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

Americans for the Arts 2008 Annual Convention, June 19–22: Civic Engagement Track Innovator Rob “Biko” Baker
As an annual feature of each track at the Americans for the Arts Convention, Innovator sessions are designed to deepen and expand field learning through presentations and dialogue with innovative and pioneering individuals working within and around the arts. This year’s Civic Engagement Innovator, Rob “Biko” Baker is the executive director of the League of Young Voters and a nationally recognized hip-hop organizer, journalist, activist, and scholar. In his home community of Milwaukee, he has organized hip-hop town hall meetings and used the power and agency of hip-hop to inform, mobilize, and motivate young people to participate in civic life. This year, working with eight communities nationwide, Biko has been proactively engaging young voters around ways to maintain civic participation in disenfranchised communities beyond the November election. Co-presented with cultural organizer and arts consultant, Caron Atlas, this year’s Civic Engagement Innovator session will explore Biko’s experience in this arena, with special focus on the ways that hip-hop and the arts can be used to stimulate engagement and dialogue.

The advance registration deadline is April 18, 2008. More information about the Civic Engagement track, as well as other Innovators and sessions at the 2008 Convention can be found online at

News from the Field

Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation announces awards for 2008 Artists and Communities Program
The Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, supporting arts organizations and artists in the Mid Atlantic Region and U.S. Virgin Islands, has announced 13 grant awards totaling over $213,000 to support long-term artist residencies through its 2008 Artists and Communities Program. The purpose of the program is to encourage public participation in the creative process, support artists through the creation of new works, and to foster regional exchange of artistic and community-based practices by supporting 1–6 month long artist residencies. Funded projects include: a collaboration between Ping Chong and the Village of Arts & Humanities to work with African American and Latino teens to create a community-specific oral history theater work exploring the effect of urban violence on their lives; a collaboration between the New Jersey Women and AIDS Network and filmmaker Hima B, who, working together with adult and juvenile women, will create a DVD and website profiling their lives with HIV/AIDS which will later be incorporated into a documentary; and Braddock Redux who will partner with sculptor James Simon and at-risk young adults, community organizations, and government agencies to transform a 4,000-square foot abandoned lot into an urban park.

Choreographing Coalitions opens in Chicago
Choreographing Coalitions is a month-long festival featuring Chicago-based and national “body-based” artists who share a curiosity for art-making around themes of social justice. The main goal of the festival is to reinvigorate conversations in regards to the potential of performance to act as an agent for social change within (and beyond) the dance community of Chicago. As part of the festival and in response to the possibilities presented by the upcoming election, Choreographing Democracy, a “workshop-in-progress,” was held earlier this month to explore the ways that bodies can express notions of authority, privacy, justice, and responsibility that rest at the core of democracy. Choreographing Coalitions will close March 30, 2008.

New Resource from H-Net: H-Citizenship
Following recent network launches of H-Southern-Lit, H-Human Rights, and H-Fed Hist; H-Net has announced the creation of a new network: H-Citizenship. The new network works to promote and connect a global community of scholars, scholars, leaders, and the general public through interdisciplinary research and intellectual exchange about citizenship—with special focus on the relationship between citizens and the political, social, economic, and cultural communities of which they are a part.

Deadline: Film Your Issue Film Competition
Now in its fourth year, Film Your Issue is a global, internet-based competition inviting more than 25 million high school and college students in the country and internationally to engage in contemporary issues through the creation of a short film concerning issues that impact their generation. Select entries will be highlighted on MySpace TV and distributed to The Associated Press to its 1,800 Online Video Network media outlets. In addition to several awards presented to individuals through Film Your Issue, winning films or excerpts will also be broadcast on Starz, and a selection presented at the annual NAACP Conference. Through April 14, 2008, films can be uploaded through platforms including MTV, YouTube, and AFI Screen nation, after registering through the project website. 

Articles and Publications

New Report from The Reinvestment Fund on arts and neighborhood revitalization
Creativity and Neighborhood Development: Strategies for Community Investment offers approaches and recommendations for investment in arts and cultural activity as a strategy for neighborhood development. This report is from The Reinvestment Fund, a national leader in the financing of neighborhood revitalization. The result of a collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania’s Social Impact of the Arts Project and the Rockefeller Foundation, the report demonstrates that the intrinsic value of arts and culture can be a key ingredient in neighborhood revitalization through nurturing local assets, building social capital, and promoting entrepreneurial and civic growth. (Thanks, Community Arts Network).

Events on the Horizon

Support Women Artists Now Day
Date: March 29, 2008
Support Women Artists Now Day (SWAN Day) is a new international holiday that celebrates women artists. The annual event is set for the last Saturday of Women’s History Month (March), and will host events all over the world featuring and supporting women artists towards encouraging community members everywhere to imagine what the world might be like if women’s art and perspectives were fully integrated into their lives.

SWAN Day is a grassroots effort being coordinated by The Fund for Women Artists through its websites at and Here are some ways you can participate in SWAN Day: organize arts events for SWAN Day 2008 and post your event on the SWAN Day website, host a SWAN Day party with friends and local artists to talk about ways that you might help the women artists in your community, or introduce students to women artists through your schools.

Intersection V: Creative UpRising(s)
Dates: April 4–6, 2008
Amherst, MA
Intersection is New WORLD Theater’s (NWT) biennial conference and festival examining new work practices by artists of color and showcasing multidisciplinary theater pieces on the cutting edge of new aesthetics. This year's theme, Creative UpRising(s), takes a global look at the pervasiveness of art and activism, emerging aesthetics, and the role of performance practices in cultural organizing. Panels, case studies, and dialogues will explore transnational aesthetics & organizing; hip-hop theater at the intersection of indigenous, hybrid, and global identities; the role of artists in mass mobilization; arts-based economic development; and creative responses to national & international crisis. A special pre-conference opportunity, The Rise of an Arab-American Cultural Movement, will gather Arab-American artists, cultural leaders, organizers and allies to explore the aesthetics, approaches and impact of this growing movement. For more information, contact New WORLD Theater at 413.545.1972.

Call for Proposals: Public Engagement in a Diverse America: Layers of Place, Movements of People
The Ninth Annual Imagining America National Conference

Dates: October 2–4, 2008
Los Angeles, CA
Imagining America invites faculty, students, and community partners to participate in its ninth annual conference in Los Angeles, hosted by University of Southern California. Three central themes will be explored through this conference. Layers of Peoples, Places, and Histories will cover the relationship of colleges and universities to the layers of local life, and the ways that scholars and artists can respond to the displacement of peoples and sites that result from the "development" of the university, college, city, or town. Social Movements & Diversity will explore the role of public scholars and artists in political and cultural conversations about the meaning of demographic, racial, and ethnic change within rapidly changing communities. And finally, Engagement across Sectors will investigate how scholarship in the humanities and the arts can serve as a bridge between colleges and universities and the local, national, and global communities in which they reside.

Imagining America invites conference proposals for seminars, roundtables, workshops, and panels on partnerships and projects touching on these topics as they relate to diversity and engagement. For more information, contact Juliet Feibel at Proposals are due April 25, 2008.

Art in the Public Sphere: Singular Works: Plural Possibilities
Date: April 25, 2008, 9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
Amherst, MA
Art in the Public Sphere: Singular Works: Plural Possibilities is a day-long symposium which will bring together architects, artists, curators, scholars, and landscape architects to examine the complexities and challenges of producing work in and about the public domain. The symposium will feature a series of conversations and panel discussions with UMass scholars and internationally known experts such as Vito Acconci (Designer/Architect, NYC); George Trakas (artist, NYC and Amherst, MA); public art curator Ann Pasternak (director of Creative Time, NYC); and Rick Lowe (artist and founder of Project Row Houses, Houston) and will provide a critical forum to consider various theories, processes, and models for artistic intervention.

Greening the Arts: Exploring a Role for the Arts in Creating a Sustainable World
Dates: April 25–26, 2008
Ithaca, NY

In honor of Earth Week Ithaca 2008, artists, educators and sustainability activists of all ages are invited to gather in Ithaca, New York for a symposium that will explore concepts of “green” art and the role that the arts can play in creating sustainable communities. It is co-hosted by Ithaca’s Center for Environmental Sustainability and Level Green Institute, in collaboration with the US Partnership for the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. Greening the Arts will feature a panel and open space towards developing action steps for the U.S. Partnership’s broader initiative to integrate the arts with education for sustainable development across the United States.

For further information on the symposium, email  

With support from the
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