Trade & Row collaborates with organizations to produce exhibitions, conferences and performances to give people the time, space and tools to creatively engage their community and each other. Our name focuses on the idea of exchange as a means to propel forward. The focus of programming is a combination of promoting diversity, encouraging dialogue and building inter-generational relationships.
Trade & Row is a 501c3 nonprofit corporation that uses art as a starting point to generate dialog, facilitates and documents conversations, and raises awareness of young people’s interpretations of important issues in their lives.
To strengthen inter-generational relationships and enable young people to feel empowered to speak up and act out.
From the Executive Director
In 2009 I wrote about the origin of Trade & Row for a book on women of color in leadership and took a very linear approach, talking about specific opportunities that presented themselves after finishing at Cal Arts in 2001. Stepping back again, I understand more why starting this organization was important to me, and why I want it to continue.
As a child my parents gave me great opportunities to explore. I started dance lessons at the age of four, music lessons in middle school and writing – I don’t even remember exactly when. I was also an athlete and a decent student. When certain things faded, including my grades, I was still dancing on the playground, in my room or in the basement of our house. In high school, even though I couldn’t sing worth a lick and acting wasn’t my forte, I really wanted to be in at least one play or musical and was excited to tap dance for a few seconds on stage in a musical my senior year. And as I got older, I often turned to writing to help me get through tough times, especially in undergrad and my first few years living in California.
I feel certain experiences, whether related to dancing or writing or theatre, made a huge impact on how I view the world and, more than anything, allowed me to meet people I would have never had the chance to outside of the art community. I believe art made me a better person – a more open person, and has always helped me to express my true self.
After visiting Southern California I decided it would be my home not only because of the weather but also because of the range of diversity that exists here. The challenge for me has been the lack of integration, whether it has been where I’ve lived and worked, or projects in which I’ve participated in the art community. Regardless of the topics about which I write or on which I collaborate, including race, I feel the discussion should include people of all backgrounds. No one group can say their lives are not affected by people of other racial/ethnic backgrounds related to legislation, resources that are easily accessible in their community or opportunities with which they are presented. Education, employment, housing, food, clothing – there is no subject I can think of that doesn’t involve any and every person in the community.
This is why Aldo and I started Trade & Row in 2008. We had a larger vision of creating a forum for artists, social activists and community members to discuss current events that affect people on a local, regional, national and/or international level. More personally, we wanted to see integration and collaboration of people and ideas become a reality throughout Los Angeles County and beyond. We both experienced times when separation of people and/or ideas was encouraged. The idea of “common ground” to be accepted as a necessity for places like Southern California to really progress was the basis for the organization.
This is why art is the entry point of every project. I have experienced the greatest exposure to ideas and people either as a creator or patron of art. Understanding art tends to be considered a “luxury”, often being the first thing cut when schools or government agencies are looking at the bottom line, also was an incentive. The irony that we are surrounded by visual and performance art on a daily basis, that most of us regularly engage some form of art, and it’s not supported in dollars as an essential part of our culture always amazes me. But that’s just become more of a reason to want to continue.
In a time where we seem to rely more and more on technology to connect with others, I hope to continue to develop projects that allow real-time, in-person connections, conversations, and collaborations to take place, especially for young people who cannot remember a time without cell phones or Facebook. My hope is that the work we do will speak to these ideas, whether someone walks away with a greater appreciation of another person’s craft or a better understanding of another point of view. This is where action can converge with diversity and art.
Karin Pleasant is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Trade & Row. Karin is responsible for program development and execution, with the primary focus on building collaborative relationships with other organizations and art practitioners to strengthen the effect of programming. The concept behind Trade & Row is documented in “Help Me Help You: Finding a Niche in an Overcrowded Nonprofit Community” as part of the anthology Women of Color in Leadership: Taking Their Rightful Place (Birkdale Publishers, 2010). For a decade beginning in 1999, Karin worked with artist Isabelle Lutterodt under the name of M.U.L.E., a curatorial partnership that explored social issues through art production and critical essays. The work concluded in 2009 with the paper presentation “Walking the Line: American Tradition and the Meaning of Multicultural Identity” at the Multiculturalism and Beyond conference series at the University of Bielefeld, Germany. Karin holds a BA in Communications from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; MFA in Writing from California Institute of the Arts; and MBA from Pepperdine University. She is currently pursuing an MSW at the University of Southern California with the goal of becoming a LCSW and certified DMT to do movement therapy with various populations. Karin is a native of Flint, MI, and since August 1996 has resided in Southern California.
Board of Directors
Aldo Puicon, President/Co-Founder
Director of UX/UI, TrueCar
Scharon Phipps, Treasurer
Independent Accountant and Bookkeeper
Karin Pleasant, Secretary
Independent Business Development Consultant