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The art of collaborating, organizing, and building power with others.

  • Art & History: A Storyweaver's Narrative of St. Louis / Vynetta Morrow
    A storyweaver's narrative of St. Louis that unearths a shared truth 400 years in the making. Participants will gain a new understanding of the historical and social forces that shape St. Louis, MO in 2016. (Friday: 10:15a-11:15a)

  • Artist on the Frontlines: A Conversation with Artist and Activist Damon Davis / Syrhea Conaway, Damon Davis
    An intimate conversation with Interdisciplinary Artist Damon Davis lead by Artist/Musician Syrhea Conaway about activism, art, race, gender, intersectionality and the art world. The conversation will cover topics like the role of the artist in times of social upheaval, the role of the institutions that are charged with serving communities, the question of art imitating life, and Davis' personal philosphies about life, his work, and how the two work for and against each other. (Friday: 1:00p-2:00p)

  • Building Our Power / Makani Themba
    Q: Can we have CULTURE/SHIFT without communities coming together to create culture that helps make the shift toward liberation? A: No. This session explores creative organizing theory and practice to be adapted to our unique community realities. Bring your stories, your tough issues and your lessons. We are going in. (Friday: 1:00p-2:00p)

  • Creative Community Processes: Exploring Better Block Projects in St. Louis / Dana Gray, Amanda Colon-Smith, Alana Green, Gary Newcomer
    Better Block projects have been spreading as an approach to neighborhood visioning. This practice is a creative community engaged process to envision a new future for neighborhood spaces. This session will focus on examples from St. Louis, how this practice pulls together creative performance and community engagement to gain insight for future development, and what worked and was learned from executing Better Block projects in different neighborhoods. (Fri.: 3:45p - 5:15p)

  • The CRAFT of Community-Based Arts / Mathew Schwarzman
    Artists working in community need a framework for understanding and engagement. This session focuses on one such framework called CRAFT from the graphic textbook "Beginner's Guide to Community-Based Arts" (New Village Press). Led by one of the book's co-authors, activities include a short introductory presentation followed by games, discussions and gossip (i.e. the sharing of best practices). Key concepts and strategies will help practitioners and planners use the arts to build group trust and confidence (Contact), learn about social problems and solutions (Research), act positively and measurably upon the community (Action), build momentum for change through community dialogue (Feedback), and help to document and pass along community knowledge (Teaching). (Fri: 3:00p - 4:30p)
  • Cultivating the Network: Skill-building and Support for People Working at the Intersection of Arts and Community / Bill Cleveland, Regina Martinez, Terry Artis, Liz Pund
    What does it take for somebody to be effective at working at the intersection of arts and community transformation? In this session we will explore the various definitions of this work, the landscape of available training options, and the lasting impacts of sustained training programs such as St. Louis’s own Community Arts Training (CAT) Institute. (Sat: 2:00p - 3:30p)

  • FoodSpark Lunch / De Nichols, Sophie Lipman
    The FoodSpark team will hold space at the Regional Arts Commission at the Saturday Affinity Group lunch to help attendees process, reflect, and continue digesting topics that arose throughout CULTURE/SHIFT. Didn't attend the FoodSpark Dinner on Friday night? No worries! All are welcome. ABOUT FOODSPARK - FoodSpark is a series of monthly, themed, and potluck gatherings that allow individuals to make connections, start conversations, and spark ideas on social topics that matter to them. Learn more about it at

  • Holding Space / Arlene Goldbard 
    No matter what your community work, knowing how to hold space for others in a meeting or retreat is an essential skill. It’s not all about facilitation technique, although techniques are important. This session also brings in psychological, spiritual, and group dynamics elements, exploring the sensitivities needed to facilitate effective group processes (Sat: 1:45p -3:15p)

  • Rapid Response in Performance: Every 28 Hours and After Orlando / Joan Lipkin, Jacqueline Thompson
    Historically, artists are at the forefront of creative art-based responses to on-going social injustice as well as breaking events. Recent events have also spawned several national theatre projects including "Every 28 Hours," a collection of 76 one-minute plays inspired by the shooting of Mike Brown in Ferguson that centers around racial justice, and "After Orlando", a collection of three-minute plays that deal with the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub shootings of the LGBTQIA community in June 2016. St Louis theatre artists Joan Lipkin and Jacqueline Thompson will discuss their involvement with these theatre actions, their efficacy as creating a space for conversation that is both local and national and will share examples. (Sat: 11:00a - 12:15p)   

Creating policies and programs that make cultural democracy real.

  • [FRIDAY PLENARY] Art, Truth, and Healing: Practicing Radical Love / Carlton Turner
    We need radical healing to steer away from the destructive path that has been laid out before us and in our name. That calls on us to practice radical love, love in the service of truth and justice. Come to this CULTURE/SHIFT 2016 plenary to explore what nurturing a culture of love means for artists and allies whose work is central to weaving the fabric of healthy and sustainable community across the U.S. (Friday: 9:00a-10:00a)

  • [SATURDAY PLENARY] Launching The USDAC’s Policy and Action Platform: Standing for Cultural Democracy
    hat will it take to shift from a consumer to a creator culture, from a policy based on privilege to a cultural democracy? The answer has to start with a national conversation, then move on to local, regional, and national experiments in policy change. Our platform is based on thousands of Citizen Artists and allies telling us about the future of creativity and equity they wish to inhabit. Come to this CULTURE/SHIFT 2016 plenary to be inspired and take part in its groundbreaking national launch! (Sat: 9:00a - 10:30a)

  • Cultural Impact Study & Other Cultural Policy Tools You Can Use / Arlene Goldbard 
    What if policy makers had to assess the impact of their interventions on cultural fabric, much as an environmental impact report assesses impact on the natural environment? This session offers background on the USDAC’s Cultural Impact Study initiative as a way to help address the problems of redevelopment and displacement. Learn how can these tools can be implemented in your community, exploring possibilities and obstacles. (Fri: 4:00p - 5:00p)

  • Cultural Planning / Roberto Bedoya A fresh take on cultural planning, focusing on belonging. Conventional approaches to cultural planning leave a lot to be desired. Often they measure what can easily be measured (e.g., the audiences for existing major institutions) instead of assessing what the entire community needs. What are deeper, more powerful and equitable ways to do it? Participatory action research as foundation for policy and action. (Sat: 4:00p - 5:30p)

  • Cultural Rights / Mervyn Tano 
    The right to culture is a foundational human right enshrined in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. How do we practice it? How is it transgressed? 
    The UN's Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity, well-being and rights of the world's indigenous peoples. But will it be honored? What would it take to make this more than words on paper? Using examples such as the controversy over the 30-Meter Telescope planned for the sacred site of Mauna Kea on Oahu, this workshop will explore cultural rights and how they can be protected. Questions of language, indigeneity, self-determination and sovereignty will be explored, along with the powerful responses being offered today. (Fri.: 10:15a - 11:45a)

  • Equity in Cultural Funding/ Carlton Turner 
    Historically, people of color, women, and communities grounded in non-Eurocentric cultures receive far less of public and private cultural funding than white counterparts. This session will help to place this current moment in the context of a historic continuum of inequity with the hope of coming away with more insight and capacity to make change. (Sat: 10:45a- 12:15p)

  • FoodSpark Dinner / De Nichols, Sophie LIpman
    Join the FoodSpark Team for a potluck style dinner gathering during Friday night dine arounds! FoodSpark is a series of monthly, themed, and potluck gatherings that allow individuals to make connections, start conversations, and spark ideas on social topics that matter to them. Learn more about it at Guests will learn the history of FoodSpark and understand how food can be used as a tool to organize communities, engage critical conversations about the social justice topics of our time, as well as spark new ideas and ways of approaching community challenges. Guests will leave this dinner equipped with tools to host their own FoodSpark convening. Visiting from out of town? Don't worry about bringing a dish, additional food will also be provided. All FoodSpark potlucks are free events and open to the public. (Fri: 6:00p)

  • Street-Level Cultural Policy / Caron Atlas 
    How do we implement cultural policy on the local level, engaging principles and values at the street level? This session will explore putting culture on the local agenda with city officials, focusing on real, practical examples such as Participatory Budgeting. (Sat: 10:45a - 12:15p)

  • Wonk 101 / Arlene Goldbard
    An overview and introduction to the cultural POLICY path and the foundation of policy wonkdom. This offers grounding in the basic definitions, formative ideas, brief history, and elements that make up cultural policy here and around the world. Examine shared vocabulary and understanding for further exploration. (Fri: 1:00p - 2:30p)

Hands-on arts-based tools and tactics.

  • Basic Mindfulness Meditation / Ellen Ranney
    Start your day with mindfulness. Basic instructions for meditation to establish calm receptivity. The session will involve seated (chair) instruction and contemplation. Self-care establishes the ground for your gift to others. (Fri. and Sat.: 8:00-8:40am)

  • Community Sing! / Sarah Boddy
    A group singing together with love generates all manner of shift—come experience and contribute! We’ll play with words and music together, generating beauty and also probably mess, co-creating rounds, circle songs, and whatever else we show up with. All voices and spirits welcomed and needed. If you have a song you love to teach others, bring that too! (Fri.: 10:15a- 11:15a)

  • Morning Movement: Yoga / Mallory Nezam
    Start your morning off awakening mind and body to get the most out of your conference day. (Fri. and Sat.: 8:00a - 8:40a)

  • #PSOTU17: Activating Your Community Through Story Circles / Yolanda Wisher
    Poet Joy Harjo says about kitchen tables that “perhaps the world ends here.” Story circles, a time honored tradition and technique of community building and collaboration, are like these familiar kitchen tables where the delicious parts of life converge and mingle, but instead of the table, we gather around each other to share the sustenance of our stories. In this session, you’ll learn how to lead a story circle with a group and how to plan a story circle event in your area for the USDAC’s upcoming People’s State of the Union action in January 2017. (Sat: 11:15a - 12:15p)

  • Social Dreaming: Catalyst to Creativity / Shelly Goebl-Parker
    Join Shelly Goebl-Parker, Art Therapist, community artist, and faculty at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, in the morning for Social Dreaming. Introduced by Gordon Lawrence in the 1980s, Social Dreaming is a way of working with dreams where the focus is on the dream and not the dreamer, where dreams are shared amongst people accessing a potential to create new thoughts that arise from what has been described as the "associative unconscious." Dreaming has long been used by communities around the world and Social Dreaming builds on this legacy to bring new thinking and
    meaning to the communities in which we live and work. During Social Dreaming, the mind is freed from ordinary discourse and analytics to enable our joining to make sense. Dreams are born from the individual, become the fuel of the collective matrix, and provide meaning for all as well as spark creative thought. For more information about Social Dreaming , visit (Fri. and Sat.: 8:00a - 8:40a)

  • Tactical Street Performance: Why it Matters & How to Do it / Mallory Nezam
    Why perform on street when you can perform on a stage? What constitutes 'performance', and how can we leverage public performance for social change? In this workshop we will discuss tactical street performance, and devise our own short piece to address a pressing social issue. (Sat: 4:00p - 5:15p)

  • The Poetry of Democracy / Yolanda Wisher
    Having escaped from the oppressive Ivory Tower of academia and elitism, Poetry can now return to its roots as a many-spouted vessel for the collective shout and cry. Come experiment with low-risk and low-tech poetry games that you can incorporate into your next gathering. Using materials we have on hand as well as cross-disciplinary techniques like collage, call & response, and movement, we’ll create poetry by, of, and for the people. (Sat: 1:45p -3:15p)

Stories and strategies for issue-based creative organizing.

  • Art and Hope in Rural America / Dudley Cocke, Mervyn Tano
    The session will explore the national place-based movement for rural self-development, in which artists and cultural workers play leadership roles. Contrary to popular perceptions of homogeneity, contemporary rural life is diverse by every cultural measure, including languages spoken. Of the U.S.’s poorest counties, 85% are rural. Rural communities lead the nation in per capita rates of drug addiction, suicide, and incarceration. Rural young men and women serve, are wounded, and die disproportionately in the Armed Forces. Rural communities are drastically underfunded, with 5% of foundation funding for 20% of U.S. population. Art and Hope in Rural America will draw on first-person experience in rural America to frame a critical, interactive discussion about opportunities for art and cultural heritage to create the conditions for environmentally sustainable rural economic development and social healing. (Friday: 2:15p-3:00p)
  • Arts & Allyhood / Daniel Banks
    How can we intentionally create welcoming spaces for people from all identities? How do we learn “what we don’t know we don’t know,” and what can we do once we do learn something about historically marginalized cultural groups to make our community, artistic, and institutional spaces a “welcome table”? What does it mean to be an ally and who decides who is an ally to whom? How do we make sure our organizations represent the plurality of the country and world? This interactive workshop addresses the above questions and models a process of activating resources already within our organizations and communities. (Sat: 10:45a-12:15p)
  • Artists and City Government: Elected, Embedded, and Unauthorized / Bryan Walsh, Joshua Ramos, Rebeca Rad, Beth Grossman
    What happens when an artist chooses to work in or with city government? What challenges and possibilities arise when bringing creative thinking to engagement and governance? This session will include three distinct perspectives. We’ll hear from a St. Louis artist who successfully ran for and now occupies elected office, two artists who are Public Artists in Residence with the City of New York, and one Bay Area artist who has made surprising inroads with city government, from the outside. Come with curiosity, and leave with ideas for how these partnerships might unfold where you live. Moderated by Jack Becker. (Sat: 3:30p - 5:00p)
  • Artivists Roundtable / De Nichols, Damon Davis, Marcis Curtis, Mallory Nezam
    In this talk, members of the Artivists STL and Mirror Casket project will converse about the practical implications and impacts of using art as a catalyst for local protest, national activism, and institutional accountability. The team will additionally present and propose plans for deepening the transformative power of artivism and cultivating it more within the local St. Louis community. (Friday: 3:00p-4:00p)

  • Confronting our Climate Crisis: Visions of Cultural Strategy for Climate Justice / Rachel Schragis
    What's it actually going to take for us to confront climate change for real? In a way that lifts up all people in to sustainable lives, and leaves no one behind? In this hands-on workshop we'll think about the role of cultural work in the fight for climate justice. We'll discuss historic and persistent barriers to entry in environmental and climate movements, learn about transformative artwork in today's climate movement, and apply our shared wisdom to upcoming mass actions for climate justice by dreaming and scheming together! (Fri.: 2:00p - 3:30p)

  • Creative Strategies for Resisting Displacement / Betty Yu, Dave Loewenstein, Anyka Barber
    Across the country, gentrification and displacement are threatening the cultural and social fabric of towns and cities, large and small. Join experienced artist-organizers from New York City, Lawrence, KS, and Oakland, CA to explore creative strategies for fending off inequitable development, preserving community cultural life, and resisting displacement. In this session, Betty, Dave, and Anyka will share stories and tactics and then lead an interactive discussion to support attendees in considering what creative placekeeping efforts might be effective in their local contexts. (Fri.: 10:15a - 11:45a)

  • Designing Solutions to Human Rights Inequalities: A Creative Workshop / Antionette Carroll
    What is the role of design thinking in human rights advocacy? Merging creative problem solving with social innovation — activists, nonprofit leaders, designers, and artists can develop innovative. impactful approaches to challenging systemic issues — especially through interdisciplinary collaboration. Learn how to use design thinking as a form of community organizing to challenge the system of social oppression. This session is about transforming ideas into actions; understanding the role of diversity, inclusion, and cultural humility in community engagement; and defining the value of design in developing solutions – from products and services to strategies. (Sat: 10:45a - 12:15p)

  • Music, Action, and Social Imagination / Sebastian Ruth 
    How do arts experiences, and specifically the activity of concert music, open possibilities for us to consider alternatives to the status quo, to grow a sense of community, to move beyond the expected? In a presentation that includes music and discussion, we will explore foundational ideas from Maxine Greene and John Dewey, and practical applications from the work of Community MusicWorks, applying theory to practice and back again, to open possibilities for our future work. (Fri: 3:45p - 5:15p)

  • Public Art & Public Memory. Public Art and Public Memory / Judy Baca, Dave Loewenstein, Lily Yeh
    What is the public artist’s role and responsibility in excavating community memory and amplifying the voices of people grounded in that place? Whose memories, whose voices matter in this moment? How to recognize and navigate differences in race, class, gender, economic status? How to work with others with grace? The field of public art is becoming increasingly problematized, with “public practice” artists building careers by parachuting into communities. The language is confusing, and the deeper questions of authenticity and integrity are seldom engaged. This session will start with an audiovisual presentation that sets the stage for a practical discussion kicked off by a panel with other public artists. (Sat: 2:00p - 3:30p)

  • Right to Express: Teaching Self-Expression to Juvenile Offenders / Rachel Tibbetts, Freeman Word
    Since 1999, Prison Performing Arts (PPA) has taught performing arts and literacy based classes to youth at the St. Louis City Juvenile Detention Center. Freeman Word, current PPA teaching artist and spoken word artist, will lead workshop participants in workshop techniques based on the work he does at St. Louis City Juvenile Detention Center on a weekly basis. Workshops are designed to help youth engage in life skills through the arts: focus and concentration, impulse control, cooperation and collaboration, commitment and responsibility; while also emphasizing communication and literacy skills. (Fri: 2:00p - 3:00p)

  • The Body Politic/Burlesque as Subversive Activism / Lola Van Ella, Rose Whip
    How do you make a persuasive argument without your subject even realizing it? You entertain them! Neo-Burlesque, or New Burlesque, is the revival and updating of traditional American burlesque performance. Neo-burlesque acts can range from anything from classic striptease to modern dance to theatrical mini-dramas to comedic mayhem. This is not your grandmother’s activism, or is it? (Sat: 3:45p - 5:15p)

  • Urban Alchemy / Lily Yeh
    This session will include a brief slide presentation of urban transformation projects, followed by a hands-on participatory workshop. The workshop aims to get participants experiencing community building through innovative action. People will learn to fashion a new, open space into which all can enter on equal footing, find their voices, negotiate, and create together. Lily structures the process to be inclusive, democratic, nurturing, and affirmative. Its results are often transformative and joyous. This is why she calls her work urban alchemy. (Fri: 2:30p - 3:30p)

  • Then and Now, Again: A Worker's Opera / Joan Suarez, Agnes Wilcox, Freeman Word
    In the 1920s 'agitprop' theatre was developing as a vehicle for political agitation and engagement with working class audiences. What was being promoted was a focus on street theatre, on short sketches and satires, politically challenging, inviting audience responses and seeking to stir up enthusiasm for the cause. The Workers Theater Movement, created in 1926, faded by the mid-1930s although many local troupes continued developing in their own ways, joining with the Federal Theater Project during the WPA days. Bread & Roses Missouri is experimenting with a revival of worker theater. “Then, and Now Again,” is a celebration of where we’ve been and where we’re going. Some issues dealt with in this “workers’ opera’ haven’t been resolved yet, but together we’ve grappled with them and we continue the struggle. The actors in this performance are part of the St. Louis labor movement. The workers you see on stage have been training for the past several months to become performers. Actors we see on television and in the movies make performing look effortless but, as we suspect, achieving that look takes long hours of work. The performers you see in this series of sketches have worked on improvisation, voice and diction, poetry, story-telling, dance, and acting. They have created an acting company, a small group of people who have a permanent bond. They are risk-takers, overcoming their fear of performance and working outside of their comfort zones. This has been a rare experience for the entire company. And now we are able to share it with you. We made this show for you, the audience, to entertain and challenge you. We’ve enjoyed creating it for you and we hope you share our joy in the performance. (Sat: 1:45p - 2:45p)

  • Where Do We Go From Here? / Adam Horowitz This participatory Open Space session will offer an opportunity to reflect on the last two days of CULTURE/SHIFT, share ideas, deepen relationships and strategies, and consider next steps, individually and collectively. As we face an incoming administration that campaigned to ban whole religions, deport millions, and that is fanning the flames of all forms of bigotry—how can artists and cultural organizers show up right now?  As we return to our communities, how can we create a culture of solidarity and belonging, standing up with and for the most vulnerable? What’s still on your mind? Come share, process, and strategize. (Sat: 4:00p - 5:30p)

Looking for more details? 

Visit our Humans page for information about presenters, workshop leaders and panelists.

Visit our Schedules page for the full timeline of events.