Today launches the USDAC’s third call for applications to serve as volunteer Cultural Agents. It’s been an amazing experiment and a rich learning journey since the first cohort—chosen from nearly 100 applicants—came on board early in 2014, followed by a second cohort at the end of that year.
If the list of capacities and attitudes below resonates with you, or if you know someone else who’d be perfect for this key role in the nation’s first and only people-powered department, you’ll find everything you need to know about how to apply here. Don’t wait, because the deadline is Friday, November 20, 2015.
Cultural Agents are:
Individuals with a demonstrated commitment to art, culture, and social change who are inspired to take up the USDAC call to action.
Artists, organizers, educators, entrepreneurs, administrators, or others dedicated to fostering a creator culture in place of a consumer culture, and willing to volunteer their time.
Connected to local creative life and committed to contributing to a national movement around USDAC values, through local organizing.
Experienced in and comfortable with group facilitation and organizing.
Eager to learn from othersdoing similar work and to share expertise and experiences.
Cultural Agents take part in a learning community with dedicated artist-activists from every region and background working in a variety of arts media and with many different issues. It’s a serious and potentially transformative commitment. Just read about Cultural Agent Denise Johnson’s work in Baltimore in the aftermath of the April 2015 uprising; or the new Pledge of Allegiance created in Cultural Agent Julia Terry’s Philadelphia imagining.
Cultural Agents are key to growing national movement. More than 150 communities signed up to host People’s State of the Union 2015 story circle events, sharing stories online in a collective national self-portrait. Imaginings have included more than 3000 people. Volunteers come from a pool of 4,500 Citizen Artists who’ve signed on with the USDAC. Since October 2013, more than 10,000 people have been part of USDAC events in 40 states. We have a 29-member National Cabinet and an Action Squad which supports basic operations. We also partner with Imagining America, a consortium of 70+ universities nationwide, to develop USDAC college hubs. Because we want USDAC projects to be replicable, we create toolkits and offer technical assistance, such as our HI-LI Database.
If this sounds like the kind of company you want to keep, apply now.
Four things we’ve learned from the first two cohorts of Cultural Agents are helping to shape the current call:
First, past Cultural Agents have hosted an Imagining (an arts-infused community dialogue focusing on the future of their community). This time around we’re opening Imaginings up to people who want to create a community gathering and art-based conversation focused on a specific issue or action rather than cultural life in general (for instance, see how Cultural Agent Betty Yu has focused on gentrification and displacement in her New York City Imagining and follow-up events).
Second, maybe a convening isn’t right for your community at this moment. In that case, as a Cultural Agent you can work toward another type of art-based project or campaign. We’re open to whatever your social imagination dreams up!
Third, it’s become clear that USDAC National Actions such as the recent #DareToImagine are great forms of action research—learning by doing—for Cultural Agents. The third cohort will come on board in mid-December (though we’ll have a holiday recess before the learning community gears up in January). This will coincide with our next National Action, People’s State of the Union 2016 (which promises to be even bigger and better than last year’s), so every Cultural Agent will be guided and supported to host a story circle as part of that action.
And fourth, the work Cultural Agents do in their communities has most value when they are thinking long-term rather than focusing on a single Imagining. Cultural Agents who’ve gone on to open local Field Offices have seen the impact of taking part in anational movement for cultural democracy that meets their local community where people are and connects them to allies across the country. Read about Dave Loewenstein’s experience in Lawrence, KS and Jess Solomon’s in Washington, DC, for instance: part one and part two of that series. Not every Cultural Agent will open a Field Office—that depends on local will and circumstances—but we ask everyone to consider ongoing impact and capacity-building, rather than focusing only on the short-term.
Each of these creates more opportunity, but also more responsibility. Being a Cultural Agent is a serious commitment geared toward long-term local cultural organizing. Read the call online for a full explanation of the role’s expectations and rewards. If it doesn’t fit with your plans right now, no worries; being a Cultural Agent is just one way of participating in the people-powered department. You can also join the USDAC community by taking part in National Actions as a Citizen Artist or as a partner organization, or by joining the Action Squad to volunteer in other roles.
Please let folks know about this amazing experiment in cultural democracy. And be sure to sign up as a Citizen Artist to be on the USDAC mailing list and learn about future calls. It’s fast and free and serious fun.