Brooke Ishibashi and Matthew-Lee Erlbach – The Important and Often Hidden Role of Arts and Culture in Today’s Society

In Making Waves Conversations by Mark Sylvester

The Important and Often Hidden Role of Arts and Culture in Today’s Society

How do you help others view advocacy on behalf of an industry instead of a cause so it’ll get economic and legislative priority? How did the sitcom Will & Grace influence the unfolding story of gay rights (while displaying an essential storytelling element)? Why are 1922 and 2022 synonymous, and how were Arts and Culture at the forefront of the aftermath of events 100 years ago?

In this episode, we discuss the mobilization effort for protecting the arts and culture sector of the U.S. through the grassroots campaign they co-founded. We will also look at the role of COVID and how it has impacted arts workers, and the domino effect on the economy. Finally, Matthew-Lee reminds us that crisis builds character, and the last two years have provided a lifetime's worth of unexpected challenges.

Brooke Ishibashi and Matthew-Lee Erlbach

co-founders of BeAnArtsHero

Brooke Ishibashi (she/her/hers) is a singer, actor, and advocate. She is co-founder of Be An #ArtsHero/Arts Workers United, an intersectional grassroots campaign for proportionate relief to the Arts & Culture sector of the American economy. *Arts & culture contributes $919 billion+ to the U.S. economy and employs 5.2 million+ arts workers. There is no American economic recovery without an arts & culture recovery.

Upcoming: Into the Woods (Broadway)

Recent theater: Into the Woods with Neil Patrick Harris and Sara Bareilles (New York City Center), developed and originated the role of Neary in Cambodian Rock Band (South Coast Repertory, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, La Jolla Playhouse), to the yellow house (La Jolla Playhouse). National Councilor, Actors' Equity Association; Fair Wage Onstage core member; NYCLU Artist Ambassador. 

Matthew-Lee Erlbach is an actor, writer, and labor activist from Chicago and New York. He has written for Adam McKay's KINGS OF AMERICA, starring Amy Adams (Netflix); MASTERS OF SEX (Showtime); GYPSY (Netflix); WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS (Netflix), for WWE, MTV, and Nickelodeon. As a playwright, his work has appeared Off-Bway, regionally, and at Steppenwolf, where he is currently under commission and where his play THE DOPPELGÄNGER (An International Farce) premiered. He has received support from the National Endowment for the Arts, Laurents/Hatcher Foundation, Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation, and Puffin Foundation.

He is a HUMANITAS New Voices recipient. Beyond his work with Habitat for Humanity and individuals who are houseless, he is a proponent of ethical AI and ethical transhumanism. A Co-Founder of Arts Workers United and their national Be An Arts Hero campaign, he has co-authored legislation, built national campaigns, and works with Congress to make Arts and Culture Workers an economic and legislative priority.


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