Being “inside” the practice

Posted in Uncategorized | February 4, 2011 | by emilyharney | Leave a Comment

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Sekou Sundiata’s America Project has had lasting effects throughout every part of MAPP – perhaps most significantly on our ideas of community engagement and the role of the arts in civic dialogue. Above my desk I have a strip of paper taped to the wall that reads, in Sekou’s words, “the intersection of art, imagination, humanities and public engagement” to remind me to think about all of those elements when building programs to support public interaction with artists. One of the ways we’re striving to continue his vision is through something currently called “The America Project Knowledgebase” which we’re building in partnership with the design and research firm Buscada.

The Knowledgebase is meant to support the evolution of The America Project by learning from and connecting practitioners of The America Project methodology through the creation of a web-based resource and a range of publications (from email blasts to a documentary film, for example). Through it we’re looking to understand more how people are using the Teaching Method and how it intersects with their own practice, and then to feed this information back into the world to inspire new practices of collaboration, creativity and citizenship. Again and again and again….

One part of building the Knowledgebase (among many) is in-depth interviews with practitioners we know are already engaged in this work. Yesterday we had a meeting with Buscada to discuss the strategy we’ll employ in these interviews and spent quite a while talking about ways that we can keep the interview “inside” the practice, rather than “about” the practice. How can we set up part of the interview as a simulation of practice to get people out of their heads and thinking in a more indirect way? Maybe it just means walking through a neighborhood while talking? Or dancing while talking? Or for a teacher, being in the classroom where they do their work? If their practice is largely collaborative, does it make sense for the interview to be with multiple people? What does it mean for an arts presenter or someone who runs a community organization?

We’d love to hear your ideas.

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