Cultural Strategist in Government

Photo Credit: Isreal Alemu

Walter Wallace (Founder of the Black Film Guild) was appointed by the City of Oakland to be a Cultural Strategist in Government in August 2022.

What is a Cultural Strategist?

Cultural strategists are individuals working in the realm of culture, art making, and aesthetic practices who bring unique skills and perspectives to bear on city challenges through an equity lens. Oakland-based artists, artist-activists, creative entrepreneurs, traditional culture bearers, community historians, and others knowledgeable of culturally specific practices, history, or heritage relevant to residents of Oakland applied to the competitive program to be embedded in various government offices for a year.

The Cultural Strategist in Government (CSIG) program is an investment in creative thinkers who imagine and test new ways of working from a position inside the government that advances how dialogue, deliberation, risk, and innovation can impact governmental systems in a transformative way to operationalize civic belonging.

The Project (A partnership with OakDOT & NEAR)

NEAR Blockchain Protocol

Walter is on a mission to improve the relationship between the government, residents, and services. One of the services that the City of Oakland provides to residents is 311. It is a call-and-response system that allows residents to submit formal maintenance requests through a 311 account on their Apple or Android device or via the city website.

Walter’s plan on connecting the community to government services involves community members creating mini-documentaries where artists interview residents in the City of Oakland and highlight ways we can improve local services according to community feedback. A treatment¬†along with a community support channel has been created to help support artists with technical questions and creative support while creating their mini-documentaries. The goal of these mini-documentaries are to teach and inspire residents all the while gathering valuable information that the City of Oakland can leverage to modernize current operations.

Train-Walter will be conducting free workshops on the technical aspects of filmmaking and photography every month from July 2022 until June 2023. These workshops are designed to teach beginner and intermediate filmmakers how to understand the technical parts of filmmaking in an easily digestible way and encourage and inspire community members to participate in creating visual art that will have a positive impact on their community.

Inspire-Members of the community who participate in the workshop will receive ongoing mentorship and resources on photography and filmmaking designed to inspire artists to create mini-documentaries that will help the City of Oakland better understand ongoing programs, how residents use the programs, and get valuable feedback on ways to better provide services that meet the needs of its constituents.

Photo Credit: Joyce Xi

Modernize– Finding new and creative ways to share community documentaries with the City of Oakland, while also providing artists with compensation and providing smart contractual agreements that are simple to understand. Artists upload their mini-documentaries to the NEAR blockchain and create a certificate of authenticity; the City of Oakland can purchase the certificate, giving them the rights to use the artist’s mini-documentary for things such as showing the city council, marketing, and helping with future decision-making.


A successful project will achieve a few measurable outcomes for both the community and the City of Oakland Department of Transportation.

  1. Educate the artist community on the technical aspects of filmmaking and photography.
  2. Offer community artists an opportunity to actively participate in creating a stronger relationship between the government and the community.
  3. Create a series of community-generated mini-documentary that will help shape the way residents and government interact and offer the City of Oakland information that is objectively viewed as helpful feedback in the quest to better serve tax-paying citizens of Oakland.
  4. Learn more about web3 and blockchain technology, all the while receiving compensation through the NEAR protocol grant which was awarded for this project.