Tag Archives: UCIRA Grantee

UCIRA Artist Spotlight on Holley Moyes: Raising the Sky in 2012

7 Mar

What does it mean to discover the past? For an archaeologist like Holley Moyes, the experience includes dirt, ambiguous fragments, and the tedium of sorting and cataloging. But there is also the imaginative moment, the sudden seeing of a distant culture come alive in a particular space and time. For Moyes, associate professor of anthropology at UC Merced, both kinds of discovery are essential.

The two year interdisciplinary project, Raising the Sky in 2012, encourages students as well as residents of the University’s surrounding Central Valley community to encounter the ancient Maya, Moyes’s specialty, via multiple paths—literary, visual, scholarly and popular. Moyes draws on her own work excavating caves in Belize, on the array of artifacts uncovered in Mesoamerican jungles—pottery, sculpture, hieroglyphic inscriptions—on historical accounts from the Spanish conquest, and on the studies of modern ethnographers. She’s also, she says “been reminding students that the Maya aren’t dead. They’re still alive and well and there’s millions of them. There are actually a lot who live right in San Francisco.”

At the center of the project is the Popol Vuh, the most extensive example of pre-Columbian literature yet discovered. Like the bible and other ancient epics it blends history with myth, opening with an account of the world’s creation, “out of a calm sea and a great expanse of sky.” Once an acceptable version of man is created—the forefathers make several attempts using mud, wood, and corn—the narrative turns to tales of the Hero Twins (there are, in fact, two sets) and their battles with the lords of the underworld. The final section relates the history of a particular people, the Quiché of the Guatemala highlands—their migrations, rituals, and the genealogies of their rulers.

Besides teaching the work in her anthropology classes on the Maya, Moyes has used it in an interdisciplinary course, “Writing Narrative for Archaeology,” and lectured on it in both literature and studio art classes. In a nice piece of synergy, Popol Vuh was chosen this year as the basic text for the Core I class required of all freshmen. Moyes is also developing an original script in collaboration with Gerardo Aldana, a Maya scholar at  UC Santa Barbara, that’s based on one of the Popol Vuh characters—a woman.

Epics may be the original science fiction, envisioning in great detail what for readers in another culture amounts to an alternate reality. The problem for Moyes is all the unscientific, supposedly Mayan realities that are propounded by Hollywood film makers, New Age mystics and historical novelists who keep “bringing in aliens” rather than doing research. In her classes, she says. “I try to debunk some of their ideas. I talk to them a little bit about 2012 and what it really is, and how it’s not going to be the end of the world like the movie says.”

Rather than calling the Maya prophets, she suggests, why not see them as the great astronomers they demonstrably were: “They knew that Venus was the morning star and the evening star, which is something the Greeks didn’t figure out for a really long time. They had a more accurate calendar than the Spanish did when they came to conquer them.”

The survival of the Popol Vuh is also a dramatic story. When the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, the Maya had been using a hieroglyphic script to keep written records in bark-paper books. Church fathers, intent on converting the population to Christianity, burned all the manuscripts they could find and persecuted those known to be scribes. In his introduction to Popol Vuh, Allen Christenson, the translator of the edition that Moyes chose for her classes, explains that a group of Quiché nobles transcribed the epic into Latin letters soon after their lands fell to the Spanish, then kept the text hidden for two centuries. In the 1700s a sympathetic priest, Francisco Ximénez, was allowed to make a copy—the only one now known to survive.

Christenson has been a frequent visitor to the Merced campus. Moyes’ students, tempted to think of the Quiché as vanished people like the Trojans, instead hear Christenson’s stories of living among them, What had largely vanished, he reports, was the idea that their language could be written. Working with elders who burned copal over a Xerox copy of the Popol Vuh to mark the seriousness of the undertaking, Christenson was able to use the Quiché text discovered by Ximénez as the basis of his new translation.

Written in the present tense, the epic seems almost cinematic, and students, Moyes says, respond to the work strongly. The Hero Twins are appealing action characters, relying on cleverness when they are overmatched. More contemporary still, they are ball players. Their game—versions are still played among the Maya and ancient ball courts have been excavated—features a solid rubber ball. Today Moyes says, it’s usually played something like volleyball. In the past, she says “based on what we can see in the iconography, they might have used an implement to hit the ball.”

At the beginning of March, a multidisciplinary symposium on the Popol Vuh kicked off with a public lecture at downtown Merced‘s Multicultural Arts Center  The lecturer was Michael Coe, professor of anthropology emeritus at Yale, whose best-selling works on pre-Columbian-history include the academic detective story, Breaking the Maya Code. Also  opening at the Center was of a show of student art work based on Mayan iconography.

Included along with two and three dimensional works from Tonya Lopez-Craig’s classes were videos from Popol Vuh in Flatlandia –a project of Cyber Heritage students. In one, two avatars, a female herbalist and a younger woman, converse in a torch-lit Mayan garden among seemingly indigenous plants. Topics covered in the student-written dialogue include marriage, mothers; men, and the political pressures on women.

Cyber Heritage classes, Moyes says “focus on the relationship between cultural heritage and technology, in particular social media and virtual worlds.”  Using Flatlandia, an independent Open Simulator platform, the students first created a virtual reconstruction –complete with archaeologically accurate temples, palaces and ball courts–of the ancient Maya capital of Tikal, Guatemala. The classes then read the first act of Moyes’ script based on the Popol Vuh, and created their own versions with dialogue.

“We’re hoping to create some writers who want to write historic fiction,” Moyes says “What I’ve tried to do with my classes is calibrate my students’ judgment about what’s good and what’s kind of cheesy.” She tells the “Writing Narrative for Archaeology,” students: “You don’t need aliens to make it interesting. These people are fascinating in their own right.” But they do need to be able to cite sources for their ideas.

Moyes made her own imaginative connection with ancient history after a decade in New York acting with a socially conscious theatre group. When the group shut down at the end of the 1980s, a circuitous path led her through dental hygiene school (her father was a dentist; and the degree meant she could get part time work that paid  “a lot better” than waitressing) and on to anthropology, where they were delighted to have her study teeth. A vacation job on a survey in New Mexico’s Gila Wilderness sparked her interest in archaeology and having transferred to that department, her choice of a Belize cave excavation as the site of her required Field School semester completed a circle. Caves had been a passion since childhood, but they also, as she is still discovering, served the Maya as a kind of theatre.

“Caves among the Maya are always ritual spaces,“ Moyes explains. She has a book coming out in the fall, Sacred Darkness– about the ritual use of caves from a cross cultural perspective. “People live in rock shelters,” she finds, “they’ll live in the mouth of the cave, but people don’t live in the dark zones.”

In the cave she’s now working on in Belize, “the entrance is bigger than a cathedral, and its completely modified with architecture—platforms and stairs. It’s a giant performance space. So I’ve started to really think about Maya performance. And think how to reconstruct that from a scientific basis.”

Archaeology she thinks “moved away from understanding what people might have felt or any kind of phenomenology in the 70s and 80s.” Instead it took a more consciously scientific and materialist approach, and “talked a lot about what people were eating,” Things now are moving in the other direction, she says, to bring people back into archaeology.

“I think this is something that archaeologists really want to do,” Moyes says. “We can answer a lot of questions about the past. But they may not be what people really want to know. We have the material record, but ultimately, as humans, we want to know what it was like to be human in the past.”

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Ariel Swartley

San Pedro, CA

aswartley@att.net

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Spotlight on UCIRA Artists Lisa Wymore and Amara Tabor-Smith: Sabar in the Studio

14 Feb

Ciré Beye. photo courtesy of CDG

In October, 2011, Berkeley and Oakland became part of greater Dakar. The occasion was the arrival of from Senegal of dancer Ciré Beye and master drummer Khadim Niang to conduct workshops in Sabar, the vigorous yet fluid dance form of the Wolof peoples of West Africa. For three weeks UC Berkeley’s Bancroft studio and Oakland’s Malonga Center for the Arts reverberated to the polyrhythmns of drums originally developed to communicate long distances in the dry regions at the edge of the Sahara, and to the cries of dance classes answering the drums.

For Lisa Wymore, assistant professor of dance at UC Berkeley, and for visiting faculty/resident artist Amara Tabor-Smith, the chance to expose their modern dance students to three weeks of “Sabar in the Studio” was not simply an exercise in learning new steps. Both teachers, Wymore says, felt “it would help students engage with dance as a world practice. Get them out of just imagining modern dance as a western phenomenon.”

Tabor-Smith, founder of Deep Waters Dance Theatre, had studied and danced with Beye in Senegal at L’École des Sables, an international center for traditional and contemporary African dance founded by choreographer Germaine Acogny. Beye, she knew, was not only a gifted teacher of traditional forms but an accomplished modern dancer, who performs internationally with Acogny’s Companie Jant-Bi. His “understanding of the body and his contemporary aesthetics,” Wymore said, made him a good fit for both their advanced and intermediate  classes.

Sabar—the word refers to the drumming and the dancing—is itself a citizen of two worlds. While a traditional accompaniment to weddings and funerals, it is also an urban phenomenon, flowering on the streets of Dakar in the wake of Senegal’s independence from France. Unlike traditional folk forms, Wymore says, Sabar “is always evolving and adapting. Like any dance—but particularly street forms of dance, it’s in flux—adopting and borrowing from other styles and developing new steps.”

It is also an exuberantly interactive effort with dancers and musicians trading rhythms and egging each other on to ever more insouciant displays of virtuosity. In the classes, the interactive or collaborative mode continued, Wymore says. “What was exciting—and Ciré kept saying this—he wanted to not be the teacher but the sharer of information, so the students could then take this form into their own practices”.

An important aspect of Sabar, Wymore says, is its involvement of the whole spine and pelvis in a kind of undulating movement—a stretch in more ways than one for those students who come out of a ballet background where the torso is held rigid—but important to developing the fluidity and versatility demanded by modern dance.

Another basic Sabar movement involves stepping from foot to foot. Wymore describes the resultant motion as “strong, earthy, and grounded.” The constant transferring of weight, she says, forces dancers to be aware of their own substance. Emotional engagement is required, too. “You have to bring your full self to it. It really requires that you not be embarrassed or holding back or shying away.” At the same time, she says, “Sabar is soft, older people do it. You don’t have to jump that high. It has this incredible gracefulness in the arms and this powerful pelvis. You can see how it was created by women.”

As a women’s dance from a patriarchal society, (the Muslim sub Sahara) Sabar also seems to carry a quietly confident assertiveness that blends well with political expression. It does so in the choreography of Acogny and Tabor-Smith. It did so again in early November. As part of the Occupy Cal/ Walkout at UCB over tuition increases, Sabar students and a class drummer left the studio to perform a kind of resistance dance as Wymore calls it on the Plaza. As their teachers had hoped, they were incorporating the form into their own practice. They were also showing—as Sabar vividly does—what mutual respect and dialog can look like.

 

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Ariel Swartley

San Pedro, CA

aswartley@att.net

Free Enterprise: The Art of Citizen Space Exploration. Tyler Stallings & Marko Peljhan

18 Jan

Fly Me To the Moon will soon not be a figurative request. Tickets are already available from XCOR Aerospace in Mohave, CA for flights into a microgravity environment 338,000 feet above sea level. The flights, aboard XCOR’s Lynx Suborbital Spacecraft, are scheduled to begin in 2014. The cost for boldly going as a tourist: $95,000. Current ticket-holders include a Victoria’s Secret model and a trance DJ.

XCOR Aerospace is one of nine groups represented in Free Enterprise: The Art of Citizen Space Exploration opening January 19 at UC Riverside’s Sweeney Art Gallery. Curated by Sweeney director Tyler Stallings and UCSB professor of Media Arts and Technology, Marko Peljhan, Free Enterprise calls on both artists and engineers to explore the implications of the contemporary shift away from space travel as a highly restricted government monopoly and toward a privatized, free-market model.

Outer space exerts a liberating effect on emotional as well as physical gravity—as the exhibition makes clear. Like jolts of canned oxygen, the combination of sober crew cut technicians in the undignified postures of weightlessness has long propelled observers into an uncertain atmosphere where documentation and fantasy—or earnestness and satire—share a weirdly similar molecular structure.

For the Manhattan and Mannheim based duo, eteam, the uncertainty turns playful as they explore virtual landlordism and the possibilities of acquiring lunar real estate. Connie Samaras, who has examined ambition-filled landscapes from Antarctica to Dubai, tracks the actual construction of Spaceport America, a new space-tourist facility. In her large scale color photographs, the exuberant parabolas of the passenger terminal rise science-fiction-like out of the blank sands of the New Mexico desert.

For all the imminence of personal space travel, a paradox remains. The wide open regions of the new frontier can only be sampled via a cramped capsule or a clumsy suit. Images of space travelers have so far been similarly confined to the militarized and mostly male. Carrie Paterson’s scent carriers are intended as an antidote to orbital claustrophobia and homesickness, while inducing a less-specifically visual—and therefore, she hopes, less gendered and media-determined image of outer space.

Although California’s historic ties to the space industry helped inspire the exhibit, current rocket science, like the current economy, is global and as Free Enterprise shows, surprisingly multi-disciplinary. Danish artist Simone Aaberg Kaern is working with nonprofit spacecraft developers, Copenhagen Suborbitals to expand her video examinations of women’s attempts to claim their share of sky-space. Agnes Meyer-Brandis  whose previous works Moon Goose Analogue and Cloud Core Scanner interweave imagined narrative with laboratory data , extends the latter project’s contemplation of the physical state of weightlessness and the fantasies it engenders.

US artist and aerospace engineer Bradley Pitts has been collaborating with the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Russia, where Peljhan also coordinates microgravity and space-art experiments. Using a parabolic-flight aircraft capable of producing brief periods of weightlessness, Pitts records the experience within the cleared cabin. His photographs of himself floating naked, curled, and vulnerable transform the fluorescent-lit capsule into the womb of the future.

Collaboration and privatization does not equal government transparency. Trevor Paglen’s large-format photographs show classified US space objects streaking through the night sky. They were obtained with the help of amateur satellite observers, sophisticated new software, and old fashioned camping-in-the-desert. Paglen compares the covert reconnaissance satellites (189, so far)  to Jupiter’s hidden moons, which before Kepler and Galileo were both there and officially, emphatically not.

Uncovering the shapes of hidden data is also the mission of the Center for Land Use Interpretation. Since 1999 CLUI has documented, so far as possible, the 5000 square miles of the Air Force’s restricted Nellis Range complex in Nevada. In one of the recurrent ironies of the American West, the military’s high-tech reservation has unintentionally preserved a vanishing desert landscape: home to wild horses, ancient rock art and sun baked miner’s cabins.

It’s possible to imagine a similar constellation on the moon: glittering tools, abandoned hopes, undeciphered messages, and groups of introduced beings well adapted to challenging conditions. The proportions of each, Free Enterprise suggests, are ours to determine.

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Ariel Swartley

San Pedro, CA

aswartley@att.net

Joe Dumit: Expressing the CAVES

30 Nov

What’s one difference between artists and scientists? Artists don’t sit still. This is not the question Joe Dumit set out to answer when he proposed bringing a group of dancers, sculptors, writers, and others to explore the virtual reality environment of UC Davis’s Keck CAVES. But, Dumit—whose own research focuses on the anthropology of science, technology, medicine, and media—says the CAVES’ scientists “were continually struck by how much the artists physically moved within the CAVE environment, how much of their bodies were in motion, in contrast to how little they (the scientists) tend to move while doing their research.” The artists, it seems, were used to doing physical work in imagined spaces.

Expressing the Caves, co-designed by Dumit, sculptor Robin Hill and geologist Dawn Sumner, was originally planned as a daylong session for 18 artists and computer scientists to brainstorm new ideas, but thanks to the exigencies of scheduling, it morphed into an ongoing series of visits by individuals or small groups. Whatever was lost in general conversation, was made up for, Dumit says, by the chance to focus on specific projects. The artists, needless to say, loved having more time at the controls.

Data in motion, according to Dumit, was what the artists were most intrigued with, and it’s an experience the CAVES are uniquely positioned to deliver. Initially a collaboration between earth and computer scientists, the CAVE—3 walls and a floor equipped with stereoscopic displays and various tracking devices—has allowed researchers to seemingly fly around, through, and under a Laguna Beach landslide, and examine a 100 year history of California’s seismic activity from a vantage point close to the center of the earth. Informative yes, but also visually stunning. Immersive worlds, wildly intersecting planes, data points colored a pleasingly grassy green: Artists have already recognized the possibilities.

According to UCDavis professor of sculpture Robin Hill, the CAVES are  almost a genre unto themselves. “I could not help but think of it as a performance space of sorts, as the authentic image experience takes place there and no where else,” she says. “No forms of documentation do it justice, as one’s perception/understanding is completely dependent on the technology.”

What sort of art is now emerging from the CAVES? Semi-solid might be one description. Dancers doing contact improvisation maintain balance by sharing weight. What happens when the dancers are miles apart and represented by three-dimensional avatars moving at a slight time delay? Using Remote Collaboration techniques pioneered by Oliver Kreylos—one of the architects of the Keck CAVES’ visualization software—and based on hacked game technology (Microsoft Kinects), a group of visiting dancers and CAVE scientists have been exploring the idea of weightless weight and the sensory requirements of silent communication.

Perhaps because it allows data to be viewed from so many angles simultaneously, the CAVE seems to inspire a similar mashup of disciplines and approaches. Hill brought one of the images of snowflakes she’s been exploring with mathematician Janko Gravner to the CAVE where she viewed it as an object that one might fly through. Having seen the inside of the flake, she is now working on translating that image for a 3D printer to render in sculptural form.

For a virtual installation possibly titled Take Me To Your Dream, San Francisco writer/artist Meredith Tromble has compiled “ a vortex”  of dream elements from the biographies of computer scientists, geologists, and mathematicians which participants will choose and arrange in virtual environments, “subject,” says Dumit, “to a dream-appropriate degree of chance and surprise.” Once home from Antarctica, Tromble’s collaborator, UC geologist Dawn Sumner will be creating the vortex and programming it to replace text with images.

And what have the scientists come away with? The artists’ propensity for movement created programming challenges, Dumit admits, but also generated new gestures, commands, and playback features. Dumit’s own project—fitting for the organizer of all this collaborative inquiry—is a study of “research presence” among CAVE users. It was inspired, he says by the vocabulary used during the brainstorming sessions. It’s one thing to be comfortable moving in imaginary space; another to find words to describe the where there.

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Ariel Swartley

San Pedro, CA

aswartley@att.net

Art of Regional Change

8 Sep
Q & A with jesikah maria ross on The Art of Regional Change (UC Davis)

Over the last few years jesikah maria ross has been the founding director of the UC Davis Art of Regional Change program (ARC), a joint initiative of the Davis Humanities Institute and the Center for Regional Change.  Ross is a community cultural development practitioner whose teaching and production work centers on collaborations with schools, community-based organizations and social action groups to create projects that generate media art, civic participation, and social change.
Multi-ethnic urban youth document places they want to change in West Sacramento as part of ARC's participatory action research project Youth Voices for Change.

Multi-ethnic urban youth document places they want to change in West Sacramento as part of ARC's participatory action research project Youth Voices for Change.

Q: Your work at ARC has directly tried to resolve the “town and gown” divide by putting university resources into developing art and media projects in the region around the Davis campus that address social and environmental issues. Can you explain what led to UCD and your other funders to support this kind of off-campus community engagement with farmers, activists, indigenous groups, youth, and others you have worked with?

A: I think that UCD leaders and our other funders saw the need for a new way of doing “community outreach” and also wanted to find avenues for generating public scholarship and innovative teaching.   Since ARC brings all of these components together, the program was pretty easy for a lot of people get behind from the start.   I also think it helped that I framed ARC as a strategic collaboration.   Nowadays, universities want to be seen as more active and responsive to local communities, scholars want their research to be more relevant to the public, students want opportunities for field-based learning, and taxpayers want to see that their money is making in a difference outside the ivory tower.   Community-based programs like ARC are uniquely able to meet these diverse university goals. Communities, on the other hand, want resources to document their cultures, histories, struggles, and strategies for change. They need social animators equipped with facilitation skills and gear to help them identify the stories they want to share and craft them in aesthetically compelling ways. And they need technical support to get their stories out to broad audiences.   Faculty and student artists have the unique skill set to meet these needs.

So in discussions with UC Davis administrators and affiliated funders, I pitched ARC as a strategic collaboration.   I spelled out how it could give the university a platform for doing innovative campus-community engagement projects while generating media products that support university research, classroom teaching and community development.  I spoke about how ARC could provide communities access to university resources (scholars, students, artists) which would entice local groups to participate and how it would pioneer a new venue for media makers to do public projects. I also pointed out how the university could make good on its commitment to serving the broader community though ARC projects.  I think the notion of a meeting multiple goals, coupled with the increasing need to demonstrate the universities value to the general public beyond the classroom, really motivated administrators and funders to give ARC some initial seed funding.

Rural residents set up a community recording workspace in the rural High Sierra Mountains for ARC's Passion for the Land project.

Rural residents set up a community recording workspace in the rural High Sierra Mountains for ARC's Passion for the Land project.

Q: Over the last few months SOTA has featured interviews on the theme of what “counts” as research within the arts in the UC system. How you have framed it as research so that it is valued within the academic context?

A: To be honest, I don’t think I’ve been able to successfully frame our work as research within academia.   That’s probably, in part, because it hasn’t been my top priority while we have been in our start up phase–we are just beginning our third year!    And since I am an academic coordinator and not faculty, focusing on research isn’t actually my job; I’m tasked with creating and implementing a university-community engagement program.  But, it’s become crystal clear to me that research is the currency of the university and that for ARC to survive and thrive we need to be actively demonstrating how what we do IS research.    So I am moving in that direction.   And to that end, I’ve really started spelling out, whenever I can, how ARC’s community arts process is grounded in participatory action research methods and utilizes cultural studies research approaches.   I find that just talking about collaborative art-making as research in this way helps non-arts faculty and administrators be more open to viewing what we do as bonefide research.   It’s like setting a tone.   It maybe ephemeral, but I do feel it contributes to making others rethink art as research.

I also make it a point to work with faculty and graduate students early on in our projects to identify how our community arts process synchs up with their research agenda and publications or exhibition needs.   Again, I think this communicates a certain level of gravitas that helps academics themselves view collaborative art-making as research.   On the flipside, these conversations also help me think through how their involvement raises the bar on the different ways research will happen through our projects, which in turn helps me articulate how ARC projects are research.   Perhaps here I should mention, in case folks don’t know, that ARC is an interdisciplinary program, involving humanists, social scientists and artists.    All of us collaborate as a cohort in partnership with a community organization on a media arts project.  So while art making is at the core of our work, it isn’t the only type of research that happens.  Typically an ARC project results in media productions, articles, exhibitions or broadcasts, and new curriculum. Speaking of products, I also talk about the work that we generate as research and to speak about the different products equally, so that a video screened at a city council meeting and an article in a peer reviewed journal are treated similarly in the way I present them.   I don’t necessarily think that flies in an academic context, but I do think it helps build the echo chamber that a lot of us are contributing to that, collectively, will help push forward the idea that art is research worthy of academic value.

Joey Creekmore (Miwok) records Pat McGreevy about his efforts to establish more parks and trails to generate jobs and recreation opportunities in Sierra foothills as part of ARC's Up from the UnderStory project.

Joey Creekmore (Miwok) records Pat McGreevy about his efforts to establish more parks and trails to generate jobs and recreation opportunities in Sierra foothills as part of ARC's Up from the UnderStory project.

Q: In the context of budget cuts to public education (and arts in particular), public universities need to maintain arts programs that benefit their surrounding communities both because the private sector is not doing it and because it helps to illustrate/demonstrate the power of art and public education to voting tax-paying engaged citizens that will advocate for continued funding into the future. As someone with a unique perspective who has a foot inside and outside the academy, can you think of examples you’ve seen that point to ways that the public universities should illustrate/demonstrate their significance to the surrounding society?

A:  Well, with my foot inside the academy, I think Syracuse University is an AMAZING example of what can happen when a higher education really dedicates itself to doing scholarship (and i include the arts within scholarship!) by, with, and for the communities around it.   Their entire university operates on the vision of “scholarship in action” which is about “forging bold, imaginative, reciprocal, and sustained engagements” with constituent communities locally and around the globe. I highly recommend heading to their website and reading everything their Chancellor Nancy Cantor has posted–she has written quite a bit and always involves arts project the university has done in collaboration with regional stakeholders.   I’ve met Nancy and she is incredibly supportive and willing to share knowledge, resources, and best practices…or point you to people around her that can.  They are a model to emulate!

Outside the academy, i think one of the more interesting places to look are at various public media outlets–regional PBS and NPR stations.   Like public universities, public media has had to increasingly demonstrate it’s value to the tax-paying and membership paying public.   And like universities, the public media system has been under a lot of attack in the past few years.    One constant criticism is that lack of public in public media; the dearth of connection with or benefit to the those outside the limited public media demographic.  And some stations have generated some really interested collaborative, public programs as a result.  KCET comes to mind, with their Departures project, which is an on-line community mapping and history project focused on the diverse neighborhoods in LA.   A lot of other hyper-local and community co-generated public media work has been done through the J-Lab, and for inspiration I recommend traipsing through their list of Knight Batten award winners.

While this might be a bit farther afield, I also think that the California Council of Humanities offers an excellent example outside of the academy when it comes to an institution articulating it’s significance to the larger society.  CCH eloquently speaks to the vital role of arts and humanities in community life.   And it’s not just on their website, it’s folded into how they operate as an organization–what they do, who they fund, how they provide support.   Every now and again i visit their grant program section to see how they frame the role of the humanities and to who they’ve funded to get inspiration on the diverse ways artists and humanists engage communities through story-based projects.

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