The creation of EPACENTER began in 2010 with Marcia and John Goldman, who were eager to support positive change in the East Palo Alto community. Rather than assuming they knew the answers, they decided to support a process of listening to local youth, putting creative problem-solving in their hands.

Starting in 2010, these young people — organized into a Youth Action Committee — collaborated with the John Gardner Center for Youth and their Communities at Stanford University to ask what youth wanted. Over the course of two years, the youth-led community surveys, focus groups, feasibility studies, and public polling, concluding that a new art, design, and technology center in a geographically neutral site would provide significant benefits to young people, families, and the East Palo Alto community as a whole.

Following the youth’s recommendation, in 2015, land was purchased by the John and Marcia Goldman Foundation, and the nonprofit EPACENTER was established. From 2015 to 2017, youth and community members served on task forces where they engaged in architect decisions, design charrettes, program development, and leadership selection. They even selected the organization’s name.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, East Palo Alto youth expressed how their lives had been affected by the public health crisis and how EPACENTER could best meet their needs. The youth said that health disparities, racial injustice, and economic turmoil disproportionately affected them now even more than before the pandemic and protests. Youth asked that EPACENTER’s focus remain on creativity while also addressing the economic challenges youth face. Consequently, EPACENTER expanded its mission beyond arts education classes, to include workforce development training and socio-emotional development programs.

EPACENTER’s development, including facility design, programs,  testing, and organizational mission, is an outcome of a deliberative, iterative approach that has engaged local youth in East Palo Alto at every stage.

Our Lead Philanthropic Partner

The John & Marcia Goldman Foundation (JMGF) is a visionary, hands-on philanthropic organization that, among other priorities, provides resources for youth development in the arts.

For JMGF, EPACENTER encompasses so many of the foundation’s priorities, literally under one roof – supporting youth; making arts more accessible and available; demonstrating the far-reaching benefit of creativity from academic success, to job skills, to emotional resiliency; and seeking out and investing in community-driven solutions.