REFLECTIONS ON OPEN SCENE, 2016-2017
Open Scene aimed to increase inclusivity for youth and underrepresented communities in Downtown Urbana. Through funds provided by the National Endowment of the Arts, Our Town grant, the City of Urbana and Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center (IMC) were able to plan and execute a process which engaged artists to lead weekend intensives and facilitate discussions to better understand youth needs in Downtown Urbana. Through this process, a vision for IMC as a cultural hub for youth was created.
Engaging participants from multiple communities and organizations was integral to the success of Open Scene, and was accomplished through the selection of a steering committee, adult stakeholders, and youth leaders who represented a diverse range of Urbana organizations and communities. During project implementation, the City and IMC collaborated with community organizations to invite Urbana residents of a diverse range of communities.
Execution of the project was completed through engaging artists to teach the youth leaders methods of exploring, sharing, and shaping their communities. A call for artists to lead the four weekend intensives was put out in January and a Jury then chose four artists from 50 substantial applications. In February, youth leaders and adult stakeholders met for an initial visioning meeting to guide the Open Scene process, then a meeting was held with each of the selected artists to design the weekend intensives.
The four weekend intensives were held from February through April, and included a Friday night artist presentation, Saturday workshop, and Sunday presentation and facilitated conversation. Community members were encouraged to attend the Friday and Saturday portions of the intensives. In the four intensives artists facilitated the youth leaders in hip hop, soundscaping, theater, and storytelling to explore and share their histories, identities, and communities. These workshops provided instructive and engaging time to reimagine the IMC and Downtown Urbana where youth voices took center stage. Through the Sunday presentation, youth leaders were given the opportunity to share work and ideas generated from the Saturday workshop, and held facilitated conversations on how these could be used to shape the future of the IMC and Downtown Urbana. A final community event was held on May 6th to tie all the previous work completed together to generate a vision for IMC and Downtown Urbana’s futures.
MUSIC PRODUCTION WITH DEREK LINZY: FEBRUARY 24-26, 2017
Derek Linzy’s weekend intensive focused on the creative, technical and business aspects of making music. Participants learned music-making and discussed starting their own record label and studios to showcase their communities voices and talents.
STORYTELLING WITH ANDREA PERKINS: MARCH 10-12, 2017
During Andrea Perkins’ weekend intensive, she gave an artist talk on Native storytelling traditions and shared a performance piece. For the Saturday workshop, participants learned how to tell stories about themselves and their own community.
HIP HOP AND POETRY WITH MOTHER NATURE: MARCH 24-26, 2017
Hip-hop trio and community activists Mother Nature, Inc., gave an artist talk about hip-hop culture and its connection to the Black Lives Matter movement. For the Saturday workshop, participants engaged in critical dialogue about hip-hop as a tool for fostering self-expression and giving voice to marginalized youth in their community. Some created and performed their own music as a part of the workshop.
THEATRE WITH HILL L. WATERS AND LISA FAY : APRIL 14-16, 2017
Theatre project made up of Hill L. Waters (HLW) & Lisa Fay, a Black feminist love praxis project gave a performance and led a dialogue. Their Saturday workshop allowed participants to develop their own artistic abilities, becoming proficient users of the artistic tools necessary to create and produce short theatre pieces and community arts time portal that are explicitly concerned with their own lives and community arts and placemaking.
Through the broadening of the arts community and connections made between local artists, youth leaders, and the larger community, Open Scene assisted in reimagining residents’ views of Urbana as a viable place for working and living with and in the arts. During the weekend intensives, youth leaders worked with Derek Linzy who both taught the youth leaders information about starting a business, and shared his experience of running a successful business locally. Youth leaders also interacted with adult stakeholders who are active locally in the arts. The artists and adult stakeholders provided examples to the youth leaders of how to pursue their passion locally. The projects and connections sparked by Open Scene offer an alternative to the career path of “leaving for the big city” to pursue an artistic career, highlighting the potentials of artistic growth in Urbana.
The City of Urbana and IMC would like to thank the Open Scene steering committee, the National Endowment for the Arts, Youth leaders, Adult Stakeholders, Community Participants and donors; for sharing their time, money, and, knowledge, without which Open Scene would not have been possible.
JOIN THE OPEN SCENE WORKING GROUP!!
The Open Scene Working Group will strive to make the IMC a cultural hub for creative youth and marginalized groups in downtown Urbana. It is the continuation of an NEA-funded Our Town grant project in 2016-17 carried out in collaboration with the City of Urbana. Open Scene serves to foster big visions, engage with critical friction, and offer ownership in the future of downtown Urbana. This working group will serve the IMC’s mission through increasing youth-led programming. It will meet quarterly to plan events, including dance and theater, poetry and spoken word, youth music, and diverse programming. Regular meetings are for this group to continue relationships, and also introduce new members to Open Scene. It will be made up primarily of youth, with adult mentors, and supported by IMC staff. The working group will pursue grant and fundraising opportunities to sustain its work. Our goal is to produce a transformative vision that can be used to investigate problems, design solutions for this community and others, and make downtown Urbana a truly “open scene.” Email Brian Dolinar at [email protected] for more information on joining!
Check out more news on Open Scene here:
Art Now Interviews with Open Scene leaders and volunteers
(all photos taken by Christie Velez)