Animating Democracy January 2008 E-News
Animating Democracy News and Updates

Americans for the Arts 2008 Convention June 19–22: More Details on the Civic Engagement Track
This June, American Evolution: Arts in the New Civic Life will convene arts and cultural professionals from across the country in Philadelphia, the birthplace of American democracy, to network and participate in more than 90 educational sessions—including 10 sessions exploring key trends and research in the civic engagement. These sessions aim to demonstrate ways in which the arts are being used in innovative ways to engage diverse and unique populations. Case-based sessions will explore topics ranging from Arab-American/Israeli conflict in San Francisco and Philadelphia to how arts organizations can work with social service agencies to support recent immigrants in culturally-specific craft. Skill-building workshops—including the National Constitution Center’s Living History project which uses the Constitution for engaging youth in discussion of citizen’s rights and a special half-day advance workshop hosted by Animating Democracy—will explore the concepts of arts-based civic engagement. Research and policy sessions will offer fresh perspectives and opportunities for peer networking, while exploring methods for evaluating the impact of arts-based civic engagement and the state of cultural democracy in our field.
Further information about additional program tracks—including the Preserving Diverse Cultures and Public Art Program Tracks, convention schedule, and registration is available online. Deadline for preview registration is February 1, 2008.

News from the Field

Traces of the Trade to Premiere at Sundance Film Festival
In January 2008, the film Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North will have its world premiere in competition at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. Supported by Americans for the Arts Animating Democracy Lab, the film follows director Katrina Browne and nine of her relatives as they retrace the voyage and industry of their ancestors—the largest slave-trading family in U.S. history—from the former mansion and wharf in Bristol, RI, to slave forts in Ghana, to former plantations in Cuba. Through the film, they come home with a powerful new perspective on the black/white divide. “We're thrilled with this honor. January 2008 marks the bicentennial of the U.S. abolition of the slave trade—a trade that unbeknownst to most, was primarily conducted from Northern ports,” said Browne. “We are hopeful that the platform offered by the Sundance Film Festival will help create new awareness and interest in this hidden history and its significance today.” Slotted in the Independent Film Competition, the documentary is eligible for the jury prize for best documentary in the category.

City Lore Announces Release of DeAf Jam
Developed as a result of their Animating Democracy Lab project—the Poetry Dialogues—City Lore has announced the completion of DeAf Jam, a new documentary film which highlights workshops and dialogues with the deaf community. Through work initiated first at the Lexington School for the Deaf and later at other deaf high schools in New York City, the documentary features some of most well-known American Sign Language (ASL) poets in the United States, as well as a great multicultural “cru” of deaf teenage poets. The film focuses on the idea of ASL as an endangered language—as a result of cochlear implants, BlackBerries and other forms of written communication on the internet, and the “mainstreaming” of deaf students. Through exploring this pivotal issue, the film further chronicles a collaboration between Tahani Salahi, a Palestinian hearing poet who participated in the Muslim American Poetry Dialogue held during the Animating Democracy Lab (who’s grandmother was deaf); and Aneta Brodsky, an Israeli deaf poet and participant in youth poetry competitions at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and Cooper Union.

Funding Deadline: Multi-Arts Production Fund
The Multi-Arts (MAP) Production fund, a program of Creative Capital supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, seeks to assist artists who "are exploring the dynamics of live performance within our changing society, thus reflecting our culture's innovation and growing diversity." The MAP Production Fund supports work that brings insight to the issue of cultural differences in gender, generation, ethnicity, or tradition. MAP guidelines place a special emphasis on innovation, cross-cultural collaboration, and art that springs from cultural critique. Up to forty awards ranging from $10,000–$45,000 each will be made. Deadline for completed applications is February 1, 2008. (Thanks, Foundation Center)

National Black Arts Festival Executive Producer Receives William Dawson Award for Programmatic Excellence
At this year’s Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) conference in New York City, Stephanie S. Hughley, executive producer of The National Black Arts Festival, an Exemplar Program grantee, received the William Dawson Award for Programmatic Excellence. Named to honor William M. Sawson for his services to the arts administration field as a director of APAP, the annual award is made to an individual or organization for the quality, innovation, and vision of program design, audience building, and community efforts.

National League of Cities Opens 2009 Awards for Municipal Excellence Nominations
The National League of Cities has announced its open call for nominations for the 2008 Awards for Municipal Excellence. The awards identify and showcase outstanding programs that have improved the quality of life in America’s communities. Given through a partnership between the National League of Cities and CH2M HILL, the awards honor a range of population sizes, with two awards in each population category. In the past, awards have been made for projects including: successful public-private partnerships, productive citizen and community collaborations, effective management of municipal resources, innovative government policies, tangible project results, and opportunity for replication in other cities. Nominated cities must be members of NLC. Nominations must be postmarked by May 1, 2008. For more information, please call 202.626.3130 or e-mail

Articles and Publications

Building Movement Project Releases Report on Nonprofit Service Organizations and Civic Engagement
In March 2007, nonprofit professionals, civic engagement practitioners, and philanthropists gathered in Detroit to discuss how to enhance the work of nonprofit service organizations in building democracy in the United States. The purpose of the meeting was to bring funders and practitioners together to advance the dialogue on how social service providers can strengthen their role as sites of democratic practice; identify strategies to promote and support a larger proportion of nonprofit service organizations to invest in long-term civic engagement work with their constituencies; and develop specific next steps to broaden the conversation and move this work forward.

Documented in the resulting report Non-Profit Service Organizations and Civic Engagement: Addressing Challenges and Moving Forward, participants agreed service agencies could be important sites of civic engagement based on their position as trusted institutions, their reach into communities, and their mission-driven work. A continuum of strategies for civic engagement that can be adopted by service providers and other nonprofit groups was discussed, specifically in regards to how groups can significantly involve their clients and constituents in their communities.

Events on the Horizon

Imagine Miami Summit on Arts, Culture, & Civic Engagement
Date: February 16, 2008
Miami, FL
Art is the spark that can engage community members in ways rarely possible with public meetings, news articles, panels, or brochures. The Imagine Miami Summit on Arts, Culture, & Civic Engagement will offer participants an opportunity to learn how to collaborate across sectors (arts, culture, research, education, healthcare, social service, business, entrepreneurs) for projects that broaden citizen voice and participation, create a welcoming space for disenfranchised groups to engage around civic issues, enhance public understanding of complex and often divisive issues, and motivate people to make change. Summit highlights include a keynote by Barbara Schaffer Bacon, co-director of Animating Democracy; more than 12 interactive case studies, videos, and demonstrations of innovative projects; workshops by national and local experts on how to plan, develop, collaborate, and fund an arts/cultural civic engagement project; live performances; and more.

Registration for the event can be done through Imagine Miami’s registration website:

Sponsors of the Imagine Miami Summit on Arts, Culture, & Civic Engagement include the Miami-Dade Department of Cultural Affairs, Americans for the Arts, and Miami Dade College.


Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness
Dates: March 20–23, 2008
Washington, DC
The Split This Rock Poetry Festival calls poets to a greater role in public life and fosters a national community of activist poets. The festival will feature readings, workshops, panel discussions on poetry and social change, youth programming, films, parties, walking tours, and opportunities for activism. In all, this is a unique opportunity for participants to hone their activist skills while assessing and debating the public role of the poet and the poem in present day. The Split This Rock Poetry Festival is cosponsored by Busboys and Poets, D.C. Poets Against the War, Sol & Soul, and the Institute for Policy Studies.


Public Art 360: Symposium from Seven Perspectives
Dates: April 11-12, 2008
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Public Art 360: A Symposium from Seven Perspectives will address the functional and aesthetic interaction among public art, professional design disciplines, private development, and government. Invited speakers will explore the inherent complexities in public art from the perspectives of artist, architect, landscape designer, government, private developer, community, and critic. Sessions will frame critical issues associated with how public art projects are initiated, approved, funded, and implemented; how to reinforce shared objectives through public review; and implications for public policy. Attendees are encouraged to bring questions and problems to discuss as part of the symposium. Registration fee includes both opening and closing receptions and lunch on Saturday, April 12, 2008. Early registration (by February 22, 2008) is $60; later registration is $70.

Public Art 360 is made possible, in part, by the Percent for Art Collaborative, North Carolina Arts Council, South Carolina Arts Commission, Orange County Arts Commission, Southern Arts Federation, Forecast Public Artworks, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and Americans for the Arts Public Art Network.

With support from the
Ford Foundation
Washington, DC Office
1000 Vermont Avenue NW, 6th Floor
Washington, DC 20005
T 202.371.2830 | F 202.371.0424
New York City Office
One East 53rd Street
New York, NY 10022
T 212.223.2787 | F 212.980.4857