A Collective Creative Engagement hosted by Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life

July 8, 2020
Submission Deadline: Friday, August 28, 2020
The coronavirus has laid bare long-standing inequities and vulnerabilities in the institutions and systems that shape our lives: our schools and universities, hospitals, housing, jobs, transportation, and the ways in which we access food and other basic needs. It has reminded us of what is essential, and it has called on us to reflect on our interconnectedness.
With COVID-19’s toll of over 500,000 deaths worldwide, 10 million infected, and a global economic depression, we mourn. We undertake the task of healing our individual, community, and collective traumas. As we slowly emerge from shelter-in-place directives, we are called to consider possible futures amidst a resurgence of social protest in the long arc of the Black freedom struggles. In Ancestor, New Orleans poet Sunni Patterson reminds us of our ancestral and community resilience as we traverse these tumultuous times. “You who know the potential of possibility posing in the dark…touch our drums, make us hear the rising, make us move a steady stump, a choir of voices so majestic heaven hides us in a tapestry of light for we are stars.” How might our pasts serve to transform the ways in which we hear, move, and see pathways forward?
If “[t]he pandemic is a portal,” as Indian author Arundhati Roy writes, and we chose to move towards the future divesting ourselves of “our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies,” what might the world we enter into look like? What memorials would we create to reckon with and help us process so much suffering? And how do our communities re-imagine and build an equitable ‘America’?
This year, in place of an in-person IA National Gathering, Imagining America invites creative responses that offer opportunities for community reflection, healing, and the creation of spaces and places for a radical reimagining of the world in which we live. This collective creative engagement will explore questions such as:
● What is the role of art, design, and creative culture in reimagining and rebuilding our world in ways that create antiracist institutions, structures, practices and ways of thinking?
● How can we work towards a post-COVID university that lessens rather than deepens inequality in access, pedagogy, and forms of knowledge production? How might we re-imagine our educational systems, and particularly our colleges and universities, in ways that divest from forms of violence and inequality and invest in cultures and communities of care within institutions and as stakeholders in regions? What are the opportunities and imperatives of our moment?
● What are local communities doing to move towards a more caring, just, and liberatory ‘America’ and world? What are the new and remembered ideas, images, symbols, forms of knowledge, and ways of being that will lead the way?
Formats for Creative Responses
We invite teams of two individuals and larger to collaborate on a creative project in response to the prompts outlined above. Creative responses are welcome in the following formats and modalities:
● Community Memorial Quilt: These responses invite poems, short stories, and other written or visual reflections on individual and community experiences as impacted by COVID-19 that will be woven together in a digital memorial.
● Community Meals: Through one or more community meals, these responses will create space for a facilitated and documented discussion around a community topic, issue, or action related to the theme and questions articulated above. Submitted documentation of the meals, which may take place online or in-person using social distance practices, should include the group’s vision of how their community would look if the selected topic/issue was addressed along with an action agenda. Documentation may be in oral, written, visual, or performative formats.
● Paired Dialogues: This response pairs individuals located in different communities, cities, and regions in a dialogue or short creative project in response to the theme and questions listed above.
We particularly welcome projects and dialogues that envision and open pathways for individuals and communities from diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences to participate in a restructuring of American life.
Participants are requested to document their creative response in a written, visual, or audio-visual format and share them with IA. These responses will be listed on IA’s dedicated event page, with a cross-section of responses featured on IA’s website and Youtube channel in October 2020 as part of curated live streamed and recorded programming. Participants are also invited to share their responses on social media using the #ReImaginingAmerica20.
Live and web-based project sharing will take place in October, with live-streamed opening and closing plenary events. Throughout the month, IA will showcase curated and open call creative responses.
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