How Art Builds Community

The 18th annual "What is a City?" conference focused on how art builds community.

The eighteenth annual, "What is a City" conference centered on how art builds community.

Held at U.M.S.L. North Campus on October 25-26, 2012, and put together by their Center for the Humanities, speakers from the Midwest suggested various ways that the arts engage and build community.

Ms Kendra Paitz, curator of Exhibitions and Galleries at Illinois State University, put on a multimedia presentation of Oliver Herring's "TASK", an improvisational event with a simple structure with two rules: 1) write a "task" on a piece of paper and put it in the "task box"; 2) then pull out a "task" and interpret it using your body, art materials, the space around you. Examples can be viewed at www.oliverherringtask.wordpress.com or http://taskmidwest.weebly.com.

Last April, Mr Herring came to Gallery 210 at U.M.S.L. and did "TASK"---it reminded this blogger of architectural "charettes" he has participated in.The St Louis Art Museum staff of three for programs and teacher services, Ms Renee Franklin, Ms Jennifer Doyle, and Ms Sherri Williams, lectured on inclusion and bringing the community into the arts.

This included their "Family Sundays" programs which had attendance of over 12,000 persons last year. Ms Priscilla Block of STLArtWorks! talked about adolescents becoming art professionals through their unique programming.

They recently moved into a gallery space in Old North St Louis (near Crown Candy Kitchen) and are selling the young artists' works and a line of Christmas cards. One of the more deadpan speakers, Dave Lowenstein, spoke on "The Art of Asking a Question in Public: How Community Murals Can Open the Door to Civic Dialogue".

Mr Lowenstein defined what a mural is and gave examples of same. He is the artist (along with Amber Hansen and Kyle McKenzie) who helped Joplin, MO, create "The Butterfly Effect: Dreams Take Flight" after the devastating F-5 tornado there last year, www.maaa.org/muralproject.

The next speaker was Mary Louise Schumacher, art and architecture critic of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. One of only six remaining arts critics on staff of major metropolitan print newspapers, Ms Schumacher documented the effect of Santiago Calatrava's new building for the Milwaukee Arts Museum on the local scene there.

Most of the effects were short-lived, but did result in more young, entrepreneurial artists becoming involved with the community. The conference wrapped up Friday with "How the Arts Help Make Place", "The Value of Public Art in City Building", and a panel discussion on the power of art from different perspectives (artist, curator, collector, and writer).

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