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September 2012

Greetings from the Arts & Democracy Project! 


Cultural organizing is a core practice of the Arts & Democracy Project and exists at the intersection of arts, culture and activism. Cultural organizing integrates arts and culture into organizing strategies. It is also about organizing from a particular tradition, cultural identity, and community of place or worldview to advance social and economic justice.


On July 24, the Arts & Democracy Project hosted Cultural Organizing: Integrating Arts and Culture With Organizing, as part of our national conference call series. 


On August 18th, we hosted Cultural Organizing for Community Change, a day-long workshop in Brooklyn, NY in collaboration with NOCD-NY (Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts-NY) and Urban Bush Women


As a follow-up to both of these events, we are pleased to present you with this e-newsletter full of resources related to cultural organizing. 


detroit summer Detroit Summer is multiracial, inter-generational collective in Detroit that  has been working to transform  communities through youth  leadership, creativity and collective  action since 1992. Their Live Arts Media Project (LAMP) is a youth-led response to Detroit's drop-out crisis using music, poetry, and visual art to investigate community problems and generate community-based solutions.


el puente

The El Puente Greenlight District Initiative is working to transform the Southside of Williamsburg into a more vibrant community by focusing on the connections between our quality of life and arts & culture, civic engagement, education, health and the environment. El Puente is a Brooklyn-based organization that builds leadership for peace and justice by engaging youth and adult members in individual and collective actions that improve their lives, their communities, and the world. 


the point The Point Community Development Corporation is dedicated to youth development and the cultural and economic revitalization of the Hunts Point section of the South Bronx. The Point has a multifaceted and asset-based approach to their work, which includes youth development, arts and culture, and community development.   


project hip-hop logo Project HIP-HOP approaches cultural organizing as a social-justice strategy that places arts and culture at the center of the organizing. Through their cultural organizing they develop artistic leadership in youth, challenge and shift societal narratives, unite people through common culture, and use art as a tool in campaigns.  


Arts & Democracy Project collaborated with Service Employees International Union (SEIU) on artist residencies in SEIU locals in Minnesota, Florida, California and Ontario (Canada). The results of these residencies were presented to more than 3,000 people at the SEIU convention in Denver. The work continues with the locals and their communities, through documentation and planning for future collaborations.


Resources for Social Change (RSC) was developed by Alternate ROOTS to support the use of art as a tool for social justice. The training program promotes practices that are inclusive, ethical and equitable. It was created to institutionalize ROOTS' knowledge in the field and honor the experience and expertise of communities. RSC provides workshops, mentorship and peer education. You can access the RSC principles and workbook here.

ubw logo Urban Bush Women's Entering, Building and Exiting Community Workshop is based on experiential learning. Participants embody effective leadership practices that strengthen and develop their understanding of community engagement. They gain tools and methodologies for entering, building and exiting community, including navigating a variety of assumptions regarding community-based practices. The workshop's dialogic mapping of experience uses tools that include theater games, writing and movement exercise.


Tamejavi Cultural Organizing Fellowship Program expands on 


the benefits of the bi-annual Tamejavi Festival by offering an ongoing program that supports immigrant leaders and their communities in the Central Valley of California. Like the Tamejavi Festival, the Fellowship Program celebrates the traditions, struggles and contributions of immigrants by offering burgeoning community leaders a variety of popular education, cultural, artistic expression and civic engagement opportunities. 

zilphia horton projectCultural organizing at the  Highlander Center is both a core methodology and a set of programs. One such program is the Zilphia Johnson Horton Cultural Organizing Project, named for Zilphia Horton, who made the case to Highlander's founder of the importance of art and culture when organizing people for social movement. Currently in its third phase, the program is bringing cultural workers to Highlander to better understand organizing. 



malkia cyril

 Shifting Culture Making Change 

 Malkia Cyril, Executive Director of  the Center for Media Justice, recently wrote  a piece for Organizing Upgrade on  communications strategies for building a  national narrative for progressive social change. In the essay she argues for a comprehensive strategy for progressive social change that impacts both heart and mind.
Transformational social change is an inherently creative act. This Blog by Paul Kutner serves as a resource for practitioners and researchers working in the hybrid worlds of art, culture and organizing.  

cultural org experiences at intersection
This essay, written by Javiera Benavente and Rebecca Lena Richardson, explores the power of cultural organizing with examples of art and culture as integral parts of organizing strategies. 
At the 2005 Grantmakers in the Arts conference, Arts & Democracy helped bring together a group of activist artists, community organizers and funders for a conversation about the purposeful intersection of art and activism. That session stimulated follow-up e-mail exchanges and writing that resulted in this article, published in the Summer 2006 GIA Reader. Our intention was to make cultural organizing visible by sharing its principles, demonstrating its rigor and creativity, and illustrating its diverse methodologies.  
As always, we're proud to highlight the great work in this field to support and cross-pollinate an extraordinary network of artists, cultural workers, policymakers, educators, and activists. Please be in touch, and let us know what you think!
All our best,

Amalia, Caron, Kathie, Javiera, and Michelle
Arts & Democracy Project
In This Newsletter
Cultural Organizing Projects & Organizations
Training Programs
Writings and Blogs from the field
Conference Calls
Upcoming Events
More from Arts & Democracy
Join Our Mailing List



  podcast image

Listen to Arts & Democracy Project's most recent conference call: Cultural Organizing: Integrating Arts and Culture with Organizing here 


NEXT CALL: 9/20 

1 PM EST / 10 AM PST



Our next conference call, This is What Democracy Looks Like, will highlight nonpartisan creative work that furthers democracy, both related to the election, and beyond. To register for the call, click here.



Imagining America  

Linked Fates and Futures: Communities & Campuses as Equitable Partners? 
October 4-7
New York City
el puente green light
Greenlight District Summit
October 9-14

Brooklyn, NY

MicroFest KY/TN
October 25-28
Harlan, KY 
and Knoxville, TN
Check out our newest Blog post, a reflection on democracy in the thick of the election season and the anniversaries of 9/11 and Occupy Wall Street.

bridge conversations
Some of the most powerful change happens in the intersections of generations, cultures, sectors and geographies. Collected here are stories about these intersections and the people who make them. The following stories about cultural organizing are part of the collection: 

Planning the Revolution over Collards talks about arts and culture in Southern organizing and the danger of spotlighting individuals.

Listening to Stories Underneath the Work We Do discusses traditional arts and culture as resources for Native community health.

Click here to order the Bridge Conversation book or download the complete collection.  



The Arts & Democracy Project builds the momentum of a cultural movement that draws on a rich history of arts activism, social justice organizing, and grassroots engagement. Arts & Democracy is a sponsored project of State Voices.


Thank you to our funders, Nathan Cummings Foundation and Open Society Foundations.