Town Hall Talks (2008)

Town Hall Talk held in New Orleans at the Community Book Center (2008)

Town Hall Talks was a project developed for Creative Time in 2008 as part of the Democracy In America series (organized with Nato Thompson).

The goal of this project was to survey the landscape of socially and politically engaged art across the country, provide a snapshot local art practices that are difficult to see and understand from the outside and offer a comparrison between disparate yet related contexts. It consisted of group interviews conducted with 100 cultural producers in five cities across the country sited in significant hubs of local activity.

The results were published in a web archive and in the book A Guide To Democracy In America (Creative Time Books, 2008) and exhibited as an audio installation at the Park Avenue Armory. Local publications from each city including the Journal of Aesthetics and Protest, The Indypendent Reader, and AREA Chicago all published excerpts from the local interviews.

Five questions were developed to be posed to all participants in order to facilitate comparison and contrast between locally-specific conditions. The questions included:

  • Who are your audiences and how does your work mobilize them toward strategic local concerns?
  • Given that the ways we make money impact the type of culture we produce, how does the local economy effect your art practice? How do you work to obtain and share resources?
  • Describe a local cultural event that productively expanded the social networks that your practice operates within. That is to say, an event that produced a new sense of community that had political potential.
  • As a politically engaged artist or organization, how does your practice relate to existing social movements? 
  • These conversations come out of a nationwide concern for the fate of democracy. How do you see your projects tying into a larger national structure? Is organizing nationally productive? What are its limitations?

Participants included:

[Chicago – at the Experimental Station*] Sara Black, Brett Bloom, Salome Chasnoff, Aquil Charlton, Marianne Fairbanks, Nicole Garneau, Craig Harshaw, David Isaacson, Jennifer Karmin, Sonjanita Moore, Laurie Palmer, Amy Partridge, Mary Patten,Dan Peterman, Jon Pounds,Laurie Jo Reynolds, Elvia Rodriguez Ochoa, travis, Dan S. Wang, Rebecca Zorach

[Los Angeles – at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions] Irina Contreras, Sara Daleiden, Armando Duron, Omar Foglio, Marc Allen Herbst, Robby Herbst, Hugo Hopping, Ashley Hunt, Suzanne Lacy, Sandra de la Loza, Ming Yuen S. Ma, Kelly Martin, Pamela Miller-Macias, Amitis Motevalli, Christina Ulke

[Baltimore – at 2640] Michael Benevento, Scott Berzofsky, Laurie Bezold, John Duda, Gin Ferrara, Ashley Hufnagel, Kevin James, Kate Khatib, Nick Petr, Hugh Pocock, C. Ryan-Patterson, David Sloan, Nicholas Wisniewski, Rebecca Yenawine

[New Orleans – at the Community Book Center] Willie Birch, Kyle Bravo and Jenny LeBlanc, Asali DeVan, Adella Gautier, M. Brady McKellar & Elsa Dimitriadis, Darryl Montana, Brandan Odums, Kathy Randals, Damon Rosenzweig, Mathew Schwarzman, Natalie Sciortino-Rinehart, Nick Slie,Rebecca Snedeker, Elizabeth Underwood, Vera Williams

[New York City – at Not An Alternative gallery] Ayreen Anastas, Maria Juliana Byck, Kevin Caplicki, Stephen Duncombe, Beka Economopoulos, Steven Englander, Jason Jones, Malav Kanuga, Carin Kuoni, Josh MacPhee, Ann Messner, Jeff Stark, Christina Ray, Prerana Reddy, Greg Sholette.

See all transcripts here.

*A more in-depth Chicago version is presented here under the name “5 Questions about Art in Chicago”.

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