We are delighted to present these updates from the Philly (Cultural Agent and Chief Rhapsodist of Wherewithal Yolanda Wisher) and New York (Cultural Agent Betty Yu) USDAC Field Offices. To get involved, just drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Philly Field Office
In October 2015, the Philly Field Office soft-launched with three successful DareToImagine actions in Chinatown, Germantown, and Hunting Park. The Field Office partnered with Asian Arts Initiative, Germantown Artists Roundtable, and Edison High School to host Imagination Stations that invited passersby to make a #DareToImagine button or a Philly Phriendship Bracelet to give to a stranger, or a papercut flag showing off their neighborhood pride. Local poets and musicians performed re-imaginings of traditional patriotic tunes. And in Germantown, the Germantown Artists Roundtable hosted “Civic School,” where folks waiting for the bus could vote for one of three issues they wanted to see tackled by newly elected Supreme Court judges: full funding for public schools, $15 minimum wage, or gun control. Most found it hard to choose.
The Philly Field Office plans to continue building its core team and clarifying its focus this spring through spearheading large & small-scale participatory events across the city in collaboration with arts organizations and city institutions. And in the meantime, the Poetic Address to the Nation is coming right up. Learn more about the livecast here.
NYC Field Office
The USDAC NYC Field has kicked off 2016 with a bang. In late 2015 the core team of the Field Office came together to discuss our priority projects and issues we wanted to work on. Given the success of our June Imagining and October #DareToImagine events that were mainly focused on anti-gentrification and anti-displacement creative organizing strategies in NYC, we decided we would continue along that trajectory so we can deepen our partnerships and relationships with community activists and organizations. One of our main criteria and principles we feel strongly about is: "We should prioritize local cultural organizing activities, art/media projects and other creative social justice efforts that support the self-determination of communities to tell their own stories of identity, struggle, and collective liberation."
On January 2nd, USDAC-NYC animated and transformed the Brooklyn Museum's 3rd floor Beaux Arts Court space into the "City of Justice." We invited participants to an evening where we imagined 2016 and a future where social justice is realized through 10 participatory art-making stations that included poetry, letter-writing, theater, body movement, Story Circles, and story mapping. The planning team had some hesitations about organizing this when it was revealed that Brooklyn Museum had leased the space out to the Real Estate Summit for their annual gathering (a major convening of the real estate giants that are the #1 gentrifying force). USDAC-NYC supported the community protests against the museum. And because of grassroots activism the museum welcomed open dialogue and criticism. We then decided to use the "City of Justice" event as an open space for creative imagination and forward-thinking solutions for housing justice!
Finally, February has been a busy month so far. The Field Office helped host two Story Circles for the People's State of the Union, co-presented our Anti-Gentrification Story Mapping Activity at VIRAL an interactive performance addressing issues of police violence in Staten Island, and co-facilitated an Anti-Gentrification-themed "Community Imagining" as a part of "Speak Out" an art and activism exhibit on police brutality at BronxArt Space.