Guest blogger Tisha Crear is the CAP Programs Coordinator for the Office of Cultural Affairs (OCA). This article is an excerpt from OCA’s May/June newsletter, OCAffairs.
One of the most vibrant and intimate aspects of the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs’ Community Artists Program (CAP) is its residency programs, in which select artists propose services that are tailored to a specific neighborhood or community, utilize arts education for community development, and have positive and sustainable outcomes. This summer, CAP will offer two unique and educational neighborhood residency programs in Dallas.
The Conversational Quilts Project, led by Alicia Holmes-Busby, is bridging generational gaps in one West Dallas neighborhood. A group of seniors has been working on this project with Holmes-Busby since January, and now 16 students have joined the project to interview the group of elders and to assist in documenting stories about their lives. Doing so not only exposes the students to documentary technology and techniques, but more importantly creates human bonds between program participants.
“[The elders] told of their favorite songs growing up and of their dearest friends, whom they’ve known longer than most of us have been alive,” Holmes-Busby says. “I’ve found that this experience reaffirmed something vanishing ever so quietly in our neighborhoods: the opportunity for communion and communication between child and elder.”
With the information learned and experiences gathered, the students and elders will create a Conversational Quilt. The students will help in creating this “quilt” that binds together the snapshots of life and culture that seem so different and so long ago. The “quilt” will be on exhibit at The Hamptons at Lake West Housing Community at the end of this summer and will include the form of a book, as well as video and audio samples.
Working with some of the same mediums of technology and journalism, Dave Herman of Preservation Link, Inc. will lead middle school students through the Youth Media Leadership Club. Preservation Link has spent a decade providing programs that utilize literacy, art and technology as tools to address social issues. This year’s program, funded by CAP and in collaboration with Project Still I Rise, will continue in this great vein. Project Still I Rise is a youth development agency headed by Executive Director Kevin Mondy, with a deep commitment to serving at-risk youth and families. Based out of Eban Village in South Dallas, Project Still I Rise will bring a group of boys to work for eight weeks with Preservation Link’s program. The Youth Media Leadership Club focuses on developing leadership skills, team work and self esteem. The students explore paths to success by interviewing community leaders and documenting their stories of building a career. The students will build three-minute videos of the elders that they interview. The students are also challenged with the task of how to archive and share this information with their peers, in an effort to inspire future career options for each other.
“I feel as though the important aspect of this summer, working with middle school students in particular, is that these students will have learned to create media,” Herman says. ” What I’m talking about is from an idea; what it sounds like, looks like, and what it means, and being able to share that work with their peers throughout the year.”
As an added incentive, students will receive continuing education credits at El Centro College.
The Conversational Quilts Project and Youth Media Leadership Club are just two examples of how CAP exemplifies the attributes of artists building community. In 2010, CAP will fulfill its mission of providing the citizens of Dallas with cultural performances, workshops and residencies by conducting over 100 of these cultural events in all 12 City Council Districts and reaching tens of thousands of citizens of all ages. The City of Dallas is distinctive in the nation for programs such as the Community Artists Program, supplying arts education funding directly to local artists who teach and perform in their own neighborhoods. This type of leadership and service promotes constructive community development through the joy and sustainability of arts and cultural projects.
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