Connecting Californians: Finding the Art of Community Change, an inquiry into the role of story in strengthening communities

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Dudley Cocke, Linda Frye Burnham, Erica Kohl, Craig McGarvey

"Connecting Californians" reports on a research project completed in 2000, that explored story as a powerful means of building community. The project conducted a search in each of California's 58 counties to find projects that engaged residents in a public performance or story about local history and life. Maps were created to represent the various projects. It is a helpful model for collaborative planning and discussion regarding the arts, culture, and civil society. Although it does not offer frameworks or tools, it is a useful report sample and resource for arts and civic engagement practitioners. Over the course of ten months, the research team interviewed more than 100 practitioners, educators and policy makers with experience in the arts, humanities and civic culture. They interviewed and convened repesentatives of projects at the intersection of the arts, the humanities, grassroots narrative and community organizing to explore the role that a cultural organizer plays in promoting and sustaining collaborations, facilitating relationships and encouraging local leaders to emerge. Participants included artists, humanists, organizers and residents and representatives of their civic and religious organizations. This report presents the findings of that inquiry and questions for the future.  A section on program design discusses three core values — engagement, inclusion and inquiry. The report includes six comprehensive appendices. Appendix A: Three Local Projects presents brief case studies of public performances springing from the history, aesthetics and issues in three California communities. Appendix B: Evidence of Public Performance Based on Local Life offers a scan of the field.  Appendix C gives information on two focus groups. Artists, organizers, educators and funders that came together to discuss the role of story in building community. Appendix D reports on national and California interviews. Appendix E includes three research essays. Writer and critic Linda Frye Burnham interviewed practitioners and thinkers in the field grappling with issues at the intersection of community organizing, art and the humanities, producing three monographs. Appendix F is a literature review [Adapted from the Community Arts Network website.]

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