Local Artists Recognized For Outstanding Community Impact


The Alameda County Arts Commission is recognizing six local artists for their outstanding achievements and contributions impacting the arts community and residents of Alameda County.


Nominations for the Arts Leadership Awards Program were submitted by community members, and members of the Alameda County Arts Commission selected the six winners, representing the five districts of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.


This year’s Arts Leadership Award Recipients are Bernice R. Bates, Sarah Crowell, Susan Dunn, Chris Johnson, Judy Lam, and Paul Ruma.


Bernice Bates
Bernice R. Bates of Oakland is the choir director of the East Oakland Senior Center Performing Arts Choir. The choir members range in age from 55-95 years of age. After 28 years of service, Bates retired from AT&T and returned to college to finish her second degree, which she had started over 40 years ago.


As a model example of her commitment to the arts and life-long learning, she graduated in June 2015 with a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance as a Mezzo-Soprano from Cal State University East Bay in Hayward.


Sarah Crowell of Oakland, representing is currently artistic director for Destiny Arts Center, a nonprofit organization focused on providing dance, theater and martial arts programs with the mission to end isolation, prejudice and violence in the lives of young people.


She has worked at the organization for 25 years as a dancer teacher, workshop facilitator, program director and lead staff trainer. She served as the organization’s executive director from 2002-2007.


Additionally, Crowell co-founded the Destiny Arts Youth Performance Company in 1993.

Sarah Crowell

Susan Dunn of the City of Alameda is a community leader who devotes her time to supporting and providing arts and cultural community activities with a special emphasis on the City of Alameda.


In the past two years she held leadership positions with three arts organizations in the City of Alameda. She served as the staff historian for the Altarena Playhouse. During the theater company’s recent 75th anniversary, Dunn coordinated a major gala fundraiser and exhibition about the organization’s long history.


She served as the development director for the Virago Theatre which is an 11-year-old theater company. And, she is the founder, development director and a board member of Island City Opera founded in 2014.

Susan Dunn

Chris Johnson of Oakland is the founder of Question Bridge: Black Males, an organization that provides a forum for dialogue among Black men and new opportunities for understanding and healing. This project is the 2015 winner of the International Center of Photography’s Infinity Award.

Chris Johnson

Johnson is a professor of photography at California College of the Arts, Oakland and San Francisco. From 1999 – 2005, he served as chair of the City of Oakland’s Cultural Affairs Commission, and from 1997 to 2000, he was director of the Mother Jones International Fund for Documentary Photography.



Judy Lam of Fremont is the founder and director of Virtuoso International Flute Ensemble in Fremont. She has directed various flute ensembles, chamber groups, choruses, and musicals, many of which featured her original ensemble arrangements for flutes, strings, and chorus.


For the past 7 years, through Virtuoso International Flute Ensemble, she has dedicated over 15 concerts to support and benefit over 10 local nonprofit organizations and numerous community events. She serves as a band consultant for the Advanced Elementary Band at Hopkins Junior High School in Fremont.


She also conducts free lessons for members of Fremont’s Friends of Children with Special Needs.

Paul Ruma
Paul Ruma of Union City is the founder and director of Mighty4 Arts Foundation, an organization dedicated to preserving history, advancing artistry, and empowering youth through Hip Hop cultural arts.


Since 1998, he has had international impact in over 40 cities worldwide by providing education about Hip Hop culture through community-based events, classes, workshops, and documentary productions.


Ruma is an accomplished “B-Boy” dancer who led his group Rock Force Crew to the Battle of the Year world championship of Breakdancing in 1998 representing the USA taking first place and continues to receive numerous international awards.

Award recipients will be honored by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 10:45 a.m., at the Alameda County Administration Building, 1221 Oak St. in Oakland.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here