Photo provided courtesy of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Archives.

Our Communities: A Symposium on the Arts

Wingspread, Racine, Wisconsin
September 7-9, 2016

Amateur and professional artists transform lives and inspire change in every aspect of American life. We celebrate, experiment, learn, and mourn through the creativity of music, visual art, dance, theatre, film, opera, video games, public art, graphic design, poetry and other ways that American’s express their culture and the human condition. This Symposium celebrated the 50th anniversary of “The Arts in the Small Community: A National Plan” by Robert E. Gard. The vision and spirit of this publication and its author are reflected in the community and neighborhood arts movements of all peoples. A small group of arts leaders from rural and small communities, urban neighborhoods, Native tribes and immigrant populations were invited by the Johnson Foundation, in conjunction with the Gard Foundation, the Wisconsin Arts Board, and the Racine Arts Council to acknowledge the past, understand the present and envision a future where the power of human expression through art defines and transforms our communities.

PURPOSE OF THE GATHERING: The Gard Foundation holds a symposium when the nature of the conversation about the role of community-based arts in America seems to be changing.  In this symposium we ask: What was the evolution of community arts in the United States, the systems that supported that evolution, and the role of community arts today?  Do community arts have a special role to play at this challenging time in our nation’s life?

View the Symposium Agenda here.

ORGANIZATION:  Thirty individuals of different generations and perspectives participated.  There were three presentations on community arts in the past; three on current issues and questions; and a three-way dialogue about questions looming for the future.  Each was followed by discussion among the participants.

For a list of the participants and their affiliations, click here.

SUPPORT and CREDITS:  Thanks to the Johnson Foundation, the Wisconsin Arts Board, and Americans for the Arts for support of the gathering; to the Johnson Foundation for the audio recordings; and to About Face Media for the video recordings.  Additional support came from the Racine Arts Council and Grantmakers for the Arts.


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