What on earth is Cultural Organizing?

In the developing field of cultural organizing, definitions are changing, context-specific, and difficult to settle on. But the Arts and Democracy project offers a helpful working definition, which emerged from a workshop they helped to run in New Orleans in 2011. I thought I’d share it with you below. For the full reflection on the workshop, visit this blog post by Kathie Denobriga.

Arts and Democracy Working Definition of Cultural Organizing: 

Cultural organizing exists at the intersection of art and activism. It is a fluid and dynamic practice that is understood and expressed in a variety of ways, reflecting the unique cultural, artistic, organizational and community context of its practitioners.  Cultural organizing is about placing art and culture at the center of an organizing strategy and also about organizing from a particular tradition, cultural identity, and community of place or worldview.

Cultural Organizing Principles (working list):

o   Values multiple ways of knowing and being

o   Reconceptualizes power and power relationships

o   Prioritizes the centering of a creative process to address change

o   Addresses the issues people face in their communities

o   Moves people toward a place of action

o   Develops new leadership

o   Is based on the lived experiences of those participating

o   Deepens Analysis, i.e. gain knowledge, engage with theories of social change & liberation

o   Allows participants to bring their full self

o   Confronts oppression and privilege

o   Involve whole communities in a transformative process

o   Process and outcome are valued equally

o   Real emphasis on listening and story-telling as a method for generating knowledge and understanding

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