September 19, 2014

Announcing the 2014-2015 PAGE Fellows & Blog Salon, Sept. 22–26

Fifteen graduate students from across the country with a demonstrated commitment to publicly engaged scholarship and artistic practice have been selected as 2014–2015 Publicly Active Graduate Education (PAGE) Fellows, a yearlong program of Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life (IA). PAGE Fellows receive a travel stipend to attend IA’s annual national conference, where they participate in a special half-day pre-conference summit organized by PAGE senior associates, alumni of the program. They also design and facilitate their own conference session to give all conference attendees insights into the issues facing graduate students and early-career scholars. Throughout the year, the PAGE Fellows pursue opportunities for collaborative art-making, teaching, writing, and research projects that align with IA’s national priorities.

From Monday, September 22, through Friday, September 26, on the IA Blog, each Fellow will contribute a post to a PAGE Blog Salon around themes of public scholarship and community engagement. We invite all to comment on the posts.

The 2014-2015 PAGE Fellows:

  • Sarita Alami, Ph.D. student in History, Emory University
  • Heather Draxl, Ph.D. student in Language, Literacy and Culture, University of Iowa
  • Meagan Elliott, Ph.D. student in Sociology, University of Michigan
  • Lydia E. Ferguson, Ph.D. student in English, Auburn University
  • Naphtali Fields, M.F.A. student in Directing and Public Dialogue, Virginia Tech
  • Romeo Garcia, Ph.D. student in Composition and Cultural Rhetoric, Syracuse University
  • Alyssa Greenberg, Ph.D. student in Art History, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Katie Lennard, Ph.D. student in American Culture, University of Michigan
  • Kathrina Litchfield, Ph.D. student in Language, Literacy, anGrd Culture, University of Iowa
  • Enger A. Muteteke, M.A. student in Social Responsibility and Sustainable Communities, Western Kentucky University
  • Crystal Ngo, Ph.D. student in American Studies, Brown University
  • Angela Noah, M.A. student in American Theatre, University of Michigan-Flint
  • Jessica Robinson, Ph.D. student in Educational Policy, Organization, and Leadership, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Lukas StormoGipson, M.A. student in Performance Studies, New York University
  • Stephanie Sparling Williams, Ph.D. student in American Studies and Ethnicity, University of Southern California

The 2014-2015 PAGE Co-directors:

  • Alexandrina Agloro, Ph.D. student in Communication, University of Southern California
  • LaTanya Autry, Ph.D. student in Art History, University of Delaware
  • Josh Franco, Ph.D. student in Art History, Binghamton University
  • Elyse Gordon, Ph. D. student in Geography, University of Washington in Seattle
  • Cecilia Orphan, Ph.D. student in Higher Education, University of Pennsylvania
  • Jennifer Shook, Ph.D. student in English, University of Iowa
  • Kimi Taira, M.S. student in Art Conservation, University of Delaware
  • Johanna Taylor, Ph.D. student in Public and Urban Policy, The New School
  • Janeke Thumbran, Ph.D. student in African History, African History

About IA’s National PAGE Program

LEW-0021Created in 2003, the PAGE program is distinctive in that its agenda is set, almost exclusively, by graduate students. Present strategies to advance the PAGE program include developing a theoretical framework for publicly engaged graduate education; creating opportunities for mentorship and collaboration, both with peers and with advanced scholars; and researching and promoting professionalization and career pathways for engaged students.

“Imagining America is committed to supporting the growing number of individuals who are conducting research and involving themselves in engaged community work both in the academy and in the larger society,” says IA Co-Director Timothy K. Eatman. “The PAGE program is well-positioned to foster the development of knowledge creators and nurture the emerging citizenry of academe.”

Join us for a virtual discussion on public scholarship and community engagement on the IA Blog as part of the PAGE Blog Salon, Monday, September 22, through Friday, September 26:

September 17, 2014

Reflecting on a PAGE summer: Freedom Dreams, Freedom Now

In May 2014, a group of Imagining America’s Publicly Active Graduate Education (PAGE) Fellows and Co-Directors attended the Freedom Dreams Freedom Now! conference in Chicago, in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer 1964. They were invited to share their reflections.

By Jen Shook, PAGE Co-Director

PAGE Co-Directors (L to R): Shan Mukhtar, Alex Agloro, Jen Shook, La Tanya Autry. Photo courtesy of La Tanya Autry.

PAGE Co-Directors (L to R): Shan Mukhtar, Alex Agloro, Jen Shook, LaTanya Autry. Photo courtesy of LaTanya Autry.

From the beginning it was clear that “Freedom Dreams, Freedom Now” would not be just another symposium. Nor would it be the kind of historical commemoration where the people with grey hair tell the young people nostalgic stories about what it was like to be there then.

There were kids and the kids were angry.
There were scholars and the scholars were crying.
There were artists and the artists were organizers.
There were scholars and the scholars had done jail time.
There were kids and the kids were poets. Spouting truth. Not taking excuses.

Julian Bond’s keynote did in fact commemorate the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer that inspired the symposium and UIC’s Social Justice Initiative’s larger summer of programming.  But the introductions pointed out that the symposium’s name held not only a now-focus but a question—in fact a demand: “What are our freedom dreams… now?”  That keynote was framed by others, too: the ghosts of young activists murdered in action and the active presence of young people in the room. True honor, the whole proceeding suggested, included critique. While commemorations often allow public memory to coalesce into the brightest most apparently whole and healed national self-image, here we would clearly be diving into the fissures. We would mourn, we would resist closure, but all in the name of building together. Truly together, the hard way, as long as it takes.

Quilt squares created by conference attendees. Photo by Jennifer Shook.

Quilt squares created by conference attendees. Photo by Jennifer Shook.

What such a “together” entails revealed itself even as we walked down the hall to register. Colorful paper signs on the bathroom doors announced their gender-neutral availability. A sign-language interpreter stood to one side of the podium, while a Spanish translator transmitted through a portable mic to a nearby room. Screens around the room scrolled the social media feed of all participants using #FDFN2014, as well as slideshows by UIC students featuring relevant archival images, quotations, facts, and statistics. As Bond spoke, a photo of him with Martin Luther King, Jr flashed across one screen. Within an hour, Bond had sidelined Martin in order to raise up less recognized organizers (particularly Black women), and shared credit with the grad student conference organizer (“I wouldn’t be here without her”)… There’s hero worship, earned, but nuanced (Karen Lewis whispers, “I’m on the stage with ANGELA DAVIS”; later Angela asks Karen, “are you running for mayor?” and the audience erupts, Karen reminds everyone to make way for new power “mentor and step aside…”). True heroes/leaders, the proceedings suggested, honor their collaborators, and listen to their partners, no matter who those partners are.

Video Clip: Angela Davis on people imagining together at Chicago Freedom Summer 2014

Even younger, kids slam poetry slamming Da Mayor echoed their city’s sales pitches: “’building a new Chicago’—but who for?… ‘building a new Chicago’—but not for us…” Around the room, though, art from 1964 and 2014 chorused on the walls—documentary and imaginative, “professional” and “student.” Surrounded by the images of memory and protest, we entered into Freedom Summer (all meanings at once). We placed ourselves in relation to Freedom Summer, answering the call to make our own new Freedom Dreams. And while the building of a new Chicago slowly emerged from the conversations, anger, mourning, hope, questions, and dreams of the week, I got to play host to PAGErs Alex Agloro, La Tanya Autry, Melissa Crum, and Shan Mukhtar, in my old Chicago. (Yes, I promise this place is open. Yes, they have good food. Yes, I realize it doesn’t have a sign other than a neon beer ad. Welcome to Chicago.)

Taking time out we realized how much we needed the time out. We shared our exhaustion… physical, from sitting in chairs; mental, from information overload; emotional, from past and present griefs; enduring, from the state of being graduate students and activists. We shared the tricky questions and conundrums we’d collected in sessions…months later I’m still pondering the woman who asked us all to be aware of ableist language, the problems with using “paralyzed” and “blind” and “deaf” metaphorically—I struggle to find replacements. Raising this question during our “time out” made us realize that we never do fully take time out from critical thinking; everything is a teaching moment, and Melissa found a teaching moment for teachers when she reminded us that it’s our job to choose words carefully, and pass it on. After all, for all of us, “somebody taught us once, about why we don’t say ‘slave,’ or ‘convict.’”

How PAGE does brunch. Photo by Alex Agloro.

How PAGE does brunch. Photo by Alex Agloro.

Lunching in the meatpacking district, marveling at the mashup of old and new, “hog butcher for the world” and high-rise hotel proposals, we stumbled into an application for our theory when our lunch server called her chef an “egg” (“white on the outside, Asian on the inside”). Lunch “off” quickly became a working lunch, as Alex pulled out a pen and we started drafting a “Was what you just said racist?” flowchart. That night Robin D.G. Kelley and Angela Davis again addressed the question of language and audience; while some in the crowd rejected academic discourse in favor of accessibility, Kelley argued that the success of “organic intellectuals” in the movement didn’t mean a lack of analysis, but a continual analysis. As Sage Crump paraphrased in tweet: “We cannot separate analysis from social justice. You cannot imagine a world without oppression until you understand oppression.” Kelley connected this emphasis on critical analysis directly to the question of freedom dreams now—analysis and history hand-in-hand. “Heteropatriarchy violently masks the histories that reveal its newness,” Kelley continued, and Davis concurred, “As we move forward, we have to look backward.” We need a deep sense of history “so that we don’t make the mistake of thinking that we start right now.”

“When one commits oneself to the struggle, it must be for a lifetime.” Angela Davis at Freedom Dreams, Freedom Now! Photo by Jennifer Shook.

Just as Davis and Kelley insisted upon linking the past and the future, their vision of academia, activism, and art returned to mutual dependence. Like La Tanya, I find in PAGE a space for these linkages; like La Tanya’s tweets at that closing keynote, I cheered to hear Kelley support the need for analysis and to hear Davis remind us that “Academics need to learn how to value knowledge production in other spaces.” We’re not starting from scratch, we’re not reinventing the wheel, we build on one another’s making. It’s hard work, this always connecting, but it opens up the possibilities of our imaginations. And in turn such opening thrills, but also brings its own hard work. While we continue to learn how to think, FDFN encouraged us also to observe how we feel. Our “passions keep us going in the hard work,” Davis intoned. “Self-care” had come up often throughout the symposium, and Davis made it a responsibility, “not for yourself but for your communities,” because how can we keep up the work if we burn out? I thought back to the UIC professor who introduced herself as a “recovering grad student,” and the recent graduate from Pilsen who broke into tears describing her struggle to find a place for her activism, her community, and her self in her college.



My notes and tweets are full of distinctions made between pleasure and joy, between passive pleasure and resistant pleasure. Playwright Coya Paz told a story of her five years working a rape crisis hotline, and the day that after a particularly bad call she chucked what she’d thought of as her feminist refusal of lip gloss because she “didn’t want to be scared of being pretty.” An audience member argued that “power informs what we find pleasurable,” and Coya responded that in the moment she chose immediate self-care over long-term, but that in general “We have to find the balance between not buying in… and love for ourselves and pleasure in our everyday lives.” Filmmaker dream hampton invoked Cornel West and Audre Lorde on the collective power of joy.

And so we left, with Malcolm London’s poem for his friend Damo, tased to death by Chicago police, a bookend to Julian Bond’s recollections of the 1964 murders of civil rights workers Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner. We left with hope and with mourning, and we continue to live in the variation and debates. It’s not an easy place to live—Davis called out the “4 P’s” of her freedom struggles now: patriarchy, poverty, prison, Palestine. But we left in a collective, in collective joy, back into the world to keep dreaming.


La Tanya and Jennifer Shook would like to thank Imagining America, the Social Justice Initiative of University of Illinois at Chicago, and Dr. Barbara Ransby for supporting their attendance to the Freedom Dreams Freedom Now conference.

September 9, 2014

Through Freedom Dreams Freedom Now a Re-imagining of the Scholar/Activist

In May 2014, a group of Imagining America’s Publicly Active Graduate Education (PAGE) Fellows and Co-Directors attended the Freedom Dreams Freedom Now! conference in Chicago, in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer 1964. They were invited to share their reflections.

By La Tanya S. Autry, PAGE Co-director

a. Detail of southwest section, Hector Duarte, Alto al desplazamiento urbano en Pilsen (Stop the Gentrification of Pilsen), 1997, Chicago, IL. (Located at 1805 S. Bishop Street.) Photo by LaTanya S. Autry, May 28, 2014.

Detail of southwest section, Hector Duarte, Alto al desplazamiento urbano en Pilsen (Stop the Gentrification of Pilsen), 1997, Chicago, IL. (Located at 1805 S. Bishop Street.) Photo by LaTanya S. Autry, May 28, 2014.

One morning just before attending activities at the Freedom Dreams Freedom Now 2014 conference, I visited Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood with my PAGE colleague Alex Agloro.  Similar to many other urban spaces, Pilsen, a Mexican-American community and longstanding, working-class immigrant area is experiencing gentrification and the struggles that accompany this social shift.  Viewing traces of the powerful imagery of Hector Duarte’s mural Alto al desplazamiento urbano en Pilsen (Stop the Gentrification of Pilsen), 1997 communicates the conflict. Originally the painting depicted groups of people working together, organizing, and keeping their jobs and homes despite increasing government regulations on street vendors. Today erosion visually mutes the portraits of heroes Emiliano Zapata and Cesar Chavez. But the remnants continue to convey a spirit of protest. Encountering this work made me think about how artists, arts organizations, city planners, residents, and academics employ public art as a tool for opposing or promoting gentrification.  As I thought about how the poor condition of the mural might relate to the status of the residents’ resistance, I considered how engaged scholars function responsibly in this arena. I also contemplated how I could enrich my work as an art historian with principles and strategies of the Freedom Dreams Freedom Now conference to enhance my effectiveness as a changemaker in my discipline and in wider spheres of public culture.

Detail of west façade, portrait of Emiliano Zapata – Hector Duarte, Alto al desplazamiento urbano en Pilsen (Stop the Gentrification of Pilsen), 1997. Photo by La Tanya S. Autry, May 28, 2014.

Detail of west façade, portrait of Emiliano Zapata – Hector Duarte, Alto al desplazamiento urbano en Pilsen (Stop the Gentrification of Pilsen), 1997. Photo by La Tanya S. Autry, May 28, 2014.

With its focus on working as partners with community members, the Freedom Dreams Freedom Now conference underscored various equity-centered modes of action. At the opening roundtable conversation activist Charlie Cobbs noted “You have to earn trust, respect, and commitment of people. You have to earn the right to organize.” His incisive remark, which critiques the Occupy Movement, illuminates paths to ethically-centered working practices for scholars interested in social justice. Through valuing and becoming aware of residents’ knowledge, perspectives, and modes of negotiating challenges to their spaces, we can foster enduring relationships. While my graduate coursework didn’t address building equitable relationships with community members, I’ve been learning this skill through studying the methods of ethnographic research and social justice programs, attending workshops, and talking with local residents, activists, and researchers such as my PAGE colleagues.

The conference activities of the artist collective Complex Movements have helped me to concentrate on relationships. Unlike most of the sessions, this group employed a discussion-centered workshop format instead of giving a lecture-based presentation on their work. By encouraging attendees to apply questions to our individual initiatives, they produced a creative, critical space for forging connections while advancing the Freedom Dreams Freedom Now’s theme of organizing and creating change. Their call for activists to function as “dandelions” that infiltrate manicured lawns of thought resonated for me. Because my discipline rarely discusses or acknowledges social justice as aligned to research or pedagogical methods, art history can feel isolated from key public issues. I’m always seeking for ways to form connections between my studies and ethos. This dandelion idea bolstered my identification as an emerging scholar working on an interdisciplinary, social justice oriented dissertation topic. Complex Movements’ workshops also helped me clarify challenges in my work, identify my core values, and strengthen my belief in my working methods.

Detail of north section , portrait of Cesar Chavez –  Hector Duarte, Alto al desplazamiento urbano en Pilsen (Stop the Gentrification of Pilsen), 1997. Photo by La Tanya S. Autry, May 28, 2014.

Detail of north section , portrait of Cesar Chavez – Hector Duarte, Alto al desplazamiento urbano en Pilsen (Stop the Gentrification of Pilsen), 1997. Photo by La Tanya S. Autry, May 28, 2014.

As the conference underscored the persistence of social inequities, presenters also stressed the need to envision a just, inclusive society. We will only be able to build a better world if we can imagine one. The severity and pervasiveness of problems often mask this essential step. But people vested in change have to make time for reimagining the world. This perspective corresponds with Paulo Freire’s contention that the world isn’t fixed; oppression isn’t invincible. People can work together to overcome barriers and change the world.* This emphasis on reimagining affirmed my public-centered research of public art by marginalized cultural groups. I aim to create critical social justice oriented scholarship that builds reciprocal, collaborative relationships with local residents, memorial developers, and artists while strengthening connections between art history and other disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. I envision art historical practice as more collaborative and active in social efforts that address urban spaces and lobby for empowerment of disenfranchised people. A praxis involving artists, activists, neighborhood residents, and scholars could tackle difficult social and cultural issues spotlighted by public artworks such as the Pilsen neighborhood mural Alto al desplazamiento urbano en Pilsen.

Freedom Dreams Freedom Now served as a significant nexus in my professional development. I discussed my work and goals with many activists/artists/scholars. These interactions helped me to interpret aspects of my work in a more expansive and connected manner. I was particularly pleased to meet Lisa Yun Lee, Director of Art and Art History, University of Illinois-Chicago. She’s one of the few people in academic art history who embraces social practice art, serves in a leadership role, and earnestly does civically engaged work. This opportunity to cross paths with a critical mass of activists and engaged scholars has recharged and refined my efforts to create change in and through the visual arts.

* Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (London: Penguin Books, 1993, 1970), 14.

La Tanya and Jennifer Shook would like to thank Imagining America, the Social Justice Initiative of University of Illinois at Chicago, and Dr. Barbara Ransby for supporting their attendance to the Freedom Dreams Freedom Now conference.

August 26, 2014

Meet This Year’s Engaged Media Makers: The JGS Fellows

Imagining America is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2014-15 Fellowship award for publicly engaged students of photography, media, and visual arts who are working to transform their communities through artistic practice. Thanks to a generous grant from Joy of Giving Something, Inc. (JGS), Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life annually selects a cohort of distinguished student artists from our member institutions to receive a tuition award of $2,000 and to join a national working group of engaged media makers. These undergraduate and graduate students demonstrated leadership in facilitating community-based photo or media arts experiences with people unlikely to otherwise have access to art-making.

Criteria for the student awardees included:

  • Financial need
  • Artistic merit
  • Quality of community-engaged practice

The awardees will convene at the 2014 national conference, October 9-11, in Atlanta, Georgia.

Click here to meet the Fellows! 

Abel Hernandez teaches New Urban Arts (NUA) mentee Kassem Three-point perspective. Kassem wanted to learn how to draw his name in WildStyle graffiti letters.

Abel Hernandez teaches New Urban Arts (NUA) mentee Kassem Three-point perspective. Kassem wanted to learn how to draw his name in WildStyle graffiti letters.

September 18, 2014

Collaboration, Creativity and Civic Engagement with The Talking Band

By Andy Horwitz, Founder, Culturebot Arts & Media, Inc.

The Extension Reconsidered blog features posts from guest contributors who care about Cooperative Extension, the land-grant mission, community arts and humanities, civic engagement, and other issues related to the Extension Reconsidered initiative.

In June 2013 I went to see The Talking Band’s play Marcellus Shale at the La Mama Theater in New York City’s East Village. I’ll be honest; I was skeptical. I had heard the play was about fracking and I attended the show fully expecting to be subjected to a didactic story told through familiar diatribes about the environmental and economic destruction wrought by corporate oil on unsuspecting American citizens.

I guess somehow I forgot that that is not what The Talking Band does.

Marcellus Shale, inspired by Talking Band members Paul Zimet & Ellen Maddow’s firsthand experience when their upstate New York community was divided by fracking, offers a nuanced and thoughtful exploration of this divisive and contentious issue.

The opposing views of a spectrum of characters – a veteran with PTSD, local farmers who sold their rights, and those who refused, women “Prayer Warriors” from the local church, spectral “Men In Suits”, Occupy Wall Street-style radicals – all are given equal weight and complexity. The story is told in such a way that each character has respect and dignity; they struggle to maintain their human connections even as they hold ideologically irreconcilable positions.

In Marcellus Shale, The Talking Band moves beyond the talking points and into the underlying questions we all face when struggling with life-altering (and possibly life-threatening) decisions: “What really matters to you? What would be the last thing that you would give up? What do you consider a good life? Have you lived one? Are you living one now?”

After the performance Paul and I stood in front of La Mama on East 4th Street and talked about the play. He told me about the process of making the play, of the challenge of bringing the voices and stories of his upstate neighbors onto the stage, of honoring their human complexity while staying true to the Talking Band’s 40-year creative practice of collaboration and experimentation in theater.

As we talked, we started to think about how the play might work if individual regional productions were developed through a transparent, collaborative, community-engaged process. What would it look like to engage local individuals and groups associated with the various ideological positions represented in the play in a collaborative, creative process of making the play?
But let me explain – and maybe this is a bit of theater “insider baseball” – The Talking Band’s original interdisciplinary performance work has been a cornerstone of New York City’s avant-garde theater community for 40 years. Founded in 1974 by Paul Zimet, Ellen Maddow, and Tina Shepard (all former members of Joseph Chaikin’s seminal Open Theater), the company has produced over forty new works marked by a commitment to radical collaboration and a fusion of diverse theatrical styles and perspectives.

For 40 years The Talking Band has been illuminating the extraordinary dimensions of ordinary life through their elegant, eloquent, profound performance work. Combining richly textured music-theater with striking visual imagery, their work is infused with creative generosity that makes each show an experience that is as emotionally moving as it is aesthetically rich.

In a cultural moment where the infinite imagined futures of theater (and cultural life in America, generally) seem to be narrowed to a very few, mostly commercial and market-driven visions, The Talking Band stands in stark contrast. Their body of work and their way of working offers a powerful alternative, demonstrating the viability of a lived and living theater that is created by a community of artists and creates new communities around the ideas, questions, values and processes from which the work is born.

So we started imagining a framework where local productions of the play Marcellus Shale serve as platforms for civil discourse and civic engagement around the issue of fracking.

A conversation with Jan Cohen-Cruz led to a conference call with Scott J. Peters, Monica Hargraves and Rod Howe, where we learned about the Extension Reconsidered Initiative. After a thoughtful, wide-ranging and productive conversation we exchanged links and source materials via email. While reading Scott Peters’ preface to the new edition of Ruby Green Smith’s The People’s Colleges, we were struck by his words:

But people have more than problems; they have knowledge and creativity, hopes and ambitions, values and ideals. And they have a desire to learn and grow and to contribute to and make a difference in the world. Organizing opportunities for people to come together to develop, express, and pursue these things has been a part of what extension has done for over a century.

The belief that creativity and a desire to learn and grow is inherent in all people is central to The Talking Band’s understanding of theater as an art form; it infuses how they make their work and how they intend it to be received.

And as we consider the framework for building Marcellus Shale in and with communities, we are trying to be as expansively imaginative as possible. For inasmuch as it is a play about fracking, it is a play about people; it is influenced by Dostoevsky’s fiercely political novel Demons, some of the characters were inspired by the work of American photographer Alec Soth known for his “large-scale American projects” combining cinematic grandeur with the mythic scope of folklore, the design of the set and lights were influenced by the photographer Gregory Crewdson, who shares a similar aesthetic of finding the epic in everyday American life. So even as Marcellus Shale tackles the problem of fracking, it touches on many influences and poses questions about faith, family, community, ethics, history and philosophy.

Later in his preface to The People’s Colleges, Dr. Peters writes:

[The pursuit of the people’s college ideal] can be interwoven with gritty, down to earth problem-solving that involves ordinary, everyday things in ordinary, everyday places — things like weeds and diseases and pests on farms or disagreement and conflict in neighborhoods and communities. When it includes opportunities for meaningful contribution, for learning and growth, for the development and expression of people’s talents, power, creativity, imagination, judgment, and knowledge, problem solving can lead to personal and public happiness.

Our premise is to create partner cohorts comprised of a theatrical producing partner, an academic partner and a civic partner in communities affected by, or concerned about, fracking. These partners, in collaboration with The Talking Band, will develop and present unique versions of the play; the entire creative process will move in tandem with a participatory program of discussions, social events and open rehearsals.

We also hope that through this process we will provide local theater artists (and interested community members) an opportunity to be exposed to the theater-making practices of The Talking Band.

Over the course of forty years as one of America’s foremost collaborative ensembles, The Talking Band has developed a vast body of practical and theoretical strategies for making performance collaboratively and across disciplines. From acting to directing to music performance and stunning visuals, The Talking Band has pioneered an integrated, collaborative approach to theater making that resonates widely with young artists.

We are currently in the process of identifying and organizing local cohorts across the country and are in conversation with colleagues in Charleston, West Virginia; Telluride, Colorado; Detroit, Seattle and New Orleans. We are actively seeking additional partners in those cities as well as partners in Pennsylvania, New York and other communities where there is interest. We are especially looking for producing partners and/or academic partners who are interested in co-developing the framework.

If you are interested in participating or learning more, we’ll be at the Imagining America Conference in Atlanta, please find us. And if you are interested but unable to be in Atlanta, please drop us a line!

Opinions presented on the Extension Reconsidered blog belong to the authors. Contact Jen Jensen (jkj37[at] to contribute, or comment here to share your thoughts. Follow @extrecon on Twitter for blog updates or read more about the Extension Reconsidered initiative at our website.


Photos courtesy of The Talking Band


Marcellus Shale Prayer Warriors

Marcellus Shale Prayer Warriors



Marcellus Shale

Marcellus Shale


Golden Toad Ep. 2 SONGBUS

Golden Toad Ep. 2 SONGBUS

Golden Toad Ep. 2 GHOSTBUS

Golden Toad Ep. 2 GHOSTBUS