I ended my previous blog post with a reference to the San Francisco Arts Commission Cultural Equity Grants (CEG) program that I want to expand upon in the context of the democratic ideals of inclusion and stewardship.
CEG is a national model of excellence that shows the cultural sector, how through grantmaking one can address the systemic roots of inequity in society. CEG’s 19 years of service illustrates how the stewardship ethos of taking care is made real through programming strategies that serves our culturally diverse society.
This cheerleader moment for CEG is tied to the backlash being felt against the equity conversation that is heating up in our sector and the nation. CEG is a reminder of what’s possible — that citizens can manifested their passion for equity in a cultural policy designed to serve all.
Let’s call this backlash an example of “Culture Wars 2.0.” The first Culture War of the 90s was an attack on art and artistic free speech. Cultural War 2.0 attacks are against our civil and cultural rights — the right to be taught the works of Latino playwrights in high schools; a women’s right to control her body; the right of gays and lesbians to marry their loved one; the right to be free from racial profiling that is happening within intensity to America’s Muslim and Latino communities; the right of collective bargaining…Attacks by whom? — The 1%, the “me and my friends” of a privatized a “we” of self-interests, the intolerants?
In Arizona, the political far right who control the Arizona legislation have attacked undocumented workers, Latinos, the poor, and multi-cultural school curriculum, through laws and policies aimed to undermine our civil society. The culture sector is not immune to these attacks.
Last year the Arizona Commission on the Arts loss their general fund allocation and had their Arts Trust Fund raided by the far right placing Arizona near the bottom of state art agencies. Given the charge that a local arts agency exists to serve the public, how do we do our work against this background?
It begins with advocating for and defending the very meaning of public — of the public good embedded in civil society. That is our stewardship charge.
I believe strongly that the LAA’s charge is to build and defend civil society through the tools we have at our disposal — the creative community that we serve and our passionate belief in democracy.
In spite of the attacks against cultural differences and the very notion of the public good the cultural community is steadfast as it faces these challenges. Our community of artists, arts organizations, and audiences provide visions and evidence about what’s right about our plurality — how we imagine and live our lives together. TPAC’s P.L.A.C.E. (People, Land, Arts, Culture and Engagement) Initiative is a platform that we established to support the work of creating shared visions of our relationships to each other.
The P.L.A.C.E. Initiative supports arts-based civic engagement projects that address contested and complex social issue in Southern Arizona. It supports placemaking arts activities that shape the physical and social character of the region through projects that create a sense of belonging.
To date, P.L.A.C.E. has supported 27 arts-based civic engagement projects that address community concerns. TPAC is fortunate to have the Kresge Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, and the Open Society Institute as partners in this initiative.
A few examples of projects supported:
- A play about the issues of women who cross the U.S./Mexico border illegally
- A community-based dance performance, about water scarcity, riparian ecosystems and Sonoran Desert ecology
- A writing and photography project by refugee and immigrant students that address community issues
- A participatory public art project designed to facilitate discussion about the issues of land use, transportation and the environment
- A community asset mapping and digital photographic documentation project in partnership with San Ignacio Yaqui Council of the Pascua-Yaqui Tribe
Our P.L.A.C.E. projects create a sense of civic belonging key to cultural vitality and exemplify the ethos of stewardship — of taking care of both the aesthetic and ethical experiences of being in community.
TPAC’s believes that being in community is what we work to empower and support, that it reflect the core value of stewardship that we embrace and animate.