Here’s an interesting initiative from the US Department of Arts and Culture (USDAC). We love ‘imaginings’ – a combination of community, culture and creative thinking. It’s a really refreshing take on public consultation and grassroots activism, all with a future focus. They’ve even produced a free guide to creating your own arts-based community dialogue.
What are Imaginings? Where did they come from?
From 2014-2016, the USDAC worked with three cohorts of volunteer Cultural Agents, each forming a learning community to support their local cultural organising. Each Cultural Agent hosted a a public gathering using arts-based methods to envision their communities’ futures. Part performance, part facilitated dialogue, part celebration, these gatherings brought together groups of artists, organisers, and other community members to imagine what their neighbourhoods (and the world) might look like in 20 years, when art’s transformative power has been fully integrated into all aspects of public life. Community members were invited not only to dream together but to catalyse collaborations to help make their dreams real.
Naturally, we called them Imaginings.
After supporting three rounds of Cultural Agents and Imaginings, we’ve learned enough about Imaginings frameworks, techniques, and approaches to give you, Citizen Artists, all you need to do it yourself.
We wanted to invite people into a space of social imagination very different from conventional planning processes such as public hearings where everyone lines up for hours to get two minutes at the microphone to address decision-makers who may not even be listening; polls and charrettes and focus groups designed with specific outcomes in mind, making it hard to find space for what really matters in people’s lived experience. We knew Imaginings would have to give true value to first-person experience rather than privileging credentialed expertise. They would have to be flexible, with tools that people could adapt to their own needs and use in their own ways. And the art part couldn’t be an afterthought: Imaginings had to give equal value to creativity and imagination as to the desire to communicate, understand, and collaborate.