USDAC Super PAC, HI-LI Projects, and Funding for Democracy in Action

Have you ever heard of “The Human Library?” How about “The American Town Hall on Anything?” These are just two projects in the USDAC HI-LI database (that stands for high-impact low-infrastructure), sharing cultural interventions that can be done by anyone, anywhere, with minimal resources.

Did you read about Mona Hadyar, who set up a free coffee and donuts booth in Cambridge, MA last year, inviting people to “Talk to a Muslim”? Or the “Round Dance Revolution” in Canada, started by indigenous people through the Idle No More movement?

Between now and May 10th, the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture is reviewing proposals for micro-grants—$300 stipends to create and document prototype projects that use arts and culture to answer these questions:

In the midst of this volatile election cycle, what kinds of participatory projects can activate agency and remind us what democracy actually looks like—both within and beyond the context of electoral politics?

With the airwaves full of polarizing rhetoric, what creative public interventions can disrupt narratives of hate, uplifting love, connection, and equity?

Mona Haydar and her husband, Sebastian Robins, outside a library in Cambridge, MA, December 2015.

Mona Haydar and her husband, Sebastian Robins, outside a library in Cambridge, MA, December 2015.

Why have we created the USDAC Super PAC? Because as election campaigning ramps up toward November, we’re struck by how often big money controls the discourse. Conventional Super PACs heap up money. Debates easily deteriorate into sound-bites and insults. Voting is treated like the sum total of democratic participation, even though millions pay taxes without the right to vote or are deprived of that right as punishment.

We can do better than this!

Since the USDAC began in 2013, across the U.S. we’ve seen artists and creative organizers apply their skills and sensibilities to genuine dialogue and deliberation about the real issues and real opportunities we face. Between now and November, we want to invite everyone to step up as ExtraSuperDelegates, creating Super Participatory Acts of Culture or Super Public Acts of Compassion.

That’s where you come in. Up to ten projects will be chosen for support through the USDAC Super PAC (Super Participatory Arts Coalition, that is). They’ll be completed by mid-July, then featured in the SuperPACKet toolkit we roll out this summer to inspire many more projects around the nation during election season. If your prototype project is chosen, you’ll help motivate others around the nation to adapt your ideas to their own circumstances and communities. Press and social media attention will help spread them further.

We’re looking for creative projects that:

  • stir meaningful connection and conversation in this polarized moment
  • disrupt narratives of hate, uplifting love, connection, and equity
  • activate a sense of agency and encourage democratic participation (within and/or beyond electoral politics)
  • remind us that those who came before us fought for our rights (including voting)—rights many don’t use
  • embody what democracy actually looks like, reminding us that democracy depends on our voices being heard.

Projects must be participatory (proposals to write a song or a script won’t be funded, for instance, unless they’re being created for participatory public events and uses) replicable with a cash outlay of no more than $300 (you’re welcome to supplement that with bartering or scrounging if you like).

The body politic needs your creativity! Please apply before the May 10th deadline. Check out the guidelines and link to the simple application form here. And if you have questions, please feel free to contact us at