Blog Posts for Social Change

Back to the Future (Part 2)

Posted by Erik Takeshita, Dec 02, 2011 0 comments

Erik Takeshita

The deeper the roots, the stronger we are. 

I have a print in my office made by a teen from The Point Community Development Corporation with this on it. I couldn’t agree more. We need to know where we came from to get where we wanted to go. This is true for individuals, organizations, and communities.

On November 16, Minneapolis-based Bedlam Theatre had 24 hours of live, web-streamed programming for "Give to the Max Day" including a panel discussion on “Placemaking? Arts Bubble or Dawning of a New Age?”

While I enjoyed participating in the conversation with Bedlam, Anne Gadwa from Metris Arts Consulting, and my colleagues from the Irrigate project (an artist-led creative placemaking initiative in St. Paul that received one of the initial ArtPlace grant awards in September), I am not sure we are asking the right question.

What I mean is I think placemaking is neither an “arts bubble” nor the “dawning of a new age,” but rather something that human beings have always done. We are always striving to make the places we inhabit more livable, attractive, and vibrant.

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'You Can’t Evict an Idea Whose Time Has Come'

Posted by Caron Atlas, Nov 23, 2011 1 comment

Caron Atlas

At the recent Policy Link Equity Summit 2011 in Detroit at a session called “Holding Ground,” progressive presenters—including Wisconsin State Senator Lena Taylor, who participated in the “driving filibuster” to prevent the dismantling of collective bargaining, spoke about maintaining equity in a time a cutbacks.

At the end of the session one of the younger audience members, Michael Collins, asked where in all this talk of holding ground were the progressive ideas, the vision for the future. His question significantly shifted the room.

The conference had begun with Grace Lee Boggs inspiring us to seize this moment to “create something new.” Artists Invincible and Rha Goddess later spoke about shifting the culture and did just that as they performed, bringing economic injustice home. Occupy Wall Street (OWS) organizer Nelini Stamp noted that Occidental professor Peter Dreir has researched a three-fold increase in the word “inequality” in the media since OWS began. She then asked us to “think big”.

This post is supposed to be about placemaking. But right now I’m thinking about holding ground and thinking big. OWS’s place at Zuccotti Park has just been bulldozed. At Policy Link and other conferences I have been to this fall I have found many organizers embracing the energy around the 99%.

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Emerging Ideas: Mobilizing Your Community through Innovation

Posted by Gabriela Jirasek, Nov 22, 2011 0 comments

Gabriela Jirasek

This post is part of a series on emerging trends and notable lessons from the field, as reported by members of the Americans for the Arts Emerging Leaders Council. It’s not just the Angelina Jolies and Brad Pitts of the world who fall victim to the ruthless 24-hour news cycle. The public’s hunger for uncomplicated, easily digestible news can slander celebrities and entire cities alike. On January 11, 2011, Newsweek magazine published a now infamous article titled “America’s Dying Cities.” It crunched U..S census data to list the top-10 cities with 100,000 residents or more that experienced the steepest population decline in the country. Number 10 on that list was Grand Rapids, MI. But the residents of Grand Rapids were about to prove that the reports of their city’s death were greatly exaggerated. In answer to the article, lifelong Grand Rapids residents and filmmakers Rob Bliss and Scott Erickson created perhaps the greatest letter to the editor of all time,  a 10-minute lip dub music video of Don McClean’s “American Pie” featuring a cast of thousands and a full tour of downtown Grand Rapids. Responding to the city’s premature death knell, director and executive producer explained, “We disagreed strongly, and wanted to create a video that encompasses the passion and energy we all feel is growing exponentially, in this great city. We felt Don McLean's ‘American Pie,’ a song about death, was in the end, triumphant and filled to the brim with life and hope.

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Developing Community through an Integrated Arts Approach

Posted by Jim Sparrow, Nov 16, 2011 0 comments

Jim Sparrow

Some of the greatest growth in formal arts institutions has taken place in the last 40 years. Why?

As we look at budget growth, sustainability, and growing gaps in earned revenue vs. contributed, was something flawed in this growth?

The Rockefeller Institute report on the performing arts from 1961 identified trends that sound eerily familiar today. Decreasing audience and demand, continued struggles with aging infrastructure, need for increased revenue, and new earned income were all outlined.

Ironically many of the traditional arts organizations used as baseline examples in 1961, had guaranteed weeks and production schedules that were much less then they are today. There were no 52-week orchestras nor were there guaranteed contracts, production or administrative staffing at levels that are even close to today -- even with adjustments for today’s inflation.

So why have we grown in many cases without apparent demand, but in spite of it?

The recommendations from that report advised focus in key areas, growing access and infrastructure to build appreciation and understanding and using foundations such as the Ford Foundation for growth as part of a Great Society vision for the arts.

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Is Photography Dead?

Posted by Joanna Chin, Nov 11, 2011 0 comments

Joanna Chin

I just returned from a FotoWeekDC lecture at the Corcoran Museum by photographer, Trevor Paglen where he began his talk with this question. The answer is no; however, the crucial point of his talk was about the necessity of broadening our definition of what photography is at this particular point in time.

So, is art dead?

In my opening post for the salon, I said that the arts and culture have always had a place in this work of creating a sense of place, strengthening civic participation, and bolstering positive social change. I refrained from suggesting exactly what arts and culture looks, sounds, and feels like; yet, the overarching thread of blogs throughout this salon have alluded to a broadened definition of the arts as something beyond just a physical object constrained to a physical space.

Our bloggers shared a diversity of opinions and perspective, but two of my big take-aways from the salon overall were:

1.    It’s all about time (not just place): The making of a place isn’t just about the physical space, but also the cultural and social space that continues to develop and change over time. The most vibrant places are those where the process of creation, storytelling, activation, and use becomes woven into the changing fabric of the place.  Part of the key to the future is bridging the past/existing conditions with the present, which is typified by inter-generational work.

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