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Roberto Bedoya, wearing glasses and a grey suit, grins at the camera.

Photo by Bryan Mitchell; courtesy of Grantmakers in the Arts.


Roberto Bedoya

He // Him // His

Writer, Activist, and Policy Maker

Oakland, California

Roberto Bedoya is the Cultural Affairs Manager for the City of Oakland, where he recently shepherded its Cultural Plan, Belonging in Oakland: a Cultural Development Plan. Throughout his career, Bedoya has consistently supported artist-centered cultural practices and advocated for expanded definitions of inclusion and belonging in the cultural sector. His essays, “U.S. Cultural Policy; Its Politics of Participation, Its Creative Potential;” “Creative Placemaking and the Politics of Belonging and Dis-Belonging;” and “Spatial Justice: Rasquachification, Race and the City,” have reframed the discussion on cultural policy to shed light on exclusionary practices in cultural policy decision making.

Prior to his work in Oakland, he was the Executive Director of the Tucson Pima Arts Council (Tucson, AZ), where he established the innovative P.L.A.C.E (People, Land, Arts, Culture and Engagement) initiative, which supported art-based civic engagement/creative placemaking projects. He was the Executive Director of The National Association of Artists’ Organizations, (NAAO) in Washington, DC, a national arts service organization for individual artists and artist-centered organizations. NAAO was a co-plaintiff in the Finley vs. NEA lawsuit. At NAAO, he established The Co-Generate Leadership Development Initiative. 

As a cultural policy researcher, he has worked on projects for the Ford Foundation and the Urban Institute regarding the support systems for artists. As a speaker, he has made numerous presentations at organizations such as Opera America, the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture, The National Council for the Arts, The Creative Time Summit, University of Houston, and Center for Arts Leadership and American for the Arts about artists and civil society. 

He is the author of The Ballad of Cholo Dandy, a poetry chapbook (Chax Press) and has contributed poems to publications about visual artists James Luna, Daniel J Martinez, Dario Robelto, and the artists group Postcommodity.

Bedoya has been a Visiting Scholar at the Getty Research Institute, a Rockefeller Fellow at New York University, and a Creative Placemaking Fellow at Arizona State University.

This artist page was last updated on: 07.11.2024

The task for us who work on Creative Placemaking activities is to assure and sustain a mindful awareness of what is authentic in Creative Placemaking. The authenticity I am invoking is grounded in the ethos of belonging. Cultural and civic belonging — how to create it; how to understand and accommodate cultural difference in matters of civic participation; how to enhance the community’s understanding of citizenship beyond the confines of leisure pursuits and consumption; how to help the citizens of a place achieve strength and prosperity through equity and civility. Having a sense of belonging, therefore, needs to be foregrounded in Creative Placemaking practices.

As a policymaker I argue for the aesthetic of belonging as central to Creative Placemaking. The blind love of Creative Placemaking that is tied to the allure of speculation culture and its economic thinking of “build it and they will come” is suffocating and unethical, and supports a politics of dis-belonging employed to manufacture a “place.” Creative Placemaking and its aesthetics of belonging contribute to and shape our person, the rights and duties of individuals crucial to a healthy democracy that animate the commons. It should also animate Creative Placemaking not as a development strategy but as a series of actions that build spatial justice, healthy communities, and sites of imaginations.

Excerpt from Placemaking and the Politics of Belonging and Dis-belonging.