Drawing strength from family roots stretching from Baltimore to Heidelberg, Vanessa Roberts is a community-based researcher, facilitator, and artivist currently based in Denver, Colorado.  The term “artivist” refers to an intentional combination of the arts, activism, and academic practice. In Vanessa’s work all three are equally valued as each informs and influences the other. As a performance artist, activist, and scholar, re-infusing opportunities for artistic engagement into educational environments and community programs aligns her personal experiences, values and beliefs, with her professional pursuits.

Vanessa firmly believes in the power of performance to open new spaces for learning and connection. Whether teaching at the collegiate level or facilitating a workshop, her presentations are interwoven with humor, personal stories and a love of social justice. The crux of her work is held together by a steady belief in the power of story and self-expression tools for transformative social change.

The interdisciplinary nature of her academic career combined with a vested interest in place-based community change and a knack for working with youth, provides a solid foundation her for developing career as an activist with academic credentials – a scholar with street cred.

Vanessa received her Bachelors of Arts from Colorado College in 2008 where she designed her own Liberal Arts and Science major entitled Critical Race Theory: Emphasis Performance Comedy, and minored in American Cultural Studies.  Her major was based in the Philosophy and Drama/Dance departments, but pulled its curriculum from various academic areas including Sociology, Gender Studies and English. She went on to receive her Masters of Arts in Performance Studies from the Tisch School of Art at New York University in 2009, where her focus was on racial and ethnic performativity in the wake of the African diaspora.

Currently, much of her time is absorbed with her doctoral pursuit and teaching/research duties in the Department of Sociology and the School of Education at the University of Colorado-Boulder. Her speciality areas as an academic are race & ethnicity, cultural sociology, and youth development. She anticipates completing her doctorate in the summer of 2019.

In addition, Vanessa selectively speaks, trains, and performs nationally, traveling to an array of educational institutions, conferences, businesses, and nonprofit organizations. Her presentations are interactive, engaging, and memorable. 


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Laughter! This workshop was soooo fun (!) and it kept me interested! I never felt sleepy once, and kept wanting to pay attention.
— High School Student, Latina


A short sampling of clients and performance venues includes: