2016 Call for Participation

By Imagining America | February 12, 2016

At the Crossroads

16th Annual National Imagining America Conference
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
October 6 – 8, 2016
Pre-conference, October 5

Hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

cross·roads (ˈkrôsˌrōdz/) n. 1. A point at which a crucial decision must be made that will have far-reaching consequences: We are at a crossroads where we must choose between more talk and plain old hard work.

The members of Imagining America advance a vision of the world in which publicly engaged artists, designers, scholars, students and culture workers play critical roles in enacting the promise and ideals of a democratic society. Together, we explore the power of shared identity — of understanding who we are and what we stand for, and therefore, what we are called to do.  

Imagining America’s annual conference is a space where members of the national consortium and their partners come together to learn from one another about how the bold power of the arts, humanities, and design is being leveraged around the country to expand understanding of, and confront, the most pressing challenges of our time. Significantly, most conference conversations and activities are grounded in actual partnerships and work. Most conference sessions are hosted by local leaders and take place at sites within the host city where people are engaged in robust cultural organizing and transformative action.

The energizing metaphor of the 2016 conference is “the crossroads,” the point where crucial decisions must be made, ones that will have far-reaching consequences. Whether with regard to racial and economic justice, public education, climate change, democratic society, or even, in this year of organizational transition, the IA consortium itself, we invite prospective presenters to situate their proposals at this metaphorical crossroads. We seek creative and incisive proposals that will help advance our collective understanding of the challenges we face, the (real or imagined) paths before us, and the implications inherent to our choices and actions.

This year, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, we place our conference sessions themselves at the crossroads – integrating our community and campus-based, local, regional and national expertise into workshops that engage active, local initiatives. We seek to infuse these local initiatives with historical, methodological, evaluative, and pedagogical expertise; to integrate that knowledge on the ground; and to culminate with communal action organic to that initiative. Milwaukee is uniquely positioned to host such conversations given the widespread and deep community/university collaborations — from the arts to social work and criminal justice, humanities to freshwater sciences and public health. These initiatives have fueled and shaped direct responses to Milwaukee’s now infamous statistics: the most segregated city in the country, the highest black male incarceration percentages, staggering poverty & unemployment and the nation’s highest educational achievement gap. Amidst these horrible statistics, there is hope, energy, and steps toward change through partnership.

While all topics resonant with IA’s Vision, Mission, Values, and Goals will be considered, the following thematic areas are of primary interest to the local Milwaukee stakeholders and to the national Imagining America leadership:

  • Racial, Economic, and Environmental Justice (separately or in relationship)
  • Mass Incarceration/Criminalization/Policing
  • Public Education (K thru Post-doc)
  • Urban/Rural Development and Revitalization
  • Higher education policy change/culture change
  • Health and Wellness (broadly considered)

Where possible, proposals should address one or more of following:

  • The historical and theoretical developments informing the work.
  • The methods and methodologies employed within the work.
  • How the specific approaches do or might lead to sustainable change.
  • How this work does or might impact or shape policy.
  • The ways in which the work crosses or acknowledges generational, gendered, racial, class-based, and other identity differences.
  • The unique environment/landscape in which the work occurs.