CALL FOR CULTURAL AGENTS
The U.S. Department of Arts and Culture (USDAC) is the nation’s newest people-powered department.* Organizing on both local and national levels, the USDAC harnesses the power of art and culture to cultivate the empathy and imagination needed to create a more just and vibrant world. We’re now recruiting a second cohort of up to 18 Cultural Agents—deeply creative individuals committed to social change—to perform the USDAC at a local level, starting by organizing an Imagining. This is a volunteer role.
APPLICATIONS LIVE: October 30 (To receive an email when applications are live, please be sure to enlist as a Citizen Artist.)
APPLICATIONS DUE: November 21
An Imagining is a vibrant, arts-infused gathering in which a community envisions its ideal future and identifies creative tactics to get there. Part performance, part facilitated dialogue, part celebration, Imaginings bring together diverse groups of artists, organizers, and community members to imagine what their neighborhoods (and the world) might look like in the year 2034, when art’s transformative power has been fully integrated into all aspects of public life. How might the face of education, environmental protection, health care, community development and other essential social goods change when the USDAC’s Statement of Values is fully embedded in society? And, what will it take to get there?
Cultural Agents go through a series of online trainings, acquiring the context and practical skills that will enable them to host an Imagining. They are supported by USDAC national leadership, the previous cohort of Cultural Agents, and each other in drawing on their own networks and knowledge of the local arts, activist, and changemaking landscape to craft resonant, meaningful Imaginings. In addition to holding space for collective envisioning, Imaginings provide opportunities for local performers and socially-engaged arts practitioners to help create an environment that is both celebratory and catalytic for new collaborations.
This is our second call for Cultural Agents; the founding cohort held Imaginings in June and July 2014. (Watch a short video culled from that effort, here.) As we add new groups of Cultural Agents around the U.S., these visionary volunteers play critical roles in shaping the future of the USDAC, itself an “act of collective imagination.” The ideas, images, and visions generated at these Imaginings are documented and fed back to inform the USDAC’s national story and strategy. Cultural Agents who are eager to continue after their Imaginings may go on to open Field Offices, turning local ideas into action with the support of the wider USDAC network.
Cultural Agents are:
- Individuals with a demonstrated commitment to art, culture, and social change and 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.
- Experienced in and comfortable with group facilitation and organizing, or deeply committed to learning these skills and finding collaborators who can help.
- Self-directed, imaginative, and excited about being part of something at the ground level.
Benefits for Cultural Agents include:
- Eight interactive training, coalition-building and resource-sharing calls with your fellow Cultural Agents, the USDAC team, and invited special guests.
- One-on-one advisory calls with experienced organizers and facilitators.
- A shipment of USDAC swag (buttons & stickers).
- A modest budget for materials, space, and other expenses.
- An opportunity to serve your community.
- A solidarity network of fellow Cultural Agents from across the country, including one designated partner from another city/town.
- An opportunity to be a part of something larger, to connect at the ground level with a growing people-powered movement.
The time requirements of being a Cultural Agent aren’t huge: everyone has other projects and responsibilities. But this is a serious commitment. We encourage applicants to do an honest self-assessment before applying. To build the network and ensure everyone’s success, we ask that Cultural Agents show up in the following ways:
- Read USDAC materials: you’ll receive a packet of useful how-tos every step of the way.
- Show up for interactive training and community-building calls held every other week. Most calls are 90 minutes long, scheduled at the best times possible for the cohort. There is often a short reading or writing assignment for each call.
- Take part in sharing updates and discussions about your progress, and supporting other Cultural Agents in doing the same.
- Host an Imagining! In the weeks preceding your Imagining—even if you have a great team of active deputies—ramping up to a community event will take more time.
- Participate in online learning community conversations following your Imagining, to learn from the experience and consider what comes next.
- Consider ongoing involvement with the USDAC, which can include opening a “Field Office” if the Imagining experience generates energy and enthusiasm to keep going.
- Commit to abiding by a simple set of working agreements that create a context of integrity, inclusion, and mutual accountability within the USDAC.
- Oct. 30: Applications open
- Nov. 21: Applications due
- Dec. 5-12: Interviews with finalists
- Dec. 18: Agents announced
- Dec. 19-Jan. 14: Holiday recess, readings
- Jan. 15-May 15: Preparation and Training. During this time, Cultural Agents join for a series of group training and community calls to prepare them to organize Imaginings. After a vibrant orientation call, these calls will cover such topics as Cultural Policy 101, Assessing Local Cultural Needs, Facilitation Techniques, Designing an Imagining, and more, based on the needs and skills of the cohort. Ample open space will be made to address ideas and issues as they emerge in the group. Between each call, Agents take on assigned missions to help build out their local teams and design their Imaginings (i.e., finding a space, inviting local performers and other artists to participate, recruiting a small team to help with logistics, creating a documentation plan, devising guiding questions for the Imagining, etc.)
- May 30-June 7: Imaginings held across the country
Participation is limited to 18 in this round, but this is indeed an all-hands-on-deck effort. If not selected as a Cultural Agent this time, please know that there are other important ways of being involved and that we will be in touch to explore what might be the right fit. Also, if being a Cultural Agent sounds like more of a resposibility than you can take on at this moment, consider getting involved as a local host for our upcoming People's State of the Union!