National Creative Conversation on Facebook

Posted by Ruby Lopez Harper, Nov 02, 2016 0 comments

Ah, the sweet smell of autumn—the leaves are starting to turn, the weather is crisp, the wind brisk—and October marks an annual celebration of the arts and humanities in daily life. I love my job; the work I do at Americans for the Arts includes “special projects, as directed”—we all know that phrase—and this year, it manifested itself in participating on the National Arts and Humanities Month task force set to put some energy and social media heft behind the annual celebration.

Creative Conversations started in 2004 as a program through the Americans for the Arts Emerging Leaders Network, bringing together individuals in their communities to talk about the arts & culture and creativity, with a goal to generate partnerships and increase energy and awareness around grassroots efforts.

Meeting people where they are is a key focus of local work and of particular interest in fostering space for conversation and gathering. Knowing that organizational budgets and individual resources can be limited or non-existent makes in-person national dialogue difficult. So how could we easily meet people “where they are” on a national scale? We turned to social media.

Twitter chats are popular and a dynamic way of engaging in conversation, but offer challenges in pace and archiving for posterity. Facebook is the world's most highly used social media network—a great number of arts and culture organizations and staff use the platform several times a day—and offers just as much opportunity as Twitter for chatting and connecting through its public event pages. The whole thing felt ripe for exploration—so we gave it a go.

The intent was to provide an online space where arts and culture advocates could come together in a “live” format of posting and commenting and sharing their stories around the uber-prompt “Where is art popping up in your community?” During the hour-long session, we heard from 22 different zip code check-ins, and read stories about public art that inspires, programs that make a difference.

My favorite question post was “I wish, I wonder”—many comments centered on the role of artists and the value of art to the everyday person. The comment that stood out most to me was from Jenn Deafenbaugh, a maker in Nashville: “I wonder how it became so that people began to assume that they couldn't be artists. Art is a way of being, not a thing. Not an exclusive, special gift that only select people possess.”

Admittedly, this was a trial run—exploring a new way of activating discussion and giving people space to share their stories. I would say that it worked, and I can’t wait to see where the conversation goes next…

To check out the event, read the comments, and share your own responses, visit the National Creative Conversation on Facebook.

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