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March 2012
Greetings from the Arts & Democracy Project!   


On Wednesday, March 7, the Arts & Democracy Project and Animating Democracy hosted the conference call Creative Engagement: From Civic Dialogue to Direct Democracy.

The call explored questions such as: How do we get beyond conventional town hall meetings to include more diverse voices and creative forms of participation? How can arts and culture break down polarization and encourage an assets oriented approach to direct democracy?


In this e-newsletter, you will find the conference call recording as well as other resources related to creative engagement. 



Participatory Budgeting Project works to empower community members to make informed, democratic, and fair decisions about public spending and revenue, by opening up public budgets to meaningful democratic participation. Through participatory budgeting community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. First developed in Brazil and now taking place world wide, the process in New York City is now culminating in the vote. New York is only the second city in the US to do participatory voting.  Check out the projects on the ballot in Brooklyn's 39th District and see videos about the projects here.


JHS 62 Media Center Upgrade for Journalism Program

Participatory Budgeting in action in Brooklyn, NY   


Art At Work  is a national initiative that gives  municipal governments the powerful resource that comes from direct creative engagement.  The project addresses critical challenges facing cities through strategic art projects that engage city workers, elected officials, union members and community members. Piloted in Portland, ME, the project is developing new initiatives in Holyoke and Northampton, MA. 


Portland Works December 2011 Art At Work
Portland Works December 2011 Art At Work  


The Old Pascua Cultural Inventory, a partnership between Tuscon Meet Yourself and the San Ignacio Yaqui Council, has two parts: ethnographic research led by Maribel Alvarez and digital photography led by artist Steven Meckler.  Offering tools to deploy knowledge and build civic engagement, the final asset maps and photographs will be turned into an online mixed media exhibit on the Tucson Meet Yourself web site.


In Seats of Power, artist and activist Beth Grossman invited 10 public officials in Brisbane, CA to immortalize their derrieres in the name of art and civic engagement. 


Crossroads Charlotte is an ongoing project begun in 2001 in response to the discovery by Charlotte, NC that it ranked 39th of 40 cities in a national survey on social capital and last on characteristics of social and interracial trust. Crossroads Charlotte addresses these results through the question "What happens when a whole community chooses to make an 

imagined story a reality?" 


JoiPrometheus Radio Project to take action and start a non-profit radio station now! The FCC is on track to accept applications for new Low Power FM (LPFM) stations nationwide as early as Fall 2012. Apply for a license now. Available only to locally-based non-profit organizations. See our conference call and newsletter on this topic here



Town Hall Nation is the national engagement initiative of WAITING FOR YOU (on the Corner of...), a devised play conceived by Sojourn Theatre (Porland, OR) and The TEAM (NYC) responding to the paucity of opportunities for ideologically diverse people to make democracy function together. It invites arts organizations, universities, high schools, and community groups to bring artists and civic partners together to create events that demonstrate, present, or embody an ideal town hall meeting through a process of arts-based civic dialogue and imagination. 


500 Miles/500 Stories is an  engagement tour along a stretch of 500 miles between  Dance Exchange's Artistic Director Cassie Meador's house in Washington, DC, and a source of her electrical power, which comes from mountain-top removal in West Virginia. Cassie and other artists and designers will be taking this walk to engage residents along the way in a dialogue about the resources of the natural environment, as well as the resource of the body. 


This July, dog & pony dc will remount its popular 2011 production, Beertown. This is an interactive exploration of American history, civic ritual, personal identity, community and memory that incorporates live music, dance, group storytelling, and map making... and every performance begins with a dessert potluck. Part-civic ceremony, part theatrical pageant, Beertown welcomes audiences into an imagined town and engages them as its citizens in revisiting and revising its history.


Building Home uses participatory theater and musical gatherings to create accessible forums for a diversity of community members in the New River Valley (Virginia) to contribute their perspectives on pressing regional issues (housing, employment, inclusive cultural life, transportation) and planning for sustainable communities in the region. The project team includes community artists, Virginia Tech faculty, graduate students and undergraduate students.

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, Yolanda and Michelle 
Arts & Democracy Project 
In This Newsletter
Creative Civic Engagement
Performance & Civic Dialogue
Conference Call Recording
Upcoming Events & Trainings
Writings & Blogs
Join Our Mailing List


 podcast image

Listen to our most recent conference call

Creative Engagement: From Civic Dialogue to Direct Democracy here.   


The call features Maribel Alvarez, Tucson Meet Yourself; Donata Secondo, Participatory Budgeting Project; Caron Atlas, Arts & Democracy Project; andMichael Rohd, Town Hall Nation.  

  UPCOMING EVENTS     Participatory budgeting

International Conference on Participatory Budgeting in the US & Canada

 March 30-31, 2012

New York City   



Through the City?
April 27-May 12
Tucson, AZ


Worker Transit Authority presents a series of events promoting the convergence of arts & planning. 



This is How We Do It: A Festival of Dialogues about another world currently under construction

April 20-22, 2012 

Cooper Union

New York, NY




  Devising Civic Theatre: Performance, Social Practice & Dialogue

June 17-21, 2012 

Chicago, IL    

This 5-day training offers participants an opportunity to explore the strategies & techniques that Sojourn Theatre uses in collaborative work with groups to devise performance material.    


 Soul Deep: Why are people poor? Demystifying the Opportunity Gap in the U.S

 Urban Bushwomen's Summer Leadership Institute 

July 20-29, 2012

New Orleans, LA

This 10-day institute affords participants the opportunity to deepen their understanding of art-making, community organizing and social change.  



Two Way Mirror  

Ethnography as a Way to Assess Civic Impact of Arts-based Engagement in Tucson, Arizona by Maribel Alvarez  


Finding Voice 

This program supported by the Tucson Pima Arts Council helps refugee & immigrant youth develop literacy & second language skills by researching, photographing, writing, & speaking out about critical social issues in their lives and communities.


Civic Theater: Part 2

In this essay, Michael Rohd distinguishes civic theater from related community- based theater & participatory democracy practices, highlighting how assets of imagination, collaboration, & expressive action make meaning & create space for respectful and constructive public dialogue & problem solving.


Time to Vote! 

Caron Atlas' new blog about participatory budgeting in New York City and the creative ways people have been engaged in the 39th District of Brooklyn. 



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.