Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Spiffy here! I’m back with the scoop on the changemaking leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Jasmin C. DeForrest, the director of arts and culture at the Gilbert Family Foundation. Let’s see what she is doing to make a positive impact in the world.
Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Jasmin! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through your organization?
Jasmin: Glad to be with you, Spiffy! Our goal is to tackle multiple challenges, leading with increasing access to arts and culture programming for Detroit youth and low-income residents. Like others, the arts and culture sector has deeply rooted racial equity gaps. Considering that Detroit’s population is majority African American and about 33% of the city’s population lives in poverty, it is crucial that we work to increase racial equity while decreasing financial barriers for Detroiters. Also, representation matters, and it’s important that people of color, especially youth, see themselves within all facets of art—on stages, in paintings, in stories, and leading museums.
Spiffy: What motivates you to do it?
Jasmin: Art brings people together, from different places, and with different faces and bodies. It has a superpower that can effect positive change in the world. Culture is who we are and tells our stories. Without arts and culture, there would be no creativity, and life would be boring! Imagine textbooks without pictures, a world without music, dance, or architecture—a world with no color. All of this—and knowing that there's still much work to do to eliminate racial barriers—motivates me to keep working.
Spiffy: What is the impact of your work?
Jasmin: Our work focuses on positively impacting the lives of Detroiters. To increase access and innovation within the arts, we provided 36 arts and culture organizations with grants to support their technology needs. We’ve also provided thousands of Detroit youth with opportunities to attend artistic performances and exhibits.
Spiffy: Tell me about a recent milestone or initiative by your organization. What impact does that make?
Jasmin: Last year, we collaborated with our Public Spaces team to launch the Thriving Neighborhoods Fund, which awarded 20 neighborhood organizations with $25,000 each, along with educational resources. These vital resources will help community leaders beautify public spaces while bringing exciting, inclusive events and programs to their neighborhoods.
Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Jasmin—it’s been an honor!
A Detroit native, Jasmin C. DeForrest leads investments at the Gilbert Family Foundation that support arts and culture programming and the creative workforce. She is passionate about the importance of representation and works to break down barriers to the arts by ensuring Detroit youth are provided opportunities to explore creative career pathways. She lives by a simple work mantra: “Do what I can, while I’m here.” (Nominated by Brandon Parkes of Parkes Philanthropy. First published on the Ladderworks website on February 9, 2023.)
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.
© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by George Romar. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.