“Working Backward From Crazy: Implementing a Vision”
An Interview with Susanna Peredo Swap Founder and CEO of Vanguard Culture
Article by Cathy Breslaw
|Susanna Peredo Swap|
Last week I sat down to interview Susanna Peredo Swap. My association with Peredo Swap began when she curated an exhibition I had at the San Diego International Airport in 2011. Now, as a writer for Vanguard Culture, I have seen first-hand, the organic and exciting growth of this socially conscious organization and media entity.
Blessed with a large extended family filled with professional musicians, actors, dancers and architects, it is no surprise that Susanna Peredo Swap followed tradition. Having been raised between Tijuana and Mexico City, she also travelled to Europe, having received a scholarship from the Royal National Theater in London and studied Art History and Video Art History at the Sorbonne and Ecole du Louvre in Paris. A professional actor in musicals and community theater, while in her mid-twenties, she created and sang in a jazz band. While Peredo was living in New York City, 9-11 happened – an event which she says “changed everything” for her. Armed with her experience and knowledge in the performing and visual arts, and her BA degree in Humanities from San Diego State University, Peredo-Swap discovered her calling - which she describes as ‘finding purpose in giving back and making an impact in the San Diego community’.
For five years Peredo-Swap worked for the Old Globe Theater doing marketing, community education and teaching classes. She went on to work for the city of National City where she worked for four years, creating arts inspired programs and managing their public art program. In a city with financial and social challenges, Peredo-Swap worked hard to convince the community of the importance of the arts in the lives of people. She advocated for an arts center as a way of inspiring young people, getting them off the streets and out of drugs, crime and gangs. Though it took several years, National City has redesigned and renovated the ‘old’ library and it is now an arts space for dance, music and the arts. Peredo-Swap is very proud that she helped create this active and vital community center. It is now thriving thanks to it being inhabited by A Reason to Survive, an organization using arts to underprivileged youths. Having been on several arts committees and boards, Peredo-Swap moved on to work for the San Diego airport where, during over five years, she curated and coordinated music programs and over eighty exhibitions.
As a result of her over fifteen years experience, Peredo-Swap realized she had amassed several hundred contacts and relationships with the arts community in San Diego. She commented that she would receive over 300 emails per day of happenings all over the region, and realized that there was no one outlet or organization that filtered or shared all of this information. Ready to make the jump to beginning her own project, the seed was planted in Peredo’s mind, and with that, Vanguard Culture was born.
What began as an idea, about three years later, is now a newsletter of over 4000 subscribers and over 2000 social media contacts. In developing her vision and strategic planning, Peredo says “Start with ‘crazy’ and work backward – she asks “How do we get there from here?”. All big dreams start someplace and Peredo-Swap began by building upon her relationships in the community. She contacted bloggers and media folks to write about the events they attended which began the online newsletter. This helped shape the mission of Vanguard Culture which is: “an online media entity designed for culturally savvy, socially conscious individuals searching for unique visual and performing arts experiences while making a difference in their community”. Vanguard Culture now has six cultural correspondents/writers who report on arts events, four advisory board members and two interns.
Peredo-Swap has developed several ‘real life’ off-shoots to the online newsletter. One of her goals has been to bring the various facets of the arts and cultural community together for an interchange of ideas and possible collaborations. This is how ‘Foodie Soirees’ began. For the past three years, evening food events have taken place quarterly, mixing the arts with the local culinary world. These culinary events take place in private homes of artists, art collectors and other arts lovers where food, drinks, entertainment and fun prevail. Another fascinating smaller gathering inspired by Peredo’s experience while living in Paris is “An Artist @ the Table series” which is an intimate dinner, pairing a noteable person from the arts community with nine ‘strangers’ , inviting them to share a four course dinner prepared by a known chef at a lovely private home. These smaller dinner events are geared to raise money to continue building Vanguard Culture. In keeping with bringing awareness to the needs of the community “Cause of the Quarter” began – every three months a different cause is featured in the newsletter, which helps publicize and provides links for donations to fund the organizations selected.
Another recent amazing event which took place for the first time in June was the ‘Avant Garde Costume Gala’ held at the Mingei Museum in Balboa Park. Peredo commented that this was a huge financial risk but she believed in her ‘over the top’ vision and it proved successful. Over two hundred people attended an event designed for ‘creative and sensory pleasure’ – ‘guests were asked to wear their wildest, most unique or thought provoking costume or accessories”. The event featured food, custom designed drinks, and entertainment from The California Ballet, The Patricia Rincon Dance Collective, Priscilla the Empress of Pop, The Animal Cracker Conspiracy” and an Avant Garde Fashion Show by Shawn Michael. Live body painting, Henna Body Art, stilt walkers, and a photo station were also included. Peredo plans this as an annual event and fundraiser for the organization.
Peredo-Swap, CEO and Founder of Vanguard Culture has built upon a synergy taking place in the San Diego region. The unexpected downturn in the economy beginning in 2008, has required the many moving parts of the arts communities including boards, organizations, businesses and individuals to work together to accomplish their aims. With all that Peredo-Swap and her team have accomplished in only three years, it will be exciting to see what crazy and wonderful projects will emerge and grow while giving back to this diverse and growing region.