Community Art Collaboration Guide

The term community art was coined in the late-1960’s, it spawned a movement which allows artists to collaborate with people who may not otherwise typically engage in the arts. Community arts, also sometimes known as “dialogical art”, “community-engaged”, or “community-based art,” refers to artistic activity based in a community setting. Works from this genre can be of any media and is characterized by interaction or dialogue with the community. Members of a local community will come together to express concerns or issues through an artistic grassroots process; exposure to and participation in arts projects gives people a voice to speak out and express themselves. Participating in arts projects puts people in touch with their heritage and helps give definition to community identity. This has a direct impact on community pride and solidarity. These communal artistic processes act as a catalyst to trigger events or changes within a community, on both individual and spiritual levels.

The purpose of this guide is to serve as a frameworks for producing community art. This is not a definitive set of rules that shall dictate the who, what, when, where, and why of how a community should produce arts, rather a seasoned process to more efficiently ensure the success of the community art project. This guide is written out of frustration seeing how the Burning Man Organization relies on artists to create community art without issuing guidelines on how to go about doing so; nevermind the fact that someone will always be pissed off when doing community art. While this guide is being written towards the Burning Man community, the information contained was developed based upon commonalities of other community based art projects. The subject matter expertise that is written is based on interviews with community members, the continued feedback of the community, and the authors desire to have projects within the community be cohesive as possible.

Present Situation Generalization

Idea -> Community/Clique Adoption -> Inefficient Implementation -> Bitching -> Awesome Burn!

Presently, ideas for projects seem to strictly come from a few people within the community. The members in the community who are not burnt out, know where and when the meeting will be, and have time available to actually be present are the ones that are involved. One could argue that those within the community that care enough are the ones stepping up to do the work, sadly this is not always the case.

Essentially a clique of people become the leads, having worked together in the past on a project they are confident that the art can be created based on the knowledge of each other’s skills. In some cases this clique can be more productive than a group of individuals due to the cohesivity of the group and their ability to make unanimous decisions. This clique of leads makes it where the community of individuals who would like to get involved in the arts, are assigned as human resources rather than having a say in the art that they are co-creating.

The clique-like nature of the groups leads often creates build days that are more akin to a picnic when the beer drinking to work performed ratio is examined. With a region being large and diverse, some individuals have to drive up to 50 miles to participate; complaining will ensue from the far flung members of the community that such a project is not worth their time. And yet in the end, almost everyone has and amazing time participating in the project with the results being praised by the community. The churn and burn of community members is result on the individuals involved, with the leads being no less immune.

Proposed Situation Generalization

Seed Ideas -> Community Artification -> Voting -> Distributed Implementation -> Awesome Burn!

From Decompression to the following Valentines day ideas are to be submitted through a web form provided by the regional organization. The submissions shall cohere to the following where-what format that identifies what the platform is and the general interaction; a bridge structure that allows for unassisted spiritual transcendence. Each idea will be available to be voted on publically, with a real-time voting web application.

The top 3 to 5 ideas will undergo a process involving artists, designers, engineers, and anyone else that wishes to participate in order to determine feasibility and ability for the art to be broken down into distributed components. The devil is in the details, therefore mutating the idea is not the intent of this stage of the process. The ability for a region to have a construct art in a distributed manner is crucial to making all community members involved, but also allowing for the autonomy of the individuals involved no matter if they are working together as a group or as a sole contributor. Using a web application that is not Facebook is ideal, with points of contacts serving as those that are less technically adept.

With the ideas polished and whittled down the community will be instructed to vote on the choices, with the understanding that the Burning Man Organization may not know what it wants and therefore subject to change. Fundraising by selling fistfuls of votes is a great way to begin the process of raising money early on (metrics to determine payed vs community chosen will be available. As soon as the Burning Man Organization give approval or reconsideration for a project a call to the community for distributed implementation will be made.

Distributed implementation is what makes a community art projects location independent and allows for the community, on a regional-level to participate in the arts. The important component of this phase, is the project leads ability to herd cats; where the skill level of each contributor will need to be assessed to ensure that delivery of any assigned tasks is possible. If someone has legitimate concerns, they should be address. General community detraction is not to be considered constructive towards the end goal of community art, unless it is raising issues with the implementation.

Feedback that is gathered throughout the build that is negative should be addressed after the Burn, prior to the decompression. There is a time and a place for everything. Soliciting the community for feedback after the Burn will be used to determine if their was any real or perceived gaps in the community arts process and if so they will be explained in a public manner through a blog post that explains the project in better detail. And hopefully this guide will be updated in the process.

Update: I found this awesome essay that outlines some of the issues that comes when participating with structureless organizations (Do-ocracies):

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