1st ACT Begins its Next Act
By Erika Justis, Program Director, 1st ACT Silicon Valley

In the past few months, there has been a great deal of news regarding 1stACT Silicon Valley, the network leadership organization working to make Silicon Valley look and feel as special as it is. The organization, whose mission is to inspire leadership, participation and investment at the intersection of art and technology, has made significant progress in recent months. In September, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced a 3-year, $3.5 million investment in 1stACT, which will enable it to move from a volunteer to formal organization.


1stAct’s new Managing Director, Connie Martinez

To that end, 1stACT assumed the 501(c)(3) shell of Cultural Initiatives Silicon Valley and formed a board of directors with Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen as the first chair. Other directors include former Agilent CEO, Ned Barnholt, entrepreneur Hsing Kung, and Rich Braugh, a senior vice president at UBS and very involved leader in local arts organizations. The board will continue to develop as 1stACT moves forward. 1stACT’s Leadership Advisory Council, which includes 13 CEOs and university presidents, will also remain active. Connie Martinez, one of the 1stACT Founders, announced that she is leaving her position as executive director of the Children’s Discovery Museum to head up 1stACT as its Managing Director.

Many people might be familiar with 1stACT through recent press and community discussions regarding the vision for Downtown San Jose as Silicon Valley’s City Center. However, the vision is just one piece of the efforts that 1stACT is working to create. 1stACT’s goal is to “foster creative experiences and environments that are equal to the strength of diversity and technology prowess of the region”. The key word in that sentence is “region” and 1st ACT has four initiatives in place that address their goal beyond just downtown San Jose.

The four initiatives together will create a sense of place and strengthen the community ties of one of the nation’s most diverse regions while sharpening the competitive edge of one of the most innovative economies in the world.


Cultural Participation: This initiative expands the breadth and depth of cultural participation, creative expression, and cultural connections by: 1) measuring and publishing the current state of arts and creativity in Silicon Valley; 2) identifying ways of strengthening the product mix; 3) leveraging technology to reach and connect people to opportunities and to each other; and 4) creating a common language that promotes Silicon Valley’s creative outlets and their value.

Creative Place: This initiative creates a sense of place and attracts creative people and ideas by building on what we have and advocating for Silicon Valley amenities and environments that fuel our creativity and make us want to live here. It starts with San Jose because it impacts the greatest number of people, ethnicities, businesses, and arts, culture and entertainment venues and organizations in the region. The initiative will raise cultural awareness and pride in Silicon Valley by engaging the entire region in a conversation about our cultural identity and creating a visual representation of Silicon Valley’s creative venues and amenities.

Funding Model: This initiative revolutionizes the arts sector donor engagement and financing model by building an inclusive, highly-visible, Valley-wide network of donor-investors and private-public partnerships supported by skilled cultivation, solicitation and donor stewardship. Pioneering a new and multi-faceted approach that integrates technology and research-based communications, we engage traditional donors, 21st century philanthropists, the local international community and corporations, foundations and government to catapult Silicon Valley into the top 10 regions across the country in financial support of arts and culture (we are currently ranked 16th).

Multicultural Leadership: This initiative fuels the diversity of arts, connects and builds community across cultures in Silicon Valley, and strengthens our multicultural arts leadership. This will be accomplished by combining a customized multicultural leadership development program with an alumni mobilization strategy that prepares and leverages multicultural leaders and their creative outlets across 1stACT initiatives and the broader arts and culture community of Silicon Valley.

The 1stACT Leadership Model reflects the Valley’s way of doing things: it is decentralized, entrepreneurial and connected. It is a broad-based and ethnically diverse Network of engaged civic entrepreneurs who understand the importance of arts and creativity to the economy and the community. With a dedicated board, staff and funding to support initiative champions and implement priority actions, 1stACT is now prepared to move forward, full steam ahead. However, the power of 1stACT is in the Network, not in any one leader, sector, or team member. The entire community is necessary to 1stACT’s success. We can all contribute to this transformation.

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