Advancing Social Justice through Documentation and Archiving

Posted by Jamie Haft On May - 19 - 2014
Jamie Haft

Jamie Haft

A call to action is what has emerged for me from Animating Democracy’s vigorous blog salon, Back to the Future: Forward-Thinking Documentation & Archiving. Imagine an organizing effort to achieve Reverend James Lawson’s founding statement of principle for the civil rights movement’s Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee: “a social order of justice permeated by love.” Do documentation and archiving come to mind as essential to building a movement? Reading the insights from all the thoughtful writers in this blog salon, I am happy to say, yes!

The work of documenting, archiving, and communicating about the field of community cultural development is a political act. This context encompasses and gives meaning to the five debunked misconceptions about archiving and documentation in my opening post. Read the rest of this entry »

A Call for a Shared Digital Town Square

Posted by Jan Cohen Cruz On May - 19 - 2014
Jan Cohen-Cruz Caracas

Jan Cohen-Cruz Caracas

Jamie Haft names in her blog initiating this series on Documentation, Archiving, and Communication the misconception that the Community Cultural Development (CCD) field needs “a central digital town square.” While I, too, recognize the value of multiple platforms publicizing stories, news items, essays, manifestoes, et al, for diverse CCD constituencies, we risk bifurcating the field if all communication reflects separate siloes. I propose the additional creation of a CCD Reader — shaped along the lines of the Utne Reader, a publication that “combs the alternative, independent, and digital press for thoughtful journalism, artful storytelling, and emerging ideas.” A CCD Reader could serve as a commons for the regular exchange of ideas across our habitual groupings. To generate such a “digital town square,” we could, say once a year, cull from the multiple publications representing different CCD threads to produce one set of pieces valuable to us all. Read the rest of this entry »

Archive Shout Out: The Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics

Posted by Barbara Schaffer Bacon On May - 16 - 2014
Barbara Schaffer Bacon

Barbara Schaffer Bacon

Check out the Hemispheric Institute Digital Video Library – a digital video library of performance practices in the Americas. Created in partnership with NYU Libraries and with the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, this growing repository guarantees historical preservation and free online access to more than 600 hours of video that explores embodied practice—performance—as a vehicle for the creation of new meaning and the transmission of cultural values, memory and identity. Read the rest of this entry »

Andrew Horwitz

Andrew Horwitz

It was close to seven years after we launched Culturebot.org when my colleague Jeremy M. Barker joined the effort, and I had the time to begin more clearly articulating how the site functioned as community archive and platform for discourse. Rather than recapitulate the entire narrative, I will share some insights from my experience:

1. Positioning the Archive

Culturebot’s essential point of difference is positional. Since Culturebot.org originated at Performance Space 122 (P.S.122) –a hub of community – and because it has always operated from within that community of artists, it has never been positioned within either journalism or academia. Insofar as capacity and resources have allowed, Culturebot has been a collaboratively created, community-supported archive to promote a variety of perspectives and complexity of critical discourse. Even as it serves as a dynamic social map enabling a community to self-define, Culturebot is also meant to serve a critical function – to allow dissent and support voices that may otherwise be ignored. Read the rest of this entry »

Dee Boyle Clapp

Dee Boyle Clapp

Archiving community cultural development and the story of the arts through arts policy is important to the Arts Extension Service.

We recently launched the National Arts Policy Archive and Library (NAPAAL) in partnership with the UMass Amherst Libraries’ Department of Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) as a free-standing collection within SCUA’s Social Change Collection.  SCUA staff does the hard work of archiving, digitizing, and making it possible for anyone with internet access to explore these materials.  They ensure that the primary documents will be stored and made available for visitors.   Read the rest of this entry »

Toolbox as Documentation

Posted by Liz Lerman On May - 15 - 2014
Liz Lerman

Liz Lerman

The topic for this salon is big. I am going to write about one small part of it. I am interested in how we observe our processes, discern them as repeatable actions, develop them to become tools for others to borrow and make their own. I believe that we can harvest our histories, make sense of what we did and describe it in terms that help us understand the context, the decisions, and perhaps the wisdom and meaning surrounding the work.  At the same time we can delineate the data, information, formats, processes that may aid others in their work.

In my case, the idea for such a toolbox made from thousands of hours of teaching and choreographing and dancing came in an instant.  It was a visitation born out of utter confusion and despair.  As I was preparing to lead a workshop for K-12 teachers I was pondering why the organizing arts and educational institution with whom I was working wanted an outline from me that would describe what was to transpire.  They wanted to hand it out at the beginning even though we all knew that the activities would change once I was in the room with the very particular people and needs that would coalesce that afternoon.  It was true I had a plan, but it was equally true that the plan would shift as soon as we began our work. Read the rest of this entry »

Andrew Horwitz

Andrew Horwitz

I have come to view human history as an epic tragedy of inadequate knowledge management. While I am dubious that we will ever finally solve the problem of knowledge lost across generations and cultures, much less the greater problem of recognizing wisdom when we see it, I’m hopeful that we can change our society’s perception of how history is constructed, and encourage a collaborative, peer-driven model of cultural discourse and documentation.

As Jamie Haft has inferred, it would be difficult to overstate the urgency around building new practices for discourse and documentation, not just in the field of community-based arts, but for society as a whole. We inhabit a moment of both great crisis as legacy systems fail and even greater opportunity to create new systems to supersede the old. Read the rest of this entry »

Documenting Community-Based Arts and Funding Inequities

Posted by Sonia Manjon On May - 14 - 2014
Sonia BasSheva Manjon

Sonia BasSheva Manjon

The discourse, documentation, research, archiving, and communication about community cultural development are indeed vast and deep. Within this multilayered, diverse, and complex field of community-based art are artists and organizations that represent the diversity and complexity of communities and neighborhoods in the United States. The urgency for documentation, archiving, and communication are, at times, limited to those organizations that represent a more mainstream paradigm. The creation and introduction of multifaceted arts institutions is important to the building of community based arts organizations with social justice and cultural equity foci. Art institutions that address a holistic aesthetic perspective that embrace the complexities of their cultural communities are rooted across the country. Read the rest of this entry »

Jamie Haft

Jamie Haft

Virginia Tech recently hosted a small national meeting on documentation, archiving, and communication in the field of community cultural development. Articulated by convener Bob Leonard, the meeting’s lead organizing question: How is documentation, archiving, and communication in the community cultural development field serving and not serving artists, humanities researchers, community organizers, non-artist community partners, community agencies and institutions, and scholarly communities? For me, the meeting debunked five misconceptions about documentation, archiving, and communication in the field.

 

Virginia Tech meeting, by Andrew Morikawa

Virginia Tech meeting, by Andrew Morikawa

Misconception #1: There’s no urgency.

Documentation, archiving, and communication are essential to demonstrating the ability of community cultural development to improve the lives of community members and to fostering a critical discourse that builds and sharpens those doing the work. Questions for the critical discourse include: Is community cultural development work advancing equity? How does the field deal with well-meaning but ineffective and sometimes even unethical practices? Bill Cleveland, Center for the Study of Art and Community, called for investments in independent reporting and data collection to reveal impact – for example, a study and report about how and where projects are doing damage and how and where they are making a difference. Participants pointed to assessment resources like Animating Democracy’s Impact Initiative and Imagining America’s Integrated Assessment Initiative. Cindy Cohen, Acting Together, suggested a core group commit to regular meetings over a sustained period of time to discuss and communicate the moral and ethical dimensions of community cultural development. Read the rest of this entry »

The Top 10 Skills Children Learn From the Arts

Posted by Lisa Phillips On November - 26 - 2012

Lisa Phillips

1. Creativity – Being able to think on your feet, approach tasks from different perspectives and think ‘outside of the box’ will distinguish your child from others. In an arts program, your child will be asked to recite a monologue in 6 different ways, create a painting that represents a memory, or compose a new rhythm to enhance a piece of music. If children have practice thinking creatively, it will come naturally to them now and in their future career.

2. Confidence – The skills developed through theater, not only train you how to convincingly deliver a message, but also build the confidence you need to take command of the stage. Theater training gives children practice stepping out of their comfort zone and allows them to make mistakes and learn from them in rehearsal. This process gives children the confidence to perform in front of large audiences.

3. Problem Solving – Artistic creations are born through the solving of problems. How do I turn this clay into a sculpture? How do I portray a particular emotion through dance? How will my character react in this situation? Without even realizing it kids that participate in the arts are consistently being challenged to solve problems. All this practice problem solving develops children’s skills in reasoning and understanding. This will help develop important problem-solving skills necessary for success in any career.

4. Perseverance – When a child picks up a violin for the first time, she/he knows that playing Bach right away is not an option; however, when that child practices, learns the skills and techniques and doesn’t give up, that Bach concerto is that much closer. In an increasingly competitive world, where people are being asked to continually develop new skills, perseverance is essential to achieving success.

5. Focus – The ability to focus is a key skill developed through ensemble work. Keeping a balance between listening and contributing involves a great deal of concentration and focus. It requires each participant to not only think about their role, but how their role contributes to the big picture of what is being created. Recent research has shown that participation in the arts improves children’s abilities to concentrate and focus in other aspects of their lives. Read the rest of this entry »

From Short-Term Participation to Long-Term Engagement

Posted by Anusha Venkataraman On November - 10 - 2011

Participants take part in integrated creative, interactive activities during the workshop. (Photo by Roxanne Earley)

In reading my fellow bloggers’ posts, I was thinking about the different sets of strategies used to interest and involve community members in the short-term (what we might call “one-offs”), and those used to cultivate engagement in the long-term.

The potential of art to involve community in the shorter term is well-documented and recognized. We recognize the value of performance and temporary public art in activating public space during large (and small) community events.

Art is also recognized as an important communication tool, a way to get across a complex message that might otherwise be technical or seem far removed from daily life. Creative processes can even be used to diffuse conflict and create the space for dialogue.

Urban planners and designers have also integrated creative, interactive activities into the charrette workshop model. This week I attended a lecture and workshop at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY, led by James Rojas on his interactive, art-based technique of using semi-abstract models and moving pieces to involve community members in reimagining and redesigning urban spaces.

The materials used were simple—blocks, string, plastic toys—but the colors and shapes clearly activated different parts of the participants’ brains, and encouraged new ideas and solutions—even among a crowd of planning and architecture students that is used to addressing urban design issues every day. Read the rest of this entry »

How Strong is Your Social Net? (Part 1)

Posted by Mary Trudel On October - 5 - 2011

Mary Trudel

At last year’s NAMP Conference in San Jose – near the heart of Silicon Valley – my partner, Rory MacPherson, and I announced a national survey to gather input on how arts organizations and collaboratives are faring in the dynamic digital communications landscape.

Responding to input from arts organizations and regional arts collaboratives that are striving to get the most out of the latest digital communications tools and social media, we wanted to take a national snapshot of how arts groups are doing with adoption and integration of new social media platforms into their overall marketing outreach.

We decided to conduct a research project to collect hard data on how groups are managing messaging alignment, resource allocation, and how well they perceive their digital communications and social media efforts are working.

It seemed to us that even those who are leading the field and getting outstanding results are not completely sure they’re communicating consistently, clearly and compellingly, wonder if they are connecting authentically with patrons and fans, and are concerned about how to sustain and improve the effectiveness of what they’re doing. And universally, arts organizations reported struggling to measure the return on investment of their digital efforts. Read the rest of this entry »