Founder of Haverhill’s Guerilla Opera Joins Creative County ChangeMakers Cohort

Aliana de la Guardia, founder and director of Haverhill’s Guerilla Opera. (Mike Jarvis photograph for WHAV News.)

The leader of a Haverhill firm is among 12 artists, nonprofit and municipal heads who will participate in Essex County Community Foundation’s Creative County ChangeMakers program.

Aliana de la Guardia, founder and director of Haverhill’s Guerilla Opera, joins the second cohort of creative leaders which begins work Monday, March 28. The group will spend the next eight months immersed in facilitated and project-based learning, peer networking and leadership trainings, designed to support a new network of creative civic leaders with the knowledge and skills to help build a more inclusive and sustainable arts and culture ecosystem in Essex County.

Besides de la Guardia, the 2022 ChangeMakers are Kerrie Bates, director, Ipswich ReCreation & Culture; Donna Keefe, Salisbury Cultural Council Arts and Cultural Initiative, Town of Salisbury Cultural Council; Nathan Lewis, head curator, The Satanic Temple Salem/Salem Art Gallery; Monica Manoski, executive director, Essex Art Center, Lawrence; John Mayer, director, Amesbury Carriage Museum; Lisa Miller Gillespie, co-founder and president, Lawrence Festival of the Arts; Courtney Richardson, director, Rocky Neck Art Colony, Gloucester; Yaya Rodriguez, founder and CEO, Cultura Latina Dance Academy Inc, Lynn; Jay Salois, owner, VRtical Media, Salem; Sarah Slifer Swift, director, Movement Arts Gloucester MA; and LaCrecia Thomson, arts and culture planner, City of Lynn.

The program is being facilitated by Karen Ristuben, program manager for Creative County, the Foundation’s efforts to strengthen arts, culture and creative enterprise in Essex County, and Doneeca Thurston, executive director of Lynn Museum/LynnArts.

“We are thrilled to begin the second year of ChangeMakers with this passionate and talented group,” said Ristuben. “Our goal is to help each participant recognize and be a catalyst for needed change in their organizations and communities.”

During the ChangeMakers program, each participant leverages what they learn to develop a collaborative arts or culture-based project—for which each will receive $1,000 to seed—meant to inspire additional work in their respective communities.

Last year’s ChangeMaker projects included a Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month festival in Methuen; a creative apprenticeship program in Haverhill; a mobile, multi-media exhibit exploring the isolation experienced by disabled residents; and a spatial justice project for longtime survivors of HIV on the North Shore, which went on to receive additional funding from the New England Foundation for the Arts.

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