In a time when communities are facing ever changing needs and an increased need for creative problem solving, interest in arts-based solutions to community development issues is growing among both arts and non-arts stakeholders. As recognition of this change, and as support for the value of creative work in addressing core community issues has grown, many of our nation’s 4,500 Local Arts Agencies (LAAs) have evolved from arts-centric to community-centric organizations. To support this opportunity, Americans for the Arts has created the program, Artists at the Community Development Table. Through this program, we aim to deepen the capacity at the local level to pursue arts-based solutions to community development. This program will deliver direct and indirect educational trainings and resources that are needed to encourage deeper, varied, and sustained partnerships among artists, arts leaders, and other sectors with the common goal of addressing community issues.
Core Focus Areas
The curriculum for the Artists at the Community Development Table program includes the following four modules:
COMMUNITY + CULTURE + EQUITY
The Resource Guide begins with terms and concepts that will lead you to develop creative processes and shared content. As you sit down at the table, how do you experience and enable listening and language and get comfortable with authentic engagement and relationship building? Why are you here? Who is here? Who should be here? How do you name your resistance and resolve conflicts? How do you invite someone to the table and create a sense of trust and empowerment? How do you identify the scope and direction of what your community calls development? How do you respect and honor all the stories?
There are many chairs around your table. What does it mean for an artist to be there? How do artists learn to join in, to show and tell, take a risk, or invest time, talent, and commitment? How do you educate yourselves across sectors about the value of artists’ perspectives, creativity, and experiences? How can creativity help you reach across the street or across community sectors? In what ways do you nurture confidence in your influence while driving out fear of the unknown, of failure, or of success?
PARTNERSHIP AND COLLABORATION
Equity and creativity meet to form the parts of the whole. Who and what do you bring to the table? What do you take away? How do you balance equity when both partnership and collaboration are in play? As you lay the groundwork, find ways to check assumptions and promote understanding, early and often. Agree to and manage outcomes and evaluation criteria. Navigate this map of relationships, actions, and expectations—even as you draw it.
ASSETS AND SUPPORT
Yes, it’s about money and new models for distributing funds equitably. It’s also about social and creative capital and the validity of the process. It’s about using the arts to cross sectors to nonarts disciplines, fields, and institutions. It’s arts and…. When you reflect on what happened, what did not happen, or what could happen, you add value to the process. Hold yourselves to rigorous standards of honesty and inclusion. Go broad and deep with documentation tools. Be realistic as you evaluate and analyze. Appreciate the imperfect but intrinsic impact of what you do.
How-to Training for Local Arts Agencies - The organizations best positioned to sustain and advance the long-term integration of the arts throughout broader community development efforts at the local level are our nation’s LAAs. The Local Arts Agency Trainings are “train-the-trainer” style learning opportunities where representatives from LAAs learn how to train local artists and arts leaders on how to engage in arts-based solutions to community development needs.
Local Workshops - The Artists at the Community Development Table Local Workshops are designed to help artists and arts organization professionals gain a better understanding of how they can use their artistic product to engage in arts-based solutions to community development needs. These workshops focus content on the four curriculum areas of the Artists at the Community Development Table program. Specific focus is customized with Americans for the Arts lead facilitators and staff, as well as staff of the host local arts agency, to ensure the most pressing needs of each community are addressed.
Online Course - The Artists at the Community Development Table online course provides participants a deep dive learning opportunity into arts-based community development practices. This four-module course more extensively explores each of the four modules of the program. These modules will include a webinar-based teaching component, as well as worksheets, quizzes, and resources for participants to gain knowledge, as well as test progress and skill development.
General Resource Guide - The Artists at the Community Development Table Resource Guide is a primer for artists and arts leaders seeking to build their skills in multi-sector community development work. The goal of this Guide is to provide a baseline understand for those looking to engage in this work. Items found in this guide include definitions, case studies, and more, aimed a building a baseline of understand for arts-based community development work.
‘Teacher’s Edition’ Resource Guide - The Artists at the Community Development Table Teachers Edition Resource Guide has been created for use by local arts agencies that want to self-organize trainings for artists and arts leaders in their local communities. In addition to definitions and case studies, this guide includes creative group tools which can be used by LAAs as they lead trainings in their local communities.
Lead Program Developers
For the creation of the Artists at the Community Development Table program, Americans for the Arts has partnered with leading experts—both administrators and artists.
Roseann Weiss, Creative Consultant
Roseann Weiss is a creative advisor and strategist about the intersections of art and community working independently as ART +. She has 30 years of experience in arts leadership in nonprofit arts institutions, community organizations, and gallery settings. Her expertise centers in arts-based community development, community and public arts, artists' professional development, and grant-making. For 14 years, she guided the Community Arts Training (CAT) Institute at the St. Louis Regional Arts Commission, which is an innovative, cross-sector program designed around art as a powerful agent for social change. Among her current projects is Lead Educator for Arts as Civic Engagement at the Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement at Washington University.
Pacia Elaine, Spoken Word Artist
Pacia Elaine (Anderson) is a St. Louis-based written, spoken, visual, and teaching Word Artist. She is a graduate of the Community Arts Training Institute, an Urban Bushwomen SLI Fellow, a founding member of the art-based youth initiative Cherokee Street Reach, and serves as a Dean in the Zakatu Madrasa. Pacia is chair of the St. Louis Brick City Poetry Festival and a Missouri Regional Coordinator for the NEA-sponsored Poetry Out Loud youth recitation competition. Liaison for the Great Rivers Greenway Artists of Color Council, Pacia is also a consulting artist and facilitator with Americans for the Arts’ Artists at the Community Development Table initiative. She has served as Curation Assistant to Inaugural St. Louis Poet Laureate Dr. Michael Castro, is a Springboard to Learning Professional Development Facilitator for teaching artists, and has collaborated as a teaching artist and consultant with numerous schools, non-profit, and community-based organizations, both locally and nationally. In 2016, Pacia released her first spoken word poetry album titled circa.ep. Her work has been published in collections, anthologies, and media such as Drumvoices Revue, Crossing the Divide, and All the Art. Her first collection of poetry and writing is forthcoming.
Con Christeson, Community Artist
Con is an artist exploring communities. She experiences community by observing pools of knowledge and experience that exist alongside historical rootedness and the complex concept of place. It is a topographical map of wind, weather, and time. It is the science of hard scape. It is multiple layers of memory and story. It is individual and institutional. It can reinforce or bury the human experience.
Con’s work is at the intersection of space and place, a collaboration between consciousness and creativity. She works locally, nationally, and internationally because those virtual lines drawn by humans on the surface of this planet are not real. And yet, she believes they slow us, confine us, stop us, turn us away from each other.
For more information on this program, please contact Marissa Shadburn ([email protected]).
Americans for the Arts gratefully acknowledges The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for its support of the Artists at the Community Development Table Initiative.