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America Will Be!
The Art and Power of “Weaving Our We”
Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life
2015 National Conference
September 30 – October 3, 2015
Hosted by UMBC
O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet …
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be! …
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green state—
And make America again!
(excerpted from “Let America be
WE learn this ritual, this flirtatious dance
of catching spirits, collecting people
Adding them over and over to our WE.
And WE grow better and better at this graceful
effort, The new ones pull us, push, shape us,
helping define us.
This scares us, but also propels us, find our
center, test our bonds of connection…..
…Intentional, like a patient weaver, WE hold
the common thread while adding color, pattern
to loop together in the making of our unique
design for life.
Oh but WE are not always careful to make sure
that the design and structure can tolerate
contrast, resistance, unexpected and
compelling sweet distractions.
For these…..these in the end, make our life
more fulfilling, satisfying and……….
worth the living!
Akua (Carol Bebelle)
Excerpted from “Weaving the WE,”
written for our 2014 conference
The members of Imagining America advance a vision of the world in which publicly engaged artists, designers, scholars, and culture workers play critical roles in enacting the promise and ideals of a democratic society. Together, we explore the power of shared identity — of understanding who we are and what we stand for, and therefore, what we are called to do.
The purpose of this conference is to facilitate bold, creative and effective work that enables people to build and sustain the relationships that will link our stories, fulfill the democratic purposes of higher education, and address our collective challenges.
Proposed sessions should be as interactive as possible, and provide opportunities for sharing and co-creating practical and theoretical frameworks that guide our understanding of engaged art, scholarship, and design. Those proposing sessions should note that significant energy and interest within the consortium is focused on:
The Bold Power of Arts, Humanities, and Design
- How, precisely, can and do the arts, humanities, and design impact the quality of life?
- How do we create expansive learning experiences which blend community and cultural work with academic work?
- How can arts, humanities and design — on their own and in relationship with other fields and communities — animate, elevate and extend the power of democratic public work and create the aesthetic disruptions that allow a space for new ways of thinking and being in relationship?
- How can we achieve a productive synthesis between our practices of cultural critique and counternarratives, and other, directly participatory, entrepreneurial and hopeful ways of engaging?
The Power of Story/Narrative
- How can we best tell the stories of our tangible successes in multiple areas of longstanding social challenge?
- How can we best identify and articulate the specific and critical mechanisms of positive change that occur when we engage the arts, humanities and design to improve lives? What is the key research literature support that exists?
- How do we tell our individual “stories of self” and our shared “stories of us” in ways that can transform our institutions into publicly engaged institutions and advance our work?
- How we invite multiple stories and ways of knowing, and develop new kinds of relationships that advance a counter narrative of higher education as a space for risk-taking and transformation on campus and beyond?
- How do we craft stories that are at once urgent and hopeful — that inspire people out of apathy, cynicism, and inertia, and toward a vision of the world “as it should be”?
Institutional and Community Transformation
- How do we envision and manifest democratically transformed institutions, communities, and relationships?
- How do we highlight and deepen understanding of emerging campus practices of democratic engagement and co-creation, changing policies and structures, and developing cultures of collaboration across disciplines and roles?
- How do we develop creative, effective, and inclusive collective action in a society where vast gulfs exist between the lived realities of different racial, religious, and socioeconomic groups? How do we attend to the urgency of our work in ways that are ethical, collaborative, democratic and fully inclusive?
The conference planners envision our time in Baltimore as an opportunity to move beyond our individual comfort zones and to expand our circles of relationships and our ways of knowing and doing as we attend to the urgent task of transforming the culture of higher education in ways that are relational, inclusive, democratic, and just.
The submission platform is open as of March 2, 2015.
The deadline to submit proposals is April 3, 2015.