Join VAPA on March 20th, 2024 – Alchemy and Equity – Connecting Arts Education to a Thriving Society

Join an engaging conversation on the role arts education plays in our schools, and how communities can unite to make lasting impact.

Wednesday, March 20 · 5:30pm PDT
Comic-Con Museum
2131 Pan American Plaza San Diego, CA 92101

“Alchemy and Equity: A Visionary Discourse Connecting Arts Education to a Thriving Society”

The VAPA Foundation is honored to welcome Aaron Dworkin; Social Entrepreneur, Author, Violinist, and Professor of Arts Leadership & Entrepreneurship at University of Michigan. Dr. Dworkin founded the globally-recognized Sphinx Organization, the leading arts organization with the mission of transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts.

Known for his groundbreaking work in music education, Aaron will lead an engaging conversation on the role arts education plays in our schools, the importance of diversity, representation, and access to arts education, and how communities can unite through innovation and entrepreneurship to make lasting change.

Following his keynote presentation, Russ Sperling, Director of SDUSD Visual and Performing Arts will moderate a panel discussion where we will explore the role of arts education in sustaining and propelling growth within our vibrant arts ecosystem. 

David Bennet, Executive Director of the San Diego Opera

Shana Hazan, President, San Diego Unified School District Board of Directors

Susanna Peredo Swap, Founder and Executive Director, Vanguard Culture

From policy and social impact to philanthropy, economic influence, performance, exhibition, and advocacy—explore how each element intertwines to form a resilient cultural tapestry. Secure your spot now for an evening of enlightenment, networking, and celebration of the arts.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

5:30 p.m. Light fare & Libations

6:00 Keynote by Aaron Dworkin

6:30 Panel Discussion



Named a 2005 MacArthur Fellow, President Obama’s first appointment to the National Council on the Arts and member of President Biden’s Arts Policy Committee, Aaron P. Dworkin is former dean and current Professor of Arts Leadership & Entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance. Aaron is a best-selling writer and poetjournalist having authored his poetry collections, The Poetjournalist and They Said I Wasn’t Really Black, along with other books including two memoirs, a children’s book, science-fiction novel and The Entrepreneurial Artist: Lessons from Highly Successful Creatives. Aaron founded the Institute for Poetjournalism and originated the term “poetjournalism” which is defined as “the research, creation, and distribution of writing that evokes an emotional connection to news related subjects or other relevant ideas utilizing elements of sound, meter, rhythm and/or creative illustration.” He serves as Poetjournalist-in-Residence of the City of Ann Arbor’s Bicentennial, the Rodham Institute, Fisher Foundation, Wright Museum of African-American History, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Grantmakers in the Arts, Ovation TV and Shar Music. Hailed by critics as “powerful,” “stirring,” “passionate and heroic,” and “a tour de force,” Aaron has performed his poetry as a prominent spoken-word artist including Carnegie Hall, Galapagos Theater in New York, Harvard University, Chautauqua, University of Michigan, Minneapolis Orchestra Hall, NJPAC and the Wright Museum and Orchestra Hall in Detroit amongst others and is a member of the Academy of American Poets. He has been featured on The Today Show, NBC Nightly News, CNN, Jet Magazine and named one of Newsweek’s “15 People Who Make America Great.” His Emmy award-winning film An American Prophecy was honored by numerous festivals, while his digital art project, Fractured History, has exhibited to rave reviews.

Aaron is also a leading social entrepreneur having founded the globally-recognized Sphinx Organization, the leading arts organization with the mission of transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts. He also serves as host of the nationally-broadcast Arts Engines show with a weekly viewership of over 100,000. Aaron is a member of the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences and is the recipient of honors including the National Governors Association Distinguished Service to State Government Award, BET’s History Makers in the Making Award and Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Lifetime Achievement Award and been named Detroit News’s Michiganian of the Year and the National Black MBA’s Entrepreneur of The Year.

A sought-after global thought leader and passionate advocate for diversity and inclusion, excellence in arts education, entrepreneurship, and leadership, as well as inclusion in the performing arts, Aaron is a frequent keynote speaker and lecturer at numerous universities and global arts, creativity, and technology conferences and is on the roster of the prestigious APB speakers bureau. He is a member of the Recording Academy (GRAMMYs) and has served on the Board of Directors or Advisory Boards for numerous influential arts organizations including the National Council on the Arts, Knight Foundation, National Association of Performing Arts Professionals, Avery Fisher Artist Program, Independent Sector, League of American Orchestras, Ann Arbor Area Foundation, Michigan Theater and Chamber Music America. Having raised over $50 million for philanthropic causes, Aaron personifies creative leadership, entrepreneurship, and community service with an unwavering passion for the arts, diversity, and their role in society.

Aaron has a myriad of life interests including innovation, creativity, human pair bonding and is passionate about social impact having founded a homeless organization and a literary magazine. He is an avid kayaker, poker aficionado and boater, having captained multiple crossings of the Gulfstream. He is an explorer of the culinary arts and a consummate movie enthusiast watching over 150 films every year. He is married to Afa Sadykhly Dworkin, a prominent international arts leader who serves as President and Artistic Director of the Sphinx Organization and has two awesome sons, Noah Still and Amani Jaise.


BM (violin), University of Michigan
MM (violin), University of Michigan


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