In an immediate suburb of Washington, D.C., Dance Exchange, founded by Liz Lerman in 1976, is leading a multi-year, interdisciplinary project along a 2-mile stretch of New Hampshire Avenue, highlighting and celebrating what the area is, was, and could be. New Hampshire Ave: This Is a Place To… builds the capacity of city planners and officials and local community members to cultivate and maintain meaningful and reciprocal relationships with each other through artmaking and dialogue. This capacity building is occurring through both the direct sharing of the Dance Exchange tools and practices with the City of Takoma Park’s Housing and Community Development department and through the creation of a series of interdisciplinary installations and performances that highlight the stories of those who live, work, and play along New Hampshire Ave in Takoma Park, MD.
New Hampshire Ave: This Is a Place To… acknowledges the power of artmaking and performance to bring new meaning to the relationships between individuals, communities, and the places in which they live and work. By contributing their individual and collective stories to the project through dance, music, visual art, and storytelling, community members have the opportunity to connect in ways that transform perceptions of self and other, foster a deeper relationship between what was and what is, and advocate for the presence and importance of community faces and stories in City-driven development initiatives. In previous project phases, Dance Exchange designed and produced a “flock” of colorful wooden chairs inscribed with the project title, which brought to life one of the City’s preexisting design initiatives. With a number of interviews, artmaking workshops, and a one-day community festival happening in and around these chairs, they became not only the central image of the project but also a platform for community members to express their celebrations, challenges, needs, and goals for New Hampshire Avenue.
Upcoming project phases bring Dance Exchange into collaboration with a range of local artists to create a series of photo and video portraits which will premiere in conjunction with a site-specific production of Liz Lerman’s landmark work, Still Crossing. The themes of intersection, journey, and legacy in the creation of this work provide a unique, collaborative forum for city planners and residents to have deeper conversations about the celebrations, challenges, needs, and goals of New Hampshire Avenue.
This project brings Dance Exchange into collaboration with the City of Takoma Park’s Housing and Community Development department within the scope of a ten-year development initiative. Dance Exchange is working with the City to discover and articulate ways in which Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process (CRP), an internationally recognized method for giving and receiving feedback, can inform this mid-stream urban planning process. This discovery process will begin with a series of workshops designed to foster a positive culture of feedback within the Housing and Community Development department. Further CRP-related collaboration with the City will include brainstorming and designing opportunities to leverage the tools and practices inherent in CRP in the creation of meaningful, constructive public conversations.
Also embedded in this multi-year project are opportunities for Dance Exchange to share the ways in which its unique body of practice is intersecting with and contributing new knowledge to the field of creative placemaking. This sharing will occur through a number of interactions with the creative communities of the National Endowment for the Arts and ArtPlace America. Dance Exchange will also focus its 2015 Summer Institute, an eight-day convening of artists, organizers, city planners, and community members, on New Hampshire Ave: This Is a Place To… . Institute participants will explore Dance Exchange tools and practices while bringing their own skills and experiences to the process of planning, facilitating, and performing in the large-scale multi-day festival which brings this project phase to its culmination.
See below for recent updates, press, and events from this project