May 26, 2016
To Whom It May Concern:
It is with great pleasure that I endorse the extensive capabilities of David Gonzalez as an unparalleled creative partner and community facilitator, among his nearly innumerable skills.
The McCallum Theatre has just concluded a two year initiative funded by The James Irvine Foundation, “Crisàlida,” a community arts project which was not only coordinated by David but, it’s fair to say, he was the spiritual godfather, pied piper and heart and soul of an amazing odyssey that came to be genuinely meaningful to all involved.
The idea for Crisàlida emerged when the McCallum Theatre sought a way to renew its resonance with a robust and largely underserved community in the Eastern part of California’s Coachella Valley. At a time when “creative placemaking” is increasingly important to a cultural institution’s relevance, Crisàlida was designed as a project to help this vibrant constituency find and share its own creative voice.
While the Theatre has provided arts education programs for the area’s children for nearly two decades, our interaction with adults and seniors in the target communities was limited. In partnership with David, we dreamed up a community arts project that would help give voice to burgeoning artists in the East Valley, as well as empowering everyday residents to express themselves through music, drama, poetry and spoken word activities.
Over the course of the two year project, David nearly single-handedly created relationships where none existed before. Overcoming considerable skepticism, David met with community leaders, artists, political figures, and activists to learn how Crisàlida could best showcase local voices in a tangible and meaningful way. As a result, Crisàlida participated in festivals; coordinated over 300 workshops with teenagers, seniors, farmworkers, hip-hop artists, poets and more; taught poetry at a number of housing projects; published eight books of poetry and drama; and helped create a new bilingual theater company which produced its inaugural ten-minute play festival, featuring the work of many first-time playwrights and actors.
The project concluded joyfully onstage in the 1,127-seat McCallum Theatre as we produced “East Valley Voices: Out Loud,” a celebration of some of the most compelling voices David found along the way. David curated, directed and produced the evening which was widely hailed by participants (ranging in age from teenager to a nonagenarian) and audience members, most of whom had never been to the McCallum beforehand, let alone appeared on our beautiful stage.
David is a force of nature. His talent as a storyteller and performer is unquestioned. What we were delighted to learn is that he has an unquenchable passion for creating partnerships, enabling art to emerge where none had previously existed, and most fundamentally, making people feel included, respected and creative. That’s an extraordinary combination. David is an extraordinary individual. The McCallum was privileged to have his partnership. So will any organization that is fortunate enough to engage with him in the future.
President & CEO
May 27, 2016
To Whom It May Concern:
By way of a brief introduction I am Bert Goldstein, Director of the MSU Federal Credit Union Institute for Arts & Creativity at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts on the campus of Michigan State University. I have directed a myriad of arts education programs here since 2008.
Prior to my tenure here I have had a long career in arts education and have worked with a vast number of artists over the years. I can honestly say there is none better than David Gonzalez.
I met Mr. Gonzalez in the late 1980s when both of us were employed through the Lincoln Center Institute in New York. Since then I have engaged him as a performer and classroom teaching artist on a wide variety of projects including work we commissioned and produced when I was the education director for the two-time Tony Award winning Cincinnati Playhouse (1996-2008). When I made the move to Michigan I continued to work with Mr. Gonzalez bringing him to audiences and learners here.
Two years ago Mr. Gonzalez and I developed a residency targeted specifically for our growing constituents. This residency was implemented in the 2015 and 2016 seasons and is also planned for 2017. During the residency Mr. Gonzalez uses his tremendous skills as a workshop leader to engage a variety of participants. He encourages senior citizens at a local community center to write their biographies. This year those stories will be printed in book form and returned to the community. In addition, he often works in several of our under resourced public schools engaging young students to explore creative writing and he does similar work with the Chicano Studies Program on campus at MSU. He is equally comfortable working with at risk students as he is working with college students. Whoever he is working with Mr. Gonzalez always brings tremendous humor, empathy and pathos to his work. He has a great deal of respect for whoever he is working with and they in turn respect him greatly.
At the conclusion of the residency all the constituents are invited to a poetry slam here at Wharton Center where in the spirit of community Mr. Gonzalez and the participants read their writing and celebrate the work they have done during his residency.
Mr. Gonzalez’s impact here at MSU is profound. He has made a career of transforming and empowering people’s lives using storytelling, music and poetry. His work here in Michigan is no exception. His participants are moved and inspired by his direction. Furthermore, Mr. Gonzalez does rest on his laurels; he continues to re-invent himself to better serve the people he is working with finding new challenges for them.
Off all the performers and teaching artists I work with I have had the longest relationship with Mr. Gonzalez because I see the impact he has on people. Few artists create the kind of good will that he does. I cannot recommend him enough.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions.
Director, MSU Federal Credit Union Institute for Arts & Creativity