“Art is made by those who show up.” – Mel Chin
Last Saturday, Emily Hopkins from Side Street Projects in Pasadena, California was our guest facilitator at C4 Atlanta for our pilot Hatch program. Per their website, “Side Street Projects is an entirely mobile artist-run organization that gives artists of all ages the ability and the means to support their creative endeavors.” We were so excited for Emily to share both her expertise with working in diverse communities as well as best practices for managing the size, scope and expectations of your arts projects.
The day was divided into two sessions. The morning session, called “Expanding the Definition”, focused primarily on the different types of community engaged art and how their implementation and authorship differed depending on their stated goals. Emily gave a brief historical context for art in community and explained that artists could borrow practices for working in community from other fields such as anthropology, community organizing, sociology and urban planning so as not to “be a wombat”, as she put it. Artists were encouraged to do ample due diligence to make sure that their best intentions didn’t do more harm than good in the community through improper execution. We then focused on several case studies of art projects within the community with highly successful community engagement models. Our artists particularly liked the Operation Pay Dirt/Fundred Dollar Bill Project and enjoyed making their own Fundred Dollar Bills.
After the end of the session, we allowed time for rumination upon the artists’ concerns regarding community. Questions of race relations, sensitivity to hierarchy of authority, authorship and effective communication permeated the conversation. Emily provided some fantastic insight for our artists, but the group also had a lot of dynamic input for their peers.
After lunch, everyone reconvened to hear Session #2, Managing Expectations. Since we had identified all of the stakeholders involved in our projects through the morning session’s due diligence, we were ready to define the kinds of roles and relationships each stakeholder party would take on during the project. By having clearly defined roles and delegation, the artists could avoid any miscommunication with the community and key stakeholders regarding how their projects would be implemented. From there, we discussed funding opportunities and the expectations funders might have regarding how a project is presented. Emily urged the artists not to “chase the money”, or rather not to create projects just for the sake of applying to grant opportunities that don’t already fit your core values. Instead, pursuing the opportunities that already align with your core values as an artist and the work you are already creating is much more likely to bring about higher success in securing funding as well as be more meaningful to the artist. Finally, our Hatch artists worked on an exercise to flesh out communication and language used by the different stakeholders involved with their projects. By working out the different needs, wants, values and perceptions of each community, we can look for patterns of overlap and see the variations and subtleties necessary to manage the interests of all involved parties.