John Malpede, directs, performs and engineers multi-event arts projects that have theatrical, installation, public art and education components. In 1985, Malpede founded and continues to direct the Los Angeles Poverty Department (LAPD), the first performance group in the nation comprised primarily of homeless and formerly homeless people. LAPD 's mission is to create performances that connect lived experience to the social forces that shape the lives and communities of people living in poverty. Malpede has produced projects working with communities throughout the US and in the UK, France,The Netherlands, Belgium and Bolivia.

In 2004 Malpede’s project “RFK in EKY”, was produced by Appalshop, and developed with a host of community partners. This monumental, real-time documentary-style performance by a large community cast , sought to put an historical mirror up to present moment life in eastern Kentucky. RFK in EKY recreated Kennedy’s original “war on poverty” tour in the course of a four-day, 200 mile series of events that included, performance, installations, and in-depth discussion of historic and current events and social policy. He involved a number of his closest artist / collaborators in elements of this project including, David Michalek, Harrell Fletcher, Henriette Brouwers and Sjoerd Wagenaar.

Malpede has received New York’s Dance Theater Workshop Bessie Creation Award, San Francisco Art Institute's Adeline Kent Award, Durfee Sabbatical Grant, LA Theater Alliance Ovation Award, Individual artist fellowships from New York State Council on the Arts, NEA, California Arts Council, City of Los Angeles' COLA fellowship, California Community Foundation's Visual Artist Fellowship, 2007-9 fellow at MIT's Center for Advanced Visual Studies, Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, and numerous project grants.