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About Us

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Western States Center

Based in the Pacific Northwest and Mountain States, Western States Center (WSC) works nationwide to build a future where all people can live, love, worship, and work free from bigotry and fear. WSC envisions inclusive democratic movements and societies rooted in justice and equity. Since 1987, WSC has worked with communities and organizations to build movements, develop leaders, shift culture, and defend democracy through a prism of race, gender, justice, and equity. Our program strategies include:

  • Assisting communities and civil society to effectively respond to social movements that exploit bigotry and intolerance.

  • Strengthening the organizing capacity of often marginalized communities, with a particular emphasis on gender justice, racial justice, and tribal sovereignty work.

  • Convening culture-makers to shift the narrative and use culture as a vehicle for base- and power-building in non-traditional social change spaces.

  • Providing training, leadership development, and organizational capacity support to social movements and leaders committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Learn more about Western States Center and our other toolkits and resources at

Inclusive Democracy Culture Lab

Since the beginning, the American story has been told through song. Musicians have set to sound the hopes and fears that have animated and united us. They’ve used their spotlight to hold power accountable, and helped movements for justice find their voice. For some people, music and the company of fellow fans are the first places they feel seen and understood. While our divisions seem particularly acute today, this country has always been divided - and musicians have always been uniquely able to bridge that divide, often by inviting their fans into new spaces that foster inclusion and belonging.

The Inclusive Democracy Culture Lab is a program of Western States Center that works with musicians and other artists to claim their power as agents of change, supporting them as they organize their fan bases, manage the risks of taking bold public stances together, and serve as examples and resources for their peers to use the power of their voice to advance inclusive democracy. Drop us a line at to learn more about our ongoing artist cohorts. 

Lab Artists

The bench of artists who have contributed to this project grows steadily. At the core, though, the first cohort of artists listed below created the foundation for this toolkit.

The inaugural cohort of the Inclusive Democracy Culture Lab, in 2020-2021, brought together fifteen Americana musicians from across the country, from New York to Nashville to Idaho, who recognized the opportunity they had: to advance new narratives about anti-bigotry and inclusion, puncture the myths driving our political and social divisions, and invite people who don’t always trust politicians and movement leaders into the safe and trusting conversational space that exists between a performer and their audience.


Maya de Vitry


Peter Mulvey


Ana Egge

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Michaela Anne


Rebecca Gates




Sara Hickman

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Matthew Ryan

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Catherine Irwin

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Clay Steakley


Eilen Jewell

Support for The Inclusive Democracy Culture Lab

The concept for this project has been a long time in the making and influenced by decades of brilliant cultural organizing, visionary leadership development, and a broad ecosystem of anti-bigotry strategies. Strategic design and staffing for the project has been provided by:


Eric K. Ward, Executive Director of Western States Center

Jessica George, Senior Fellow

Amy Herzfeld-Copple, Deputy Director of Programs and Strategic Initiatives 

Generous funding and partnership for this program has been provided by: 

  • Center for Inclusion & Belonging, a project of the American Immigration Council

  • Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies 

  • The Hearthland Foundation

  • The Pop Culture Collaborative 

  • Righteous Persons Foundation 

  • May and Samuel Rudin Family Foundation

  • UJA Federation of New York Young Leaders 

  • Walter & Elise Haas Fund 

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