CHICAGOAVE_NOV

Pillsbury House + Theatre (PH+T), an award winning theater embedded in a human service organization, will engage community residents, artists, youth, businesses, arts nonprofits and others in this highly diverse, burgeoning cultural district to animate the community through a concentration of art-based projects.  ArtPlace recently caught up with the Arts on Chicago initiative in Minneapolis and asked the following questions:

ARTPLACE: What has been the thorniest issue you’ve faced to date? How have you dealt with it?

PH+T:  The thorniest issue to date has been the final selection of artists for our year long initiative.  But it was not simply the selection alone that was difficult, but rather the complexity of the entire endeavor.  We had not previously engaged in such a large scale open call process in the past, especially one that involved so many integral partners.  We had no preexisting criteria, protocol, or systems in place.  Therefore the key partners had to come together to build the entire thing from scratch.

So the group set out to develop an open yet specific criteria that met the primary goals of our initial ArtPlace proposal, while keeping it simple enough not to deter applicants or have it become a barrier for artists to participate.

Through this process we found that we had very unique and specific guidelines, which boiled down to some identified shared values.

Our selection panel consisted of members of our Leadership Team.  They were tasked with the immense challenge of balancing selections based on; proposed location and geographic spread, a range of artistic disciplines, a diversity of the artists, permanent vs. ephemeral projects, projects that had designed opportunities for broad public participation in the creation of the work vs. inviting people to experience a final finished product, varying standards of “quality”, supporting people whom were new to concepts of “placemaking,” and all the while attempting to keep it simple.

In the end the notion of keeping it simple was probably unrealistic given the scope of our initiative, yet the panel did an admirable job at selecting an exciting and diverse portfolio of projects through an open call that drew nearly 50 applicants.  Even if there were dozens of great ideas that went unfunded.

One thorny issue we will address beyond this is the fact that those that did not get selected are still our immediate neighbors, or our community partners.  How do you still nurture important community relationships after giving out bad news to unsuccessful applicants?

Obviously we see our work continuing well beyond the scope of this ArtPlace grant, yet this is an important reminder that we can’t be satisfied with just one year of activity.  The work must continue, and we must remain diligent in securing additional resources to both deepen and broaden the opportunities for artists and local community members to connect and re-imagine our shared cultural corridor.

PHOTO:  Jomama Jones: Radiate Live! at Pillsbury House + Theatre

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