Shelby Williams-González is president and chief executive officer of downtown L.A. arts education provider Inner-City Arts. Previously the executive director of artworxLA, she is also a company member of the national touring Afro-Brazilian dance company Viver Brasil. Before participating in a Zócalo/Helms Bakery District event, “Will a New Generation of Leaders Shake Up L.A.’s Culture?,” she shared why she decided not to become a vet, how she met her husband, and why she’ll be giving away vases for the next decade.
What is your favorite dance style?
Samba de roda, which is samba in the circle. It’s a flat-footed samba, and the music is always jamming. It’s just the best. [Samba is] actually how I met my husband, too, because he’s a musician, and he plays a really good samba.
What did you want to be growing up?
When I was really young, I wanted to be a veterinarian. I loved animals. I wanted to be a vet for tigers and lions—because I wanted some sort of danger, but also animals. But then I shadowed a friend of mine who worked at a veterinary clinic in Highland Park, my neighborhood, and all that doctor did all day long was stick his finger up cats’ butts. I thought, “That is disgusting. I do not want to do this.” So that was the end of those dreams.
How did you first get into dance?
I’ve always been an athlete, so I just loved the physicality of it. I’d taken classes for fun as a child, but it was in college when I was like—this is what I want to do. And so being a dancer, [and] being a dance teacher and educator, took me into this world that I am in now in arts administration and running an arts organization.
What’s your hidden talent?
I love making ceramics and throwing on the wheel. Do you need a flower pot? All I make is flower pots—my house is going to collapse because you can only make so many flower pots in COVID. I have vases galore. Everyone for Christmas for the next 10 years is getting a vase.
Where is your favorite place to go in L.A.?
Walking around my neighborhood. I live in Mount Washington. It’s in Northeast L.A., tucked above Eagle Rock, Highland Park, Pasadena. There’s just a lot of trees. It’s quiet. You can see hawks every day. I love it.
What was the last piece of art that you saw that you really loved?
We just installed the Rose River Memorial at Inner-City Arts with these red felt roses for those who have passed away from COVID. We have the memorial hanging from our roof. So when you drive on Seventh Street, you just see a wall of roses. That’s my favorite piece of art.