The National Exchange on Art & Civic Dialogue was brought to fruition October 9-12, 2003 in Flint, Michigan. Animating Democracy, has always seen its place as part of a continuum of work, a rich history, and simultaneously learning from as well as contributing to both arts and civic discourse. So this conference intended to look forward as well as back at the work of its first four years. Many pioneering artists, cultural leaders, activists, and, dialogue professionals joined us to share the roots of this work as well as their current work. Many young artists joined us as well. Both these veterans and new voices helped to challenge, deepen, and advance the discourse. By all reports, the meeting succeeded in leading participating artists, cultural organizers, community and civic leaders, dialogue practitioners, and scholars, individually and collectively, to some motivating ideas and actions. A full account of the event by Linda Burnham has been posted on the Community Arts Network.
We were extremely honored to welcome Grace Lee Boggs as our featured presenter. She was an inspiration for all throughout the conference. Her sixty years of political involvement encompass the major U.S. social movements of this past century: Labor, Civil Rights, Black Power, Asian American, Women's and Environmental Justice. In Detroit, she and her late husband, auto worker, labor activist, and writer James Boggs, forged social action and cultural interest to found Detroit Summer and the Boggs Center. Through their efforts, they have brought generations together, reclaimed city spaces, and enabled the creative and political voices of Detroit to be heard. To view her plenary speech, These are the times that try our souls, and the groupspeak piece, Answering the Call of the Drums presented by Alice Lovelace on the final day of the Exchange, visit Deepening the Discourse.
Flint, Michigan has faced many civic, social, and economic challenges. But, the city is taking its future seriously, “creating a new story,” and multiple movements are afoot to foster community change. Arts and culture are active players and leaders in these community transformation efforts.
The Flint-based Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Ruth Mott Foundation, and Community Foundation of Greater Flint embraced the National Exchange as an opportunity to reflect upon their own efforts in a national context as well as to highlight them. Through their generous support to of the Exchange, Animating Democracy worked to link artists, dialogue practitioners, and cultural leaders attending the Exchange with Flint cultural planning, race relations, and other civic and cultural activity. These focused in-the-community exchanges happened before, during and after the conference. Many Flint civic, cultural, education, and philanthropic leaders who engage at the crossroads of art and civic life joined the conference as active participants throughout the National Exchange.
During the Exchange multiple sessions were offered concurrently in addition to plenary sessions and special evening events. Participants chose between case study, issues, practice, art focus, or perspectives sessions or used the Animating Democracy Café and the Video Space for informal and impromptu sessions. Notes from selected sessions are available here.
Americans for the Arts presented the National Exchange on Art and Civic Dialogue, with support from the Ford Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Ruth Mott Foundation, and the Community Foundation of Greater Flint.