her favorite performers, who include almost twenty nieces and nephews, as well as spending time with her partner, good friends, and family.

Vanessa sees her work with the Akonadi Foundation as an opportunity to uplift communities of color and support leaders, artists, organizations, and collectives in becoming well-equipped to carry out the critical cultural work to which they are dedicated. She’s eager to work with the incredible staff and Board at the Foundation. She is beside herself with excitement to work with and learn from communities of color in Oakland.

As an artist herself and a supporter of creative work, Vanessa hopes to contribute to uplifting the value of cultural work in Oakland, focusing especially on artists and communities of color.