Field Notes

Program Report: Greensboro Project Space

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A Little Less Art

Today, the team at Greensboro Project Space (GPS) sat around our reception desk researching the logistics of breaking a Guinness world record. Let’s back up a second. Greensboro, NC is a small town. As a curator from big cities, my perception of public programs had to switch to not only what kinds of experiences to make for the public, but how I can build into them a mechanism to attract the public. The usual social practice and curatorial tools I use just weren’t enough.

Typically the goal was to create projects that are engaging, and offer new experiences that break through the monotony of the everyday. I say engaging often enough that sometimes I need to stop and examine what it means to me. Engaging for me means a sort of mental or physical investment in a project. It could be a good investment (good engagement) or bad investment (bad engagement) but nevertheless, an investment (engagement). This means that the public can participate in the project, or be responsible for creating the project of their own volition. At a base level, this is still my primary methodology, but the thing that is missing only revealed itself as I tried to fit the same projects into a different context. I can easily generate engaging scenarios, but how do I convince people that they need it?

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The thing that has struck me the most is that considering the rallying of individuals for a project, greatly effects the project itself. I’ve found that this new element brings in a necessity that is sometimes overlooked. I make work for people, and I often take for granted that people are sitting around waiting for me to bring them something to digest. Our big idea is to not only create experiences designed for people, but to make projects that act as a resource. This resource doesn’t only act as way to bring people into the space, but can be a creative apparatus to construct new and exciting projects. It could be simple. In our latest exhibition about incarceration, we handed out free honeybuns to anyone who came into the space. Honeybuns act as a form of currency in contemporary prisons and jails. Not only do we have a great conversation starter to expound the important data regarding the politics of incarceration, but we can feed people in our neighborhood who are hungry.

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The Guinness Book of World Records investigation came from sitting around a reception desk with my team, acting as a think-tank trying to solve simple problems with big and creative ideas. The easy question we asked, is how do we get a huge amount of people to come into our space? The more nuanced form of the question is, how do we convince people that they belong in a space like this? We have found that the answer is to become a resource that stems from the specific needs of a community. Surprisingly, the resources that I have used to bring people in are not art most of the time. This isn’t intentional, but comes about through a realistic purvey of the needs of the people in Greensboro. Art can do a lot, but compared to the spectrums of wants and needs it seems to fall low on the list. I’d say, about 10% percent of people in Greensboro enter into art spaces (this data may or may not be sarcastic). Because we are an art space that focuses on social engagement, collaboration, and participation, this is an alarming realization. More and more we think that fitting into the categorization of ‘art’ is the corrupter that is making us work against our interests. Our goal now is to not figure out how to be different from a gallery, but how to remake ourselves continuously for the different needs of our communities.

Through breaking a Guinness record, we can turn GPS into a kitchen that is baking the world’s largest apple pie, a zoo that is inhabited by the most amount of people holding a ball python with one hand, a greenhouse where the biggest amount of people simultaneously work on a bonsai tree, and a variety of different spaces that acts as an exercise in impermanence. The next time we sit around the reception desk brainstorming the intricacies of community engagement, our first hurdle will be to achieve the unthinkable; purging the perception of GPS as a space to view art. Only then, can we be free to become whatever is necessary, and needed.

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Program Report: Centre for Arts and Social Practice (CASP), India

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Photo: Derdh Guna Derdh / Community art project with rural migrants at Shankar Camp, New Delhi, 2015

The topic of sustainability has attracted much interest in recent times in the context of development discourses and policies. However, environmental, economic, and social sustainability has been discussed more than the cultural dimensions of sustainability where arts and aesthetics play a major role. Scholars now suggest that culture should be a core aspect of sustainable development and cultural producers and art institutions can embody values to create intergenerational equity and ethical perspectives of living in our world. While the term ‘culture’ is often debated, it must be understood as a ‘whole way of life’ and cultural strategies as modules for long-term sustainability of diverse communities, worldviews and practices.

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Photo: Conversations Series | Public talk by the artist, Navjot Altaf, Pune, 2016

The idea of art as a ‘collaborative endeavor’ is embedded in its capacity to inculcate socially significant values of creativity, empathy and connections between humans, both tangible and intangible. Such collaboration and participation involves working with people from diverse backgrounds and fields beyond the elitist matrix of the art gallery or museum. Embedding cultural strategies within social contexts call for dialogues with citizens and communities and employing art as an agency of collective imagination. This also means research based modules to develop learning methodologies on sustainable thinking and practices essential for our contemporary world.

It is within these conceptual and contextual parameters that the Centre for Arts and Social Practice (CASP – India) was established in 2013. CASP is a transdisciplinary platform for national and international artists, writers, architects, social scientists and design engineers to facilitate critical dialogues on cultural sustainability. It aims to integrate research and practice through meaningful community initiatives and collaborative projects, fostering a relational engagement at both individual and institutional levels.

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Photo: Community mural painting with art college students at Shukratal, Uttar Pradesh, India.

As a young organization, CASP supports research based artistic projects and community initiatives. It encourages collaborations between individual, institutions and communities. CASP generates dialogues around the rural-urban binaries to address the issues of habitat fragmentation, displacement and cultural degeneration due to urbanization.

A non-profit initiative, it works through four chapters in Navi Mumbai, Kolkata, Pune and New Delhi (India). Since its inception, CASP has facilitated around 25 programs/projects (workshops, conversations, community art initiatives, public art projects and social actions) with children, students, women, teachers, migrant communities, artists, filmmakers and socially engaged practitioners. It has generated dialogues in home-studios and public spaces, informal neighborhoods and a research centre, including an ongoing partnership with a local experimental art space.


Completed since 2013 | 4 chapters

  • 8 Conversations Series | Kolkata and Pune
  • 12 workshops  | Navi Mumbai, Pune, and New Delhi
  • 3 community art projects | Pune, Kolkata and New Delhi
  • 2 public art installations/exhibition | Residency (Kushtia -Bangladesh) and Pune Biennale – India
  • Citizen Design Lab | Urban terrace garden project (ongoing) – Navi Mumbai, India.
  • 1 international collaborative project | Social Sculpture Research Unit (SSRU), Oxford Brookes University, UK.
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Linear Extension | Workshop at New City Limits Collective, Belapur, Navi Mumbai, India, 2013

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Workshop at Basti Vikas Kendra with children from urban village at Begumpur, Delhi, India, 2015.

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Workshop at Basti Vikas Kendra with children from urban village at Begumpur, Delhi, India, 2015.

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Workshop with Teachers from Zila Parishad schools (District schools) in Maharashtra, 2016.

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Workshop with students from Municipal Corporation School in Pune, India, 2015.

Program Report

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Program Report is a correspondence project that collects information and reflections on creating and sustaining spaces with a socially engaged focus. The project consists of monthly posts from a variety of spaces around the world that include meeting notes, artist interviews, reflections, project updates, and photograph. The project will take place over the course of 12 months, and include 4-6 spaces with different models but a shared interest or emphasis on socially engaged art. The goal is to foster dialogue and critical reflection on these efforts in a public format, and to build a written account of the challenges and considerations involved in creating alternative models for artists to work within.

Participating in the project are:

Greensboro Project Space is an art space created by the School of Art at the University of North Carolina Greensboro. One of the inspirations for Program Report was the GPS Correspondent project, that invited artists from around the world to become local correspondents for the space, reporting back on their activities and observations from the communities they are a part of. GPS produces a prolific number of projects and exhibitions, and has a specific focus on ‘creative, dynamic, and collaborative public programming.

Front/Space is a storefront project space in Kansas City that intends to ‘demonstrate the power of friendship, passion, ambition, and the beauty of living and working together through radical and interdisciplinary practices.’ Since 2010, Front/Space has been supporting artists from a wide range of disciplines, producing pop-up shops, alternative museums, and even a camera obscura. In addition Front/Space hosts a wide range of public programming from workshops to readings to lectures and more.

Centre for Art and Social Practice (CASP) is a collective of groups based in multiple cities in India that produce collaborative and socially engaged projects. Their focus is on ecology, society and culture, through transdisciplinary research, dialogic interventions, public lectures and workshops. In addition, member produce individual and collaborative projects throughout India.

We are excited for posts to start coming in in the first week of February. Check back then to learn more, and to read introductions from some of the participants.

PSST: Kirk Rea

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Artist and activist, Kirk Rea talks about his work with The City Repair Project, a Portland-based non-profit dedicated to artistic placemaking.

The full conversation can be heard here.

Each week, students in the PSU Art and Social Practice Program invite members of the community into the classroom for a public conversation. The topics discussed vary widely, ranging from ecology, to urban planning, to activism, to just about anything.

PSST: Wendy Willis

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Wendy Willis, founder and director of Oregon’s Kitchen Table, poet and essayist, talks about her various roles as a public practitioner, the relationship between artist and political organizer, and the ways in which artists can serve the community through participatory projects.

The full conversation can be heard here.

Each week, students in the PSU Art and Social Practice Program invite members of the community into the classroom for a public conversation. The topics discussed vary widely, ranging from ecology, to urban planning, to activism, to just about anything.

PSST: Linda K. Johnson

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Artist Linda K. Johnson talks with the program about some of here site-specific, socially engaged projects, as well as the changing art landscape in Portland, Oregon. Image from “TAXLOT #1S1E4ODD” a temporary urban garden the artist constructed from 2000-2001.

You can listen to the conversation here.

Each week, students in the PSU Art and Social Practice Program invite members of the community into the classroom for a public conversation. The topics discussed vary widely, ranging from ecology, to urban planning, to activism, to just about anything.

PSST: Sue Palmer

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Artist Sue Palmer asks the group about their relationship to parks and public space. The conversation goes back and forth between her work here in the US, and the work of students in the program.

You can listen to the conversation here.

Each week, students in the PSU Art and Social Practice Program invite members of the community into the classroom for a public conversation. The topics discussed vary widely, ranging from ecology, to urban planning, to activism, to just about anything.

PSST: Taryn Tomasello

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Artist and curator Taryn Tomasello discusses her recent self-declared residency at Ross Island in the Willamette River as well as other curatorial and artistic projects which occur outside of traditional art spaces.

You can listen to the conversation here.

Each week, students in the PSU Art and Social Practice Program invite members of the community into the classroom for a public conversation. The topics discussed vary widely, ranging from ecology, to urban planning, to activism.