JGS Fellow Fundraises for Nepal

My name is Alexandra Morrow and I am a 2014-15 IA/JGS Fellow. I spent this past August through December studying abroad in Nepal and the experience largely impacted my life in ways that are impossible to illustrate with words alone. The best I can do is say, the family and friends I met while in Nepal have become some of the most important people in my life. My experience was immersive – culturally and linguistically. I spent 5 months learning Nepali language both in a classroom and at home with my host family. My host family does not speak English. I’ve called to speak with them just about every week since coming home, to keep up my language skills and to check in on how they are doing.
Morrow Nepal

As many of you know, on Saturday April 25th at 11:56am Nepal was hit by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. Since the first major impact, hundreds of aftershocks have hit the country. Though the worst of the aftershocks are over, the impending monsoon season will make the rebuilding process even more difficult than it already might have been.

In this tragedy I have looked to photographs, news reports, and social media depicting the aftermath not as photos of a faraway land, but as photos of the reality that the people I know and love are facing. Many of the families who hosted students for my study abroad program have lost their homes and do not have the means to rebuild them, including my own. They are currently living in a makeshift shelter in their field.

Myself, and 5 other host students who had the great fortune of living with the Budhathoki Family during our respective semesters abroad have organized an online fund to raise money to aid them in their recovery.  

It costs $15,000 to build a home in Nepal. Our goal is to reach that benchmark. At this time we have raised $6,280. While it is unlikely we will reach our ultimate goal, we would like to get as close as we can. We have 8 days left to fundraise. The campaign ends on June 21st.

I ask for your financial support to aid these wonderful, generous, and loving people in this difficult time, in whatever capacity you are able to offer it. Any amount helps, however large – however small.  This family cared for me and other students when I was far from my own home. They shared their lives, their love, and their culture – and for that I owe them everything. My heart breaks knowing that their home is no more and that their lives have been indefinitely changed, but I reach out to you in hope that we can aid them in that recovery.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you. If you have any comments, questions, or concerns do not hesitate to reach out. You can reach me at: alexandrarmorrow@gmail.com

Additionally you are welcome to read the blog I kept while in Nepal, to get a better idea of my experience during those 5 months. http://abroadinnepal.tumblr.com/ 

The password is: Nepal2014

Here is the link to the fundraising page. https://www.tilt.com/campaigns/budhathoki-family-fund

In Peace,


To be anti-racist and White. Or, A snapshot of an anxious mind

Elyse GordonBy Elyse Gordon, PAGE Co-director

Good grief. I am overwhelmed by what is going on and my responsibility to act.

But I am so stretched right now: deep in my research, so near the end; in the struggle of personal wellness and some long overdue healing.

Forget that! I don’t get to lean on my Whiteness as an excuse to opt out. The mere fact that I get to opt out means I can’t opt out.

But self care is radical. It is the most important thing. Can’t care for others unless I care for myself.

And, you know, this isn’t a war. It’s a journey, a change of consciousness, a new paradigm is rising. It’s ok to sit out this chapter if I need to. And I think I need to.

But I have rarely been one to just sit things out. I may not participate, but I usually direct my energy around somehow else. How will I direct my energy this time? And I still feel responsible to do something.

Oh yeah! The salon series – that’s putting my energy to work in a really concrete way in a small little microcosm of action. Who knows what the ripples will be from engaging other White folks in these conversations.

And I live my value of justice all the time, or at least I try to. My lens for the world is one of racial justice now. Once you have that analysis, it isn’t going anywhere. So everyone I talk to, everything I study, it will have that perspective.

Ok, ok, ok. But is that enough? What’s enough?! People are being killed. Folks don’t feel safe in their cities, in their neighborhoods. Other folks are so frightened to give up power that they sling racist and hurtful words and deny White Supremacy as if it wasn’t the very thread of our nation’s institutions. And folks are finding themselves in stark, material poverty after months of being on the streets of Ferguson. And still justice hasn’t been reached.

And why isn’t anyone really talking about poverty, anyway? I mean, that’s not entirely true. In Baltimore, it is clearly being framed as structural violence, systemic oppression, dispossession. People understand that what we’re seeing isn’t an individual thing, and it isn’t just about the Police. These are deeply intertwined with the history and geography of that city and its people. But I’m talking more about the actual experiences of poverty; how movement work reproduces poverty; who gets the money when we direct money to black-led organizers; how we convince people to give their money to Black liberation instead of the Boys and Girls Club… How we direct money so that the people fighting this fight on the front lines aren’t having to choose between food, shelter and cell phone bills.

And then this crisis in Nepal! And my neighbors and their daughter who died in an avalanche, and the heartbreak of bearing witness to their process. And just feeling like there can’t possibly be more pain in the world! How can I make space for all of this? And where can the joy be brought back in?

But then there’s food, and cooking, and art, and friends, and colleagues, and hummingbirds, and sunshine, and yoga, and breath.

Breath. I sometimes wonder if I just let all of this go if things wouldn’t be simpler. If I really embraced Buddhist principles, then would I be so distraught? But is that just supremely selfish?

Who cares?!

And what am I making for dinner??

Being in my own head about all of this is a privilege of its own; its a sign of my whiteness, my tendency to analyze, to over think, to dwell, to worry, to ruminate.

Enough, already!

My exercise in collective liberation today is this: When People of Color have power, I will benefit by not being plagued by anxiety and concern about how to be in the world as a White person.

Announcing the New Issue of Public: A Journal of Imagining America: “Organizing. Culture. Change.”

Public coverWe are pleased to announce that “Organizing. Culture. Change.” is now live. The first section grows out of the 2014 IA Conference on the same theme: the keynote, “Words Changing the World: The Power of Personal, Communal, and Allegorical Stories in Bringing Dreams to Reality,” by Doug Shipman; a response to Shipman’s presentation by a cadre of IA PAGE (Publicly Active Graduate Education) Fellows; Erica Kohl-Arenas’ conversation with long-time IA friend and civic engagement leader Harry Boyte and executive director of Alternate ROOTS Carlton Turner; and an inside look at how the 2014 conference was organized by IA associate director Kevin Bott, community organizer Maria Avila, and Emory University faculty member and administrator Vialla Hartfield-Mendez.

We then feature a piece by Marion Wilson on the integration of art as social practice with her teaching, followed by a conversation with McArthur winning artist Rick Lowe.

A broad range of case studies provide examples of integrating culture and organizing: “Public Life through a Prison/University Partnership,” by David Coogan; “ART CART: Saving the Legacy” by Joan Jeffri; “Lost Stories and Cultural Patrimony” by Pat Steenland; “Citizen Stories: A New Path to Cultural Change “ by Alexander Olson, Elizabeth Gish, and Terry Shoemaker; and “Reimagine A Lot” by Claudia Paraschiv. The issue ends with Ben Fink’s review of Harry Boyte’s Democracy’s Education.

Access the journal at public.imaginingamerica.org. Enjoy!

We Stand With Baltimore

We, at Imagining America, stand with those in Baltimore calling for restorative action and equity. A current Imagining America Publicly Active Graduate Education (PAGE) Fellow and resident of Baltimore, Enger Muteteke, writes “Baltimore is about all of us.”

The death of Freddie Gray is dually emblematic of larger systemic problems, and also represents the precious value of individual lives. We see the ways violence and brutality, which have affected brown and black bodies from Ferguson to Sanford to Baltimore, challenge those of us in higher education who would like to do better in terms of our contributions to societal issues, to take up the deep work of building relationships and power to address and sustain change.

We look to reflections on #BaltimoreUprising by our partners; they are educators, students, artists, designers, and humanists concerned with esteeming and promulgating values of justice, empathy, and community.

  • UMBC students, faculty, staff and alumni share perspectives on #BaltimoreUprising as part of the UMBC Breaking Ground blog. “This is about all of us; about our country, not just about Baltimore. What we see in our city is what we see in our country. When we think about inequality, when we think about questions of justice, these are issues that we face in our nation. And the role of the university is to teach people to think critically about the challenges that human beings face.” -Freeman Hrabowski, President, UMBC
  • AlternateROOTS Executive Director Carlton Turner writes “In Solidarity with Baltimore” and ROOTS member, visual artist, and Baltimore resident Ashley Minner shares LOVEbaltiMORE. “Alternate ROOTS stands in solidarity with the organizers, artists, and everyday people that are walking tall in their dignity and determining their own self worth. We value your lives and will work alongside you to support the work that needs to be done to build stronger together.” -Carlton Turner
  • #PAGE2Ferguson, a blog salon by Imagining America’s PAGE Fellows, features articles, poetry, and prose as a means of conjoining multiple perspectives and processing the #blacklivesmatter movement, together. “Baltimore City is about all of us – every ounce of power and privilege we have misused, every time we witnessed daily microagressions done to ourselves or another and said nothing, every time we are tempted to take up space in this Earth without speaking hope and peace into the life of another.” – Enger Muteteke, PAGE 2014-2015 Fellow

We invite you share your reflections by considering the following questions sending responses to Imagining America at connect@imaginingamerica.org.

  • What is the role of of higher education in the #blacklivesmatter movement?
  • How are you as an artist or scholar responding to #blacklivesmatter?
  • How can higher education continue to foster dialogue around these issues?

Imagining America is collaborating with UMBC and MICA: Maryland Institute College of Art to hold our annual national conference in Baltimore, October 1-3, 2015 around the theme, America Will Be! The Art and Power of “Weaving Our We.” In advance of the conference, we are hosting our 3rd annual IA organizing institute, June 12-14, 2015, where we will create a space to share stories and have important conversations around ways to organize around justice and utilize the arts, humanities, and design to provide civic agency. Click here to learn more.

Baltimore City is about all of us

Enger A. MutetekeBy Enger Muteteke, PAGE 2014-2015 Fellow

The cameras have gone. I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to do. I am aware, though, that I must do something. My heart is pained right now as I live and pastor 10 miles outside of Baltimore City. Peaceful protests had been happening in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray prior to the riots that occurred. Yet, it was the “revolution” that was televised. And yet still, in my consciousness, I hear the echoes of familiar names. Eric Garner. Trayvon Martin. Rekia Boyd. Walter Scott. Michael Brown. Countless others. Then, there is another word for which I am thankful and to which I am holding onto for dear life. Intersectionality.

It is not just the deaths of brown and black bodies by police officers that had people throwing rocks and bottles out of both hands. It is not just the policing of low-income and poor communities of color that had people throwing rocks and bottles out of both hands. It is not just historic and present systemic avarice and inequality, of all races holding power, position and privilege, that had people throwing rocks and bottles out of both hands. It is not just joblessness and lack of resources and opportunities in poor communities that had people throwing rocks and bottles out of both hands. It is not just the racialized environmental history of redlining, unfair housing practices, mass incarceration, and families of color repeatedly displaced to build highways, schools, and housing that had people throwing rocks and bottles out of both hands. It is all these things coalescing together pressing in on these families destroying their homes, communities and, yes, lives. The creation of “reform” laws and policies by state and congressional representatives – of all races – sanctioning the militarization of the police only adds fuel to an already blazing fire throughout Baltimore City and this country. And then, there is my own privilege. Yes, you did read that sentence correctly. My. Own. Privilege. I may be an African American woman, but I am one with some privilege. I was privileged to be raised in a middle class household with two loving, college educated parents. I was privileged to have support through my awkward teenage and young adult years. I was privileged to belong to a community who loved me as their own child and poured hope into me. I was privileged to graduate from college. I am privileged to have the means to attain graduate level education. The harder truth, though, is that even with some privilege, the systemic and institutional racism, classism, sexism, ableism, and heterosexism still abound operating in cruel and insidious ways pressing in on all of us, and, ultimately, killing the most marginalized and oppressed groups. Baltimore City ceased to be about Freddie Gray’s death the second brown and black residents took to the streets chanting “no justice, no peace.” Baltimore City is about all of us – every ounce of power and privilege we have misused, every time we witnessed daily microagressions done to ourselves or another and said nothing, every time we are tempted to take up space in this Earth without speaking hope and peace into the life of another. Baltimore City is an indictment against us all.

Last week, I reflected and prayed about just how to discuss and teach about the protests and riots in Baltimore City with my congregation, with my children, and, quite frankly, with myself. I remembered a conversation with my oldest daughter. I asked her opinion on the happenings in Baltimore City. She said, “Oh, you want to know my opinion, Mom? I am happy and sad. I am happy because, since the protests and riots, people have come together to help people in Baltimore City. But, I am also sad because the help should have been there before all this.” These words from my nine year old have remained with me and challenged me. The help should have been there before all this. So, what can we do? We can begin right where we are. We can begin by pouring divine grace, divine love, and divine justice into the life of another – those who are hurting, marginalized and discounted – in all the ways we have been gifted. Listen actively to their stories. Reflect on these stories and connect with them. Then, dare to serve fearlessly, love recklessly, and speak boldly in spaces where people know no hope, know no justice, and know no peace.

Looking for a Way beyond Distraction

lautry2By La Tanya S. Autry, PAGE Co-director

My mind and heart has been heavy these days- now Baltimore. Watching the events that lead to the uprising and the media representations of the protestors is immobilizing. But actually I’ve been in this state for some time. Since mid-February I’ve started and stopped writing about racism, denial, and state-sanctioned violence many times. I’ve considered various formats; but nothing seemed right or enough. An incident at a #BlackLivesMatter art history teach-in that I led entitled “Dismantling Anti-Black Racism in Visual Culture” sparked this standstill. After about 40 minutes of our 60 minute session, a young woman told me that racism doesn’t exist. Her comment stunned me. A series of thoughts flooded my mind: Was she in some way making an argument that race doesn’t exist, yet has social realities? Why is she here at a session that includes the word racism in the title? Is she here to disrupt? Is she just ignorant? What’s happening?

The session attendee, who acknowledged that at 22 years of age she was probably the youngest person in the room, conceded that racism may have been an issue in the past. However, according to her, it is no longer a problem. Instead Ferguson was about class and gender. She found my mention of the beating of Rodney King in 1991 irrelevant. That was in the past. Despite the title of the session, she asked why we weren’t addressing the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris. At the time I countered her position with questions and tried to listen respectfully to her responses. While I didn’t agree with her, I sought to find some value in the interchange. There are probably many other people who feel as she does. Even so, after a short time I quickly moved on to emphasizing the importance of addressing the institutionalization of racism. I didn’t want to waste the remaining time trying to prove that racism exists. That wasn’t the objective of the workshop and we had such a small amount of time to do critical work.

Detail of fountain at National Center of Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta, Georgia, July 2014. Photo by author.

Detail of fountain at National Center of Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta, Georgia, July 2014. Photo by author.

This crack in the session remains with me. It compels me to think hard about best ways to discuss and teach this tough topic. It also pushes me to reassess racism. I believe I rightly focused on institutionalization. Yet I realize that I had made certain assumptions about the knowledge and perspectives of the participants. In one 60 minute session it’s difficult to complete a thorough analysis of people’s viewpoints on such a complex issue. But I think I should have included some an exercise or discussion about race and racism. The difficulty is something to highlight, not ignore.

About a month later, differing interpretations of racism hit me once again. While participating in the March 18th #museumsrespondtoferguson TweetChat, a monthly online discussion on Twitter that addresses the role of race in museum settings, I made a differentiation about the source of racism. I identified some racism as stemming from ignorance. One of the chat participants gently pushed back at that comment as she noted that she typically thinks all racism stems from ignorance. I emphasized that racism often involves hate. At this point in the forum, I didn’t think it was appropriate to detail how my studies of lynching violence in the U.S. have informed my understanding of racism. After a few remarks I left this issue. But the moment froze in my mind. Once again, toward the tail end of a discussion, I became aware of the lack of communication between group members about a key aspect of an activity.

Recently I’ve come across a couple of incisive statements that are helping me bridge these fissures. Imani Perry’s words ring true to me: “Racism is not ignorance, it is the most sophisticated, slippery, elusive ideology since the creation of gender.”* This position, also restricted to the 140 character limit of Twitter, is far more definitive than my brief reference to hate. Perry recenters my attention to the dangerous character of this belief structure; it’s often invisible. Also Toni Morrison classifies racism as a form of ideology as she indicates how it drains vitality from oppressed people who become entrenched in the impossible task of disproving it to the oppressor.

The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language, so your spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly, so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of that is necessary. There will always be one more thing. – Toni Morrison, “A Humanist View,” 1975 speech at Portland State University

By reading the entire speech, it’s apparent that she finds racism a deceptive strategy that people use to maintain or seize economic control. Unlike the claim that racism doesn’t exist, Morrison recognizes it while also locating it as implicated in a larger sociopolitical problem. She urges people to shun reacting to racism: “Where the mind dwells on changing the minds of racists is a very dank place.” I understand the sentiment. However, at this juncture I’m unsure how to reconcile it with anti-racism pedagogy and activism. I could interpret this stage as an impasse. But there’s movement here. The words of Perry and Morrison encourage me to learn more about racism and anti-racism methods. They also charge me to review my activist work as an educator, museum curator, and citizen. This process is helping me get beyond the numbing effect. Though I’ve saved the quotes on my computer, I may emblazon them across my door to remind myself of the fortitude and vigilance needed to tackle distraction so I can do my work- increase my understanding of the human condition and contribute to the betterment of society.

* Imani Perry, @imaniperry, scholar of law, culture, and race (March 29, 2015 tweet on Twitter)

Call for 2015-16 JGS Photo Fellows

(L to R) Abel Hernandez, David Flores, Cheyenne Harvey, Jocelyn Ramirez, Amanda Breitbach, Stephanie McKee, and Juliana Stricklen at the 2014 IA National Conference in Atlanta.


Thanks to a generous grant from the Joy of Giving Something Foundation (JGS), Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life invites publicly engaged students of photography or digital media from our member institutions to apply for a tuition award and to join a national working group of students. Imagining America is a national network of publicly engaged scholars, artists, designers, students, and community members working toward the democratic transformation of higher education and civic life. The goal of the IA/JGS Fellows Program is to elevate photography and digital media as a pathway for students to pursue their careers and make a difference in their communities.

Criteria includes:

  • Financial need
  • Artistic merit
  • Quality of community-engaged practice (for example, students with demonstrated leadership facilitating community-based photo or media arts experiences with people unlikely to otherwise have access to art-making)

To be considered, we ask the student to contribute three work samples and write an essay (please see prompt below), and to have a faculty or staff member email a letter of recommendation with information about the student’s financial need to connect@imaginingamerica.org. The submission deadline is June 1Only one award will be given per school.

The 2015-16 IA/JGS Fellows will receive tuition scholarships of $2,000 each and will commit to engaging in a yearlong learning exchange that will result in a collaborative media project. Fellows will be invited to participate in the Imagining America National Conference, October 1-3, 2015, in Baltimore, Maryland, and will be eligible for a limited number of travel stipends to attend the conference.

Fellows will be announced in July and the funds will be released shortly thereafter. Checks will be distributed to the institution, and the faculty or staff nominator will be responsible for seeing that the winning student receives the scholarship funds. Please contact Imagining America Communications Director Holly Zahn at hjzahn@syr.edu with questions.

Essay Prompt and Work Samples

A topic of this year’s cohort of IA/JGS Fellows will be the practice of “creative placemaking” to “shape the physical and social character of a neighborhood, town, city, or region around arts and cultural activities. Creative placemaking animates public and private spaces, rejuvenates structures and streetscapes, improves local business viability and public safety, and brings diverse people together to celebrate, inspire, and be inspired.” In “Placemaking and the Politics of Belonging and Dis-belonging,” Roberto Bedoya points to the need to consider how race, class, poverty, and discrimination shape place: Placemaking in city/neighborhood spaces enacts identity and activities that allow personal memories, cultural histories, imagination, and feelings to enliven the sense of ‘belonging’ through human and spatial relationships. … The relationship of Creative Placemaking activities to civic identity must investigate who has and who doesn’t have civil rights. If Creative Placemaking activities support the politics of dis-belonging through acts of gentrification, racism, real estate speculation, all in the name of neighborhood revitalization, then it betrays the democratic ideal of having an equitable and just civil society.”

How does your photography or digital arts promote a sense of belonging in your community? How has a motivation to advance an equitable and just civil society motivated your work? We encourage each student to use the essay and work samples to tell a story about your life, photography and media practice, and aspirations. For example, you might describe an experience you’ve had that impacted your sense of belonging or dis-belonging in community.

Please write your story in less than 500 words and upload 3 work samples (e.g., photographs, videos, digital animation, stills from performances or installations). Be sure to curate your work samples to demonstrate your range of skills in art and community engagement. Fellows will have their multimedia essays published on the Imagining America website.

JGS Application

A webform by Podio – click here to get yours

How Every Museum Can Respond to Ferguson — Part II

greenberg_photoBy Alyssa Greenberg, PAGE 2014-15 Fellow

As museum professionals, our silence about how social inequality manifests in internal museum practices (discussed in Part I to this post) is tantamount to complicity. I have joined forces with a diverse team of museum workers who are passionate about labor equality, diversity, and inclusion in museums to form a coalition called Museum Workers Speak. Together, we have organized an upcoming opportunity for discussion and action: a “rogue session” at the American Alliance of Museums Annual Meeting called “How Do We Turn the Social Justice Lens Inward? A Conversation About Internal Museum Labor Practices.”

Responding to Ferguson can take the form of public programming or exhibitions, but one way every museum can respond to Ferguson is by addressing internal inequalities. In the list below, I highlight several areas in which museums could re-imagine their internal conversations and actions. What these suggestions share in common are efforts to create conditions under which all workers can thrive and in which all workers have a voice.

  • Take a cue from the labor movement. As a member of a labor union, I had a museum job that paid a living wage and provided benefits including a tuition waiver for my graduate education and protections against discrimination. I would love for this kind of position to become the norm, as very few museums (in this country, anyway) have a union that negotiates for benefits and protections for their staff. I am also inspired by the rise of non-union workers’ groups, sometimes known as alt-labor, which function as a grassroots hub for worker-led initiatives. Particularly relevant for museum workers, the Fight for $15 movement of fast-food workers has persuasively debunked the ideology that would deny student and part-time workers a living wage. Alt-labor practices have secured paid sick days for restaurant workers, overtime pay for domestic workers, and health insurance for taxi drivers — and have the potential to secure these important and much-needed benefits for museum workers as well. (1)
  • Commit to transparency and accountability in the workplace. So that workers can have a voice in their own working conditions, we must cultivate a professional environment that is a safe space even for sensitive conversations, in which discussions of wages and working conditions are not taboo. (For example, let’s end the practice of pay secrecy, which opens the door for wage disparities based on gender and race.)
  • Recruit and invest in workers of color. As of 2010, 34% of the population are people of color yet only 20% of museum employees are people of color. (2) I would love for more museums to follow the lead of the St. Louis Art Museum, which has instituted the Romare Bearden Graduate Minority Museum Fellowship, a year-long paid fellowship for minority graduate students or the Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellowship Program which offers curatorial training and professional development at elite museums for diverse undergraduates. Another impressive model is the partnership between the Smart Museum of Art and the Odyssey Project, in which adults living at or below the poverty level in Chicago’s South Side have access to a course of study in the humanities, professional training, and paid work as museum educators. Such recruitment efforts could be bolstered by initiatives to support and retain workers of color at all levels. This list of seven ways to make the museum system a better place for people of color is a great place to start.
  • Redistribute the wealth. Many museum pay structures mimic those of the for-profit world, with a remarkably wide gap between salaries for top-level staff and wages for front-line staff including educators, facilities workers, and security personnel. What if museum administrators followed the lead of Raymond Burse, the interim president of Kentucky State University who took a 25% pay cut in order to raise the wages of his lowest-paid workers?

I belong to a group of emerging museum professionals who chose to pursue work in this field to enact social justice. Growing up as millennials and graduating from college post-recession, we have learned that unpaid internships often don’t lead to jobs and that living-wage entry-level positions are scarce. Though we believe in the museum’s potential for enacting social change, we know firsthand that its existing labor practices work against this potential. So let’s not remain silent, as if that will improve our chances at a museum career, hoping we will be the lucky exceptions. Nor should we accept the current state of museum work as inevitable and incapable of transformation. Let’s make our voices heard — not to tear down the museum as an institution but to strengthen it and ensure its continued relevance.

The events in Ferguson last year sparked heated conversations in the museum community about how larger social problems of injustice based in race and class manifest in museums — both in the content they produce and in the makeup and treatment of their staff. It is up to us to continue this vital discussion and ensure that it leads to real change.

We announced our #MuseumWorkersSpeak rogue session only a week ago, and have already received an outpouring of support and excitement from museum workers at all levels. If you’re in Atlanta on Tuesday, April 28, please join us, and if not, follow the revolution on Twitter at #MuseumWorkersSpeak.

1 Josh Eidelson, “Alt-Labor,” The American Prospect, January 29, 2013, http://prospect.org/article/alt-

2 Betty Farrell and Maria Medvedeva, Demographic Transformation and the Future of Museums (American Alliance of Museums, 2010), 10, 30.

View the BETSY! Photo Contest Submissions on Our Diverse America Identity


Considering the complicated DNA made visible by the mapping of the human genome, students were invited to submit photography about their family’s cultural roots and how they think of their own diverse American identity in terms of race and ethnicity.

This web-based exhibit coincides with the April 9-26 musical production of BETSY!, which tells the story of a Puerto Rican Latin Jazz singer forced to confront family secrets about her Scotch-Irish and Appalachian roots. As folklorist Dr. Maribel Álvarez observes of BETSY!: “The complicated sensuality of being two things at once – of acknowledging with dignity the two places that inhabit you – remains one of the universal challenges of all times.” Student photographers took up the task of representing this dialogue through a range of photographs that capture their own identities, experiences, and histories.

Roadside Theater and Pregones Theater/Puerto Rican Traveling Theater co-created the musical, and the Joy of Giving Something Foundation is generously sponsoring this virtual photography exhibit.

More About the Organizations

The Official Logo-01Imagining America is a consortium of more than 100 colleges and universities across the country advancing publicly engaged arts, humanities, and design.




JGS_logo_compact-copyJoy of Giving Something Foundation has partnered with Imagining America since 2011 to elevate photography and digital media as a pathway for students to pursue their careers and make a difference in their communities.




PrintPregones Theater/ Puerto Rican Traveling Theater is home to a multigenerational network of Latino artists in the South Bronx and Manhattan that have developed more than 80 plays about Latino history, migration, and identity.





Roadside LogoRoadside Theater based at Appalshop in Whitesburg, KY, is one of a handful of professional rural theaters in the U.S. and has created more than 60 plays, including the single largest body of drama about Appalachia.

3rd Annual Cultural Organizing Institute in Baltimore

Baltimore, MD
June 12-14, 2015

Hosted by the MICA Office of Community Engagement and MICA PLACE
in partnership with UMBC and Alternate ROOTS

The 2015 Imagining America Cultural Organizing Institute offers institutional and organizational teams from around the country the unique opportunity to explore broad based and cultural organizing praxis as a vehicle for achieving large-scale transformational goals. The 2.5-day institute will focus on three initiatives that have used different organizing strategies in their efforts to develop the relationships and build the infrastructure needed for long term culture change – on their campuses and in their communities.

Through storytelling, performance, discussion, and other workshop activities, participants will learn about each project in depth and then, in the style of a charrette, engage project leaders and one another to understand the many complex challenges of each effort. Participant teams will then be led through a process intended to help translate what they’ve learned into their own institutional, organizational, or community context. Teams will share their ideas with the group, receive feedback, and begin to articulate a strategy for moving forward with their work.

The 2015 Imagining America Organizing Institute is open to teams of at least 3 people from IA member institutions, other higher education institutions, or community organizations. Teams that include people from across sectors is encouraged.

Learning and Action Objectives

  • Learn different organizing models, philosophies, traditions, and literatures
  •  Learn and rehearse specific broad-based and cultural organizing practices
  • Learn and experience collaborative art making processes that deepen understanding of a topic of common concern.
  • Reflect on and strategize about using cultural organizing in participants’ campus, community, and cross-sectoral efforts.

Leadership Teams

Imagining America (IA) is a national consortium of publicly engaged artists, designers, scholars, and community activists working toward the democratic transformation of higher education and civic life. The members of IA create democratic spaces to foster and advance publicly engaged scholarship that draws on arts, humanities, and design. Our members catalyze change in campus practices, structures, and policies that enables artists and scholars to thrive and contribute to community action and revitalization.

The MICA Office of Community Engagement is the center of MICA’s engagement initiatives. Their four major programs are: the Community-Based Learning program, the Baltimore Art + Justice Project, the Community Art Collaborative, and the Community-Engaged Grants program.

MICA PLACE, where the institute will take place, is a hub of engagement in East Baltimore that prepares students for civic-minded careers in action-oriented community arts and social design work. It supports community development, revitalization, and health and well-being in East Baltimore and beyond through community/college engagement, educational programs, and the development, documentation and dissemination of new knowledge and resources. MICA Place is one of the three initiatives participants will learn about at the organizing institute.

Alternate ROOTS is a group of artists and cultural organizers based in the Southern U.S., creating a better world together. Alternate ROOTS supports the creation and presentation of original art that is rooted in community, place, tradition or spirit. The organization’s 2011 partnership with Baltimore-based CultureWorks, and residents of West Baltimore, led to ROOTS Fest, a massive festival responding to the 1.4 mile “Highway to Nowhere,” and celebrating the cultural heritage of West Baltimore. The festival attracted over 11,000 people. ROOTS Fest is one of the three initiatives participants will learn about at the organizing institute.

UMBC’s BreakingGround, developed collaboratively by a wide range of campus partners, is a platform for making visible UMBC significant commitment to campus and community engagement, celebrating UMBC’s innovators and change agents, and inviting everyone in the UMBC community to get involved in this movement. Through courses, community events, and forums for sharing and deliberation, BreakingGround helps to bring people together and facilitates everyone’s creative contributions to the common good. BreakingGround is one of the three initiatives participants will learn about at the organizing institute.

Cost and Time Commitment

IA Consortium Member Team (Team of 3)………………………………………………….. $450.00
    Each Additional Team Member $100.00
Non-Member Higher-Ed. Affiliated Team (Team of 3)…………………………………… $525.00
    Each Additional Team Member $100.00
Community Organization Team (Team of 3)………………………………………………. $225.00
    Each Additional Team Member $  50.00


Travel expenses and hotel accommodations are NOT included in this fee, and must be paid separately by each participant. The institute will begin at 6pm on Friday, June 12; convene from 9am – 5pm on Saturday; and end on Sunday at 3pm. Breakfast and lunch will be provided on Saturday and Sunday.

We invite a wide a range of stakeholders working in or connected to higher education, from all sectors and disciplines. We especially hope to work with community-based and student artists, humanists, and designers with an interest in exploring higher education’s role in a democracy.


A special hotel room block has been reserved for attendees of the 2015 organizing institute, at the Lord Baltimore Hotel in Downtown Baltimore, on the nights of June 12 and June 13, 2015

To reserve a room, call Toll Free Reservations at 855.539.1928. Ask for the Imagining America rate or Group ID “1506IMAGAM.”

You may also go to the hotel website, click on reservations, and enter the group ID “1506IMAGAM.”

Requests for special room arrangements must be made at the time of booking. In order to qualify for the Group Room Rate, attendees must make their reservations by Wednesday, May 13, 2015.

Directions to the hotel can be found here.

How to Apply

P1010480-1Attendance will be limited to a maximum of 45 people. If you are interested in participating please complete the application and brief letter of interest below, no later than Friday, May 22, 2015. One application and letter per team. The letter of interest should explain, in as much detail as possible, how the team feels the institute will benefit the work they are trying to accomplish within their institution, organization, or community.

The planning team will review and respond to all applications.  All questions should be directed to IA Associate Director, Kevin Bott, at kbott@imaginingamerica.org or 315-443-8590.

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