In October I attended the 2012 Grantmakers in the Arts conference in Miami Beach, where I organized and hosted a session on Community Engagement in partnership with Barbara S. Bacon and Pam Korza of Animating Democracy. This session was designed to extend conversations begun at the GIA Conference in 2011 about cultural equity and the role of grantmakers and artists in social justice and community-engaged work.
Socially-engaged artists face many challenges as they navigate complex circumstances in order to accomplish their visions. There are often multiple institutions, individuals and goals to be considered in projects that can extend over a number of years.
One of the key challenges identified in the session is long-term commitment. Building and sustaining deep relationships within communities takes time and commitment from both the artist and the presenting organization. Often cultural organizations that an artist is working with do not have the capacity to forge and maintain relationships that will help support the artist’s project and presence within a community, not to mention the resources to sustain follow-up with community partners beyond the end of the project.
At the GIA conference, guest presenters Maria Bauman (Director of Education and Community Engagement, Urban Bush Women), Carlton Turner (Director, Alternate ROOTS) and Xavier Cortada (artist-in-residence, Florida International University College of Architecture + The Arts Office of Engaged Creativity) shared skills-training models they have developed to help artists prepare themselves to address these challenges.
Maria Bauman described Urban Bush Women’s Summer Leadership Institute, which brings dance professionals together with community-based organizations. Through mentorship and this training program, the company builds a de-centralized leadership network of artist facilitators.
Carlton Turner spoke about Alternate ROOTS’ Community/Artist Partnership Program (CAPP), designed to foster collaborations between artists and the communities they partner with. Support is provided for such things as embedding an artist within a community for a period of time, or the convening of meetings between artists and community stakeholders to allow for an exchange of information toward identifying critical issues and potential collaborations.
Xavier Cortada highlighted the role of the artist as catalyst and agent of change, noting that artists can contribute creative problem solving in many situations outside the confines of the art world by expanding their role and voice. In his own practice he is committed to mentoring and training other artists to develop their skills and practice. His students at gain course credits through apprenticeships with him and he also works collaboratively across disciplines with architecture and urban planning students.
The session organizers and I compiled a resource sheet that lists other training programs around the country, including institutions, retreats, workshops, conferences, convenings, colleges and universities, which can be downloaded here.
Check back later this week for more on this topic: We’ll post a conversation I had with Aaron Landsman, a theater artist and long-time workshop leader for Creative Capital’s Professional Development Program, who has been developing our new workshop, Real Community Engagement.