By Jamie Haft and Zhivko Illeieff

Following-up on our first engaging virtual discussion, we now present the second installment of the “Art in a Democracy” Newsroom!

Participants Jamie Haft (Imagining America), Julia Katz (Critical Point Theatre), Michael Schwartz (Tuscon Arts Brigade), and Zhivko Illeieff (Roadside Theater) discussed how they are linking digital content from the field of community cultural development to current events. The Newsroom extends the discussion from last December’s national meeting at Virginia Tech on documentation, archiving, and communication.

Zhivko shared Roadside’s web efforts to make the company’s extensive 40-year media archive relevant to the next generation. He noted how free services like Youtube, Flickr, and Soundcloud make it easy to embed multimedia on a website.

Julia talked about how Virginia Tech’s Institute for Creativity, Art, and Technology is helping to build a community of practice focused on archiving community cultural development work. Julia also described Critical Point Theatre’s work with middle school students in southwest Virginia addressing issues of race and cultural equity.

Michael outlined Tuscon Arts Brigade’s collaborations with the police department and city government, which use the arts to reduce violence in the community, provide services for the homeless, and advocate for increasing minimum wage. He noted the importance of having major institutions, like the Smithsonian, support community cultural development archives. He suggested we involve the Community Built Association in this ongoing conversation about archiving.

Jamie recommended HowlRound TV as a field-wide resource for broadcasting events. She went on to show a clip from Glenn Beck’s article on Imagining America, in which the media personality accuses the organization of using art to spread propaganda. Jamie described a recent Roadside podcast that featured a conservative economist’s perspective on why culture is critical to economic development.

Linking community cultural development to current events can make the work seem issue focused and partisan,” Jamie observed. “How can we frame our documentation and archiving efforts to communicate how our work enables people from all sides of the political spectrum to participate in collectively identifying and solving their community’s problems?”

Julia responded with a story from her experience in Jon Catherwood-Ginn’s initiative, Building Home, which used theater and music to open up public dialogue on the topic of livability in southwest Virginia. She described how some branded the initiative as “extremely leftist” even though it engaged a diverse range of stakeholders to share their vision for the community.

Michael spoke about the importance of listening and building trust. Despite political differences, his organization was able to collaborate with the Pentano Christian Church because of the relationships they developed based on a common desire to help the community.

Are you interested in joining the next “Art in a Democracy” Newsroom? Let us know here in the comments section or email [email protected]!

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Jamie Haft and Zhivko Illeieff. ““Art in a Democracy” Newsroom #2.” December 8, 2015.

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