Forest Whitaker

Forest Whitaker is the founder and CEO of the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative, co-founder and chair of the International Institute for Peace, and the UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation. In addition to his humanitarian work, Whitaker is one of Hollywood’s most accomplished and versatile figures. He has received many distinctions for his acting, including the 2007 Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland.

Mr. Whitaker believes that communities and nations cannot attain peace and prosperity without heeding the voices of their diverse and vibrant youth. Throughout the world, he and his foundation are committed to providing educational tools and better living conditions to young women and men living in regions touched by violence. In the United States, as member of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, Mr. Whitaker works with elementary school students to demonstrate to them the limitless power of the arts to express their voices and creative energies. Mr. Whitaker’s commitment to peace and social issues has led him to work in close collaboration with UNESCO, which seeks to build peace through education, science, culture, and communication. In 2011, Mr. Whitaker was designated as a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Peace and Reconciliation. In 2014, he started collaborating with the Office of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict as an Advocate for Children Affected by War, a topic on which he was invited to speak before the UN Security Council. That same year, he was designated a UNESCO Special Envoy.

Mr. Whitaker’s artistic and humanitarian achievements have been widely recognized at home and abroad. He has received the Cinema for Peace Award, the Humanitas Prize, the NAACP Chairman’s Award, the Los Angeles Press Club’s Visionary Award, Refugees International’s McCall-Pierpaoli Humanitarian Award, and the Broadcast Film Critics Association’s Joel Siegel Award. He currently serves as a senior research scholar at Rutgers University, and a visiting professor at Ringling College of Art and Design.

“One of the main messages is [for students] to believe in themselves, to recognize they have the potential to do anything. Through the arts, to build imagination and also build confidence, and to allow confidence to move into other areas in their life.”

Kerry Washington

Kerry Washington is an award-winning actress who has numerous films and television credits. She is on the Artist Committee for Americans for the Arts, an organization that works to promote the arts in America. She is also on the board of V-Day, an organization dedicated to ending violence against women and girls. In 2005, Americans for the Arts presented her with the Young Artist Award for artistic accomplishments and exemplary leadership; in 2008, she was awarded the Phoenix Award for Commitment to social advocacy from the Congressional Black Caucus; and in 2009, she received the Artist-Citizen Award for public leadership in the arts from the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

In 2015, Ms. Washington received the Vanguard Award at the 26th Annual GLAAD Media Awards. She dedicates much of her time to public service and is active on political and social issues.

Ms. Washington was appointed to the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, and has been a Turnaround Artist since the program’s pilot phase.

“It’s an honor to be part of this program. Through my work in Turnaround Arts schools, I have witnessed the power of integrated arts education to move the needle on some of our toughest educational challenges and to give all students the chance to excel and to shine.”

Chad Smith

As a member of pioneering, award-winning superstars Red Hot Chili Peppers—which he joined in 1988—Chad Smith is widely regarded as one of music’s most accomplished drummers and articulate musicians. With the Chili Peppers, Mr. Smith was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012. He received six Grammy Awards, while two of the band’s albums are among Rolling Stone’s 10 Greatest Albums of All Time. Additionally, Spin Magazine ranked him at #10 on their list of the 100 Greatest Drummers of Alternative Music.

Musically prolific—he has recorded seven studio albums with the Chili Peppers and appears on a total of 22 releases with the band, including 23 top-ten singles—Mr. Smith has drummed for such diverse artists as Johnny Cash, the Dixie Chicks, George Clinton, and many more. He has performed on dozens of international tours and is a founding member of the supergroup Chickenfoot with former Van Halen singer Sammy Hagar.

Mr. Smith, who began playing drums at the age of 7, credits his public school education for the opportunity to excel at his chosen instrument. He’s an active supporter of a number of non-profit organizations, including MusiCares, Little Kids Rock, and Bystander Revolution, a group that speaks out against bullying in schools. In 2013, NAMM (National Association Music Merchants) tapped Mr. Smith as advocate for arts in public schools. He has spoken publicly about his passion for music education, noting “it’s proven that graduation rates and attendance are higher when there are music programs. If we don’t have them, there are people like myself who won’t be exposed to the music and arts.”

“Without public school music education I would not have been able to realize my dream and my career path. I am a professional musician today because of the music classes I had access to all throughout my public school experience. I’m living proof it works!”

Smokey Robinson

William “Smokey” Robinson, Jr. is a singer-songwriter, record producer, and co-founder of Motown Records. Robinson produced 26 Top 40 hits with the Miracles and was the principal songwriter for Motown, penning several hits for The Temptations, Mary Wells and Marvin Gaye. He’s been inducted into the Rock and Roll and Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Kennedy Center, and awarded stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He was awarded a medal at the National Medal of Arts and a BET Lifetime Achievement Award. Howard University and Berklee College of Music have awarded him honorary Doctorates in Music.

Tim Robbins

Tim Robbins is a multifaceted actor, writer, director and producer whose films include Dead Man WalkingShawshank Redemption, and Mystic River, for which he won the Academy Award®.

Mr. Robbins has been a consistent and influential voice in the theater for the past 30+ years as an actor, director, playwright, and Artistic Director of the Actors’ Gang—a theatre group that offers a supportive environment for a diverse ensemble of artists to present new, unconventional, and uncompromising plays and dynamic reinterpretations of the classics. Founded in 1981, The Actor’s Gang has produced over 100 plays in Los Angeles, in 40 U.S. states, and on five continents with ensembles that have included accomplished actors such as Jack Black, John Cusack, John C. Reilly, Helen Hunt, Kate Walsh, Fisher Stevens, Jeremy Piven and Jon Favreau, among many others.

Mr. Robbins and several other Actors Gang members also regularly conduct theater workshops with incarcerated men in an effort to fill the gap in arts rehabilitation programs in the California prison system.

“I am here today because of the importance of arts in education. When I was in school, I went from being a good student in grade school to a struggling student in high school. The arts became a lifeline for me.”


Since its inception in 1995, innovation and creativity have defined Ozomatli. Hailing from Los Angeles, the group found a way to represent the city’s eclectic culture through music that appeals to the local community and the world beyond. Ozomatli’s success is exemplified in an impressive variety of genres, from classic to modern Latino, urban, hip-hop and other world styles. The “Dioses del Baile,” or “Gods of Dance,” have created one of the most exciting, captivating and flat-out fun live shows touring today. They continue to harness their musical instincts by conceiving new concepts and forging new sounds that keep fans on their toes and the world dancing.

Prior to paying respects to the classic Latin catalogue, Ozomatli was creating its own repertoire adored by fans and critics alike. The band catapulted to the top of the live music scene with their first eponymously titled album. The impact of the then 10-piece band’s album was felt throughout the music world, and earned them the opportunity to open for Carlos Santana on his Supernatural tour. Following the success of its first album and touring with Santana and Mana, Ozomatli released its sophomore album, Embrace the Chaos, which garnered a Grammy award for Best Latin Rock/Alternative Album. The follow up album, Street Signs, won both the same award and the Latin Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album in 2005.

Ozomatli takes firm stances on various social justice issues. Their work focuses on giving voice to Latino culture, opportunity to children, fighting for workers’ rights, and promoting global unity and peace amongst people, cultures and nations. Ozomatli were named Cultural Ambassadors for the U.S. State Department in 2006, were the first musical group to speak at the TED Conference in San Francisco, and performed for President and First Lady Obama at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s 32nd Annual Award Gala.

In addition to politics and social issues, Ozomatli emphasizes the importance of family and children. The band has strived to make music to be shared through the generations and have even recorded music specifically targeted towards children and families. Their 2012 release, Ozomatli Presents OzoKidz, features all original children’s music that captures the innovation and liveliness that Ozo fans have become accustomed to, while educating children on the values of nature and knowledge. The band continues to perform the album at special OzoKidz concerts, where parents and children alike dance and play along on OzoKidz kazoos.

Jason Mraz

Jason Mraz has quietly amassed a youthful, diverse, and vibrant fan-base throughout all parts of the globe. His critically acclaimed live performances have propelled him from the San Diego coffee house circuit to amphitheaters, arenas, festivals, and stadiums all over the world. Among many other international accolades, Mr. Mraz has won two GRAMMY® Awards and garnered six nominations, a People’s Choice award, the Hal David Songwriter Hall Of Fame Award and a few Teen Choice Awards. Mr. Mraz is indisputably among the most gifted and beloved artists of the modern era—recently making pop history with his record-breaking classic single, “I’m Yours,” while also earning platinum and multi-platinum certifications in more than 20 countries for his various releases.

Moreover, the San Diego-based troubadour has proven a truly diverse creative presence. A dedicated surfer, farmer-gardener, filmmaker, and photographer, Mr. Mraz is first and foremost a committed global citizen. His impassioned social activism and philanthropic efforts span wide-ranging environmental advocacy and ardent support for LGBT equality. He has participated in global activism, such as a rescue mission to Ghana with Free The Slaves and an internationally broadcast performance in Myanmar, with MTV Exit, to bring awareness to human trafficking. Through it all, Mr. Mraz continually confirms and celebrates music’s myriad forms and miraculous power, inspiring and delighting his countless fans around the world he calls home.

“I’m humbled by the opportunity to support and represent a school in our country and my local community that will greatly benefit from the support of a vibrant arts education program. The arts are the key to life and the Turnaround Arts program will open the doors for youth to life, love, creativity and endless imagination.”

Nigel Lythgoe

Born in St. Helen’s, Lancashire, England, Nigel Lythgoe moved with his family to Liverpool, where he began tap dancing at age 11. He became the only person to dance in, choreograph, direct, and produce the Royal Variety Performance for Her Majesty the Queen of England. He has worked with stars such as Gene Kelly, Bing Crosby, Cyd Charisse, Chita Rivera, Shirley Bassey and, most prestigiously, the Muppets.

Mr. Lythgoe has been a pioneer in reality television and a driving force in the world of performing arts as the co-creator, executive producer, and judge on Emmy-award winning show So You Think You Can Dance, and the executive producer of the TV juggernaut American Idol. Mr. Lythgoe produced the charity spin-off Idol Gives Back, which raised more than $170 million and received the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’ Governors Award.

Mr. Lythgoe has been awarded the Ellis Island International Medal of Honor and the International Emmy Founders Award, and he has received an honorary Doctor of Arts from the U.K.’s University of Bedfordshire for his outstanding contribution to the performing arts in television.

A passionate advocate of the arts, Mr. Lythgoe helped to establish the Dizzy Feet Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works to support, improve, and increase access to dance education in the United States. In 2010, he created National Dance Day, which was recognized by a Congressional resolution. He has attended the Turnaround Arts annual Summer Leadership Retreat, where he was the artist-in-residence and partook in workshops alongside educators and leaders from Turnaround Arts schools.

“It never ceases to amaze me how the arts instill self-confidence and discipline. It takes a brave person to stand up and perform in front of their peers and a quality of spirit that will help them through their entire lives. The Willard talent competition showed me how much the school appreciates Turnaround Arts and what it has done, not only to assist the pupils in their artistic nature, but in their academic progress, as well. Thereby creating not only better students but better human beings, too.”

David Hockney

Known for his photo collages and paintings of Los Angeles swimming pools, David Hockney is considered one of the most influential British artists of the 20th century.

Born in Bradford, England, in 1937, David Hockney attended art school in London before moving to Los Angeles in the 1960s. There, he painted his famous swimming pool paintings. In the 1970s, Hockney began working in photography, creating photo collages he called joiners. He continues to create and exhibit art, and in 2011 he was voted the most influential British artist of the 20th century.

Frank Gehry

Frank Gehry is one of the most renowned architects in the world. He was raised in Toronto, Canada, and moved with his family to Los Angeles in 1947. Mr. Gehry received his Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Southern California in 1954, and he studied City Planning at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. In subsequent years, Mr. Gehry has built an architectural career that has spanned over five decades and produced public and private buildings in America, Europe and Asia. His work has earned Mr. Gehry several of the most significant awards in the architectural field, including the Pritzker Prize.

A few of Mr. Gehry’s notable projects include Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain; Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, California; Eight Spruce Street Residential Tower located in New York City; and Opus Hong Kong Residential. Current projects include Guggenheim Abu Dhabi; Foundation Louis Vuitton Museum in Paris, France; Dr. Chau Chak Wing Building for the University of Technology, in Sydney, Australia; and West Campus for Facebook in Menlo Park, California.

Mr. Gehry co-founded Turnaround Arts: California in 2014

“Every child should have access to art and creativity in school. No matter what career path they choose this creative play sets them up to trust their instincts, believe in themselves and to solve problems. I was afforded this as a child, and it changed my life.”