Originally, we titled our blog theme for this month “Accessing People with Power.” As we thought more about and worked with this phrasing, however, it presented some complex questions: who defines power, and who determines who has it? don’t we all have power? does being able to use power necessarily hinge on accessing it from an outside source?
We subsequently changed the wording to “Power and the People” to broaden the scope of the concepts we wanted to explore, like: what does power look like in different contexts? how do power dynamics play out at different scales? how are different communities using place-based arts and culture initiatives to build their power?
As usual, we sought some experts from within the ArtPlace community to help us mine these rich inquiries. At our 2019 Annual Summit in Jackson, Mississippi this past May, we asked three leaders in creative community development—Meghan Venable-Thomas of Enterprise Community Partners, Jerry Hebron of Oakland Avenue Urban Farm, and Aviva Kapust of The Village of Arts and Humanities—one of our first and most persistent questions:
“In your work, how do you access people with power?”
Among the insights they offered was Aviva’s astute description of her organization’s approach:
“Before thinking about actually accessing people with power, we think a lot about how we can translate or lift up stories that are important for people in power to hear, so that they’re able to hear first-person from the people most affected. And then that relationship becomes a more useful one, where people in power and people who have been without power consider themselves as resources to each other. I think that starts to build a much stronger relationship, and a reason to access power.”
Get more bite-sized video inspiration on the ArtPlace YouTube channel.