Thursday, March 20, 2014
By Jamie Haft and Zhivko Illeieff

How can we make the community cultural development field’s documentation, archiving, and communication relevant to current events?

Roadside Theater is launching the Art in a Democracy Newsroom for ongoing virtual exchange on the topic. Jamie Haft (Imagining America), Bill Cleveland (Center for Art & Community), Vijay Mathew (HowlRound), Zhivko Illeieff (Roadside Theater), and Josh May (Appalshop) recently held the first virtual “pitch” meeting to share and critique topical stories and potential upcoming news hooks.  This post serves as a report of that exchange and an invitation to join the next one. These pitch meetings extend the discussion from the December 2013 national meeting on documentation, archiving, and communication at Virginia Tech.


What are examples of content about community cultural development that connects to current events?

Jamie Haft presented a blog by Artistic Director Dudley Cocke that cued off the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and included a personal account of that turbulent period in American history (1963-1968). The post provoked a Facebook exchange among author and readers about the role of grassroots institutions in movements for social justice, which had the effect of sharpening the blog’s analysis. Jamie also screened clips of archival footage newly uploaded to YouTube, such as this 1992 performance about issues of race and class.

Vijay Matthew shared HowlRound TV’s coverage of the Free Southern Theater's 50th anniversary. He noted that HowlRound TV is a commons based, live-streaming video project with an archive of recordings from live events and performances relevant to theater and arts fields. Vijay also presented HowlRound’s recent series on race and representation and Twitter exchange, which responded to last year’s controversial adaptation of The Jungle Book.

Bill Cleveland informed the group about open-source software called Gephi – an interactive visualization and exploration platform for all kinds of networks and complex systems. Bill used Gephi to document a design/build initiative that transformed a parking lot in San Diego into a community meeting space; his use of the program revealed to funders the “hidden network of relationships” produced as a result of the project.

Zhivko Illeieff spoke about his blog entry that analyzed the ongoing student protests in his home country of Bulgaria through the lens of Roadside’s Theory of Change and methodology. Zhivko argued for the important role of citizen journalism in allowing communities to rediscover their strengths and address their weaknesses, and for the efficacy of live interactions. Roadside is now inviting Guest Blog Posts from others interested in linking their own experiences of current events to Roadside’s archive.

Josh May discussed how he is using Appalshop’s 1991 film, Chemical Valley, which explores the devastating health effects of chemical plants in India and West Virginia, as a learning tool for understanding the recent chemical spills in the area. He described how Appalshop uses local film screenings as an opportunity for community organizing around environmental causes.

What are some important upcoming news hooks?

  • The economy: This year’s 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty is an opportunity to raise local, regional, and national issues about income inequality. In Ecuador, a new project called the Flok Society is using technology to explore how to make structural changes to its economy based on principles of the commons and open, free knowledge.
  • The environment: Many citizens and members of Congress are raising concern about the environmental impact of the Keystone XL construction. In California, many are discussing water rights.
  • Health: With healthcare in the US, some states are refusing to expand Medicaid, which will affect many young people.
  • Cultural equity: The United Nations is having a world conference on indigenous issues in September, which may be an occasion to explain to a broad public why culture and heritage is a human right.

Are you interested in joining The Art in a Democracy Newsroom? Sign up to participate in our next virtual exchange here. For questions, comments, and suggestions about this initiative, email [email protected].

The next virtual Art in a Democracy NEWSROOM will take place this Monday, March 31, at 5pm Eastern/4pm Central/2pm Pacific. We’ll start on time and stick to an hour. 

Login Instructions:
You can join from a PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone or Android device: 
Please click this URL to start or join.  
Or, go to and enter meeting ID: 275 532 751  
Zoom will prompt you to install the software, if you haven’t already, so please do so before the meeting begins. The host will sign-on a few minutes early so you can check your video and audio. If possible, please use headphones to reduce feedback.
Appalshop Cateogry: 

Cite This

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

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