Building Community Cultural Connections

Analyze > Listen > Formulate > Ideate > Prototype > Evaluate > Iterate

My November letter to Cal State LA College of Arts & Letters focused recent activities that support building community cultural connections. I share it with you here.

Dear Arts & Letters Community:

The past month has been a busy time for the College of Arts & Letters and for me as its Dean. The “big event,” was on November 1, when we hosted a day-long professional development event for students, “Connect the Dots: Pathways into the Creative Industries,” about which you can read more in Kathleen Sanchez’s story by clicking, here. It was also a month when we focused a lot on the College’s strategic priority to “Build Community Cultural Connections.”

I attended the annual convening of Imagining America in Albuquerque, New Mexico, along with department chairs Mike Willard (Liberal Studies) and Linda Greenberg (English), faculty members Kathryn Perry (English) and Tanya Kane-Parry (Theatre and Dance), graduate student Jose Cubias, and undergraduates Ashley Robles and Sam Ortiz. Cal State LA joined the Imaging America consortium last year as part of its effort to expand on its mission of Engagement, Service, and the Public Good. Imagining America focuses on “artists and scholars in public life;” thus the convening includes not just traditional academic panels, but also sharing of smart practices around community engagement, workshops, performances, and exhibitions.

Following on work begun by Professor Emeritus Jose Cruz Gonzalez, Professor Kane-Parry has been working with the Glazer Family Dreamers Resource Center and students in her classes (including Robles and Ortiz) to develop a performance script about immigration to be performed in schools and community centers. With the script still in development, she and her two students used the Imagining America convening as an opportunity to workshop the script-in-progress and receive feedback from other community-engaged artists. I was privileged to be in the room when the reading took place and be a small part of the conversation that will help advance the project. Kane-Parry is collaborating with the Center for Engagement, Service, & the Public Good to book the community-based performance tour.

Dr. Greenberg, Dr. Perry and Jose Cubias presented on the various ways that our Department of English is working toward becoming an engaged English department. This includes the work they already do with students at Lancaster Prison as well as curricular developments that will include an “Engaged English” requirement for all majors. Internships that can fulfill this requirement are made possible in part thanks to The Dr. James Garrett Pathways to Professional Success Program Fund.

IMG_0711

Poet Alice Lovelace meeting with CSU deans at the CCAS annual meeting in Atlanta

Following on the heels of all of this activity, I led a workshop for other CSU deans of similar colleges as a part of the pre-conference activities at the annual meeting of the Council of Colleges of Arts & Sciences. We had two guest speakers: Jilo Tisdale of Spelman College’s Bonner Office of Community Service and Student Development, and Alice Lovelace, poet, arts advocate, and director of Atlanta’s Arts Xchange. Ms. Lovelace talked with the CSU deans about how the arts can be a powerful force for economic as well as cultural development. I then led my colleagues through a small group exercise to get us thinking about our various institutional contexts, the communities we serve, and how we might listen even more effectively to these communities to develop successful community-engaged programming. This is an important area of the College of Arts & Letters’ work already, and one that necessitates ongoing development as well. Look for announcements soon of new partnerships with the City of LA Department of Cultural Affairs, and the LA County Museum of Art, as well as deepening relationships with local high schools.

…I note that the Thanksgiving holiday is just around the corner. Regardless of whether or how you celebrate this, I hope your time away from campus will be filled with warmth and love.

About lindaessig

Linda Essig is Dean of the College of Arts & Letters at Cal State LA and principal/owner of Creative Infrastructure LLC. The opinions expressed on creativeinfrastructure are her own and not those of Cal State LA. You can follow her on twitter @LindaInPhoenix.
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