Deep Center, Inc

Southern Cultural Treasures

Deep Center, Incorporated

Recipient Information

Location

Savannah, Georgia

Medium

Inter & Multidisciplinary/Literary

Year of Award

2022

Grant or Fellowship

Southern Cultural Treasures

Grant Amount

$300,000

Deep’s mission is to empower Savannah’s young people and the village of adults around them to thrive as artists, learners, and leaders. Through art creation, cultural production, and creative writing, Deep creates platforms for the city’s youth and the village of support around them, including their families and adult allies, to share stories; celebrate BIPOC culture, art, and traditions; engage in debates; and make Savannah a more just, equitable, and vibrant place.

Deep has grown from a local effort addressing detrimental effects of high poverty on youth literacy in 2008, to an intersectional and intergenerational liberatory arts and culture organization serving Savannah’s BIPOC, low income communities.

Since 2008, we’ve served 6,000+ youth & adults, published 120 anthologies of creative writing, trained 350+ volunteer arts educators, partnered with 25 public schools, established arts learning sites with the juvenile court, and hosted live cultural events for audiences of 11,000+.

Leadership

Director TeamDeep Center is led by our Director Team, which includes Louise Tremblay, Interim Executive Director; Ariel Felton and Kathy Esparza, Co-Directors of Youth Art Programs; Mel Kutner, Director of Restorative Practices and Culture; and Coco Papy, Director of Public Policy and Communications.  Deep’s leadership team draws on their decades of experience as writers, artists, researchers, and activists to create platforms for Savannah’s youth and the village of support around them, including their families and adult allies, to share stories; celebrate BIPOC culture, art, and traditions; engage in debates; and make Savannah a more just, equitable, and vibrant place.

Louise Tremblay joined Deep in 2016 as operations manager, bringing twenty years of experience in nonprofit management and fundraising with a focus on youth empowerment, social change, and community enrichment through arts and education. Louise spent five years directing youth programming for The ArtsCenter in Carrboro, North Carolina, where arts enrichment was provided to 30,000 students annually. Earlier in her career, she coordinated community education for a domestic violence support and prevention organization in coastal Maine, creating workshops for professionals in the fields of education, medicine, and law enforcement. A youth educator program she founded empowered teen volunteers to develop and deliver dating violence prevention programs for their peers.

Her fundraising experience includes serving as Assistant Director of the Annual Fund at Maryland Institute College of Art, in Baltimore, and coordinating the inaugural year of Maine’s Mitchell Scholarship Fund.

Louise has a BA in Human Ecology from College of the Atlantic, where all graduates design their own course of study. Her senior thesis, Reflections on a Life: Oral Histories of Maine Women, featured the stories of creative women in their eighties, and wove together her study of psychology, anthropology, gender, and art. She has long believed that stories matter and that developing personal narratives can be transformational.

Ariel Felton is a writer, editor, and Savannahian, originally from Byron, Georgia. Ariel holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from Valdosta State University and a Master’s degree in writing from the Savannah College of Art and Design. She has been a teaching artist for Block by Block, Deep’s high school program, as well as the organization’s publications manager. She is also managing editor of Penelope Editions, the YA imprint of Penny Candy Books, an independent children’s book publishing company.

Her writing has been published in The Progressive, The Bitter Southerner, McSweeney’s, Under the Gum Tree, Atlas Obscura, Scalawag Magazine, Reductress, and more. Her book review column “Well, Lit” is published monthly in Do Savannah, spotlighting new authors from Savannah and from the South.

Kathy Esparza is a daughter of the Andes, born in Quito, Ecuador and raised in Worcester, Massachusetts. She is an immigrant, a youth worker, a community weaver, and a storyteller. Kathy is a mujerista deeply influenced by black, brown, and indigenous womanists and mujeristas who have paved the way for us to breathe a bit lighter today.

Kathy is also a mixed medium artist who writes and creates pieces in Spanglish, in the mixness of her essence and discusses intersectional identities and the joys and aches of her human experience. Kathy holds a BA in International Development and Women’s and Gender Studies as well as a Post-Graduate Certificate in Youth Work from Clark University and has over ten years of experience in non-profit, government, higher education, and philanthropy. 

Kathy believes in a collective liberation centered in rest, joy, love, reparation and reimagination of the impossible becoming possible.

Mel Kutner is an enthusiastic scholar, who has not encountered an idea or topic that they don’t find interesting and has a humble appreciation for the complex factors that impact teaching and learning.  In 2021 Mel joined Deep as Director of Healing Practices and Culture, bringing with them them over a decade of  experience working with educators and policy-makers at the building, district, state, and federal levels.  Mel is completing their PhD in Educational Theory and Practice at the University of Georgia, has a M.S. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason University, and a B.A. in Classical Studies and Creative Writing from Bard College. 

During their doctoral studies, Mel was a Mary Frances Early College of Education’s Research Scholar Awardee and contributed to university and national workgroups dedicated to supporting graduate students from under-represented in higher education.  Mel continues to be engaged in national research and discussion about issues related to education as an active member of the American Education Research Association (AERA), the American Educational Studies Association (AESA), and the Philosophy of Education Society (PES).  

Mel has put their group facilitation and mediation skills to work with educators across Georgia, creating over a dozen workshops on issues related to gender in schools. Born and raised in Washington DC, where they returned after undergraduate before moving to Georgia, Mel is looking forward to becoming part of Savannah’s communities.

Coco Papy is a community organizer, policy nerd, and born-and-bred Savannahian. As Deep’s Director of Public Policy and Communications, she develops and advocates for just and progressive policy and legislation and shines the light on the young people who are leading the way to a more equitable Savannah. 

She is involved in numerous groups that work across the state of Georgia, serving as a board member of the Planned Parenthood Southeast C4 policy board, co-founder of the Political Rascals PAC, a Highlander Education Center Greensboro Justice Fellow, a PEN Prison Writing Fellow, and a fellow with the People for the American Way’s Front Line Leaders. She currently serves as a SWOP behind Bars prison mentor, is a practitioner of Kingian non-violence and trauma-informed, anti-oppressive de-escalation, and serves as a legal observer for the ACLU of Georgia as part of their political demonstration and free and fair election support. Last but not least, she is a proud abortion doula serving the regional south.

Southern Cultural Treasures is a program of South Arts and made possible with support from the Ford Foundation.