Arts & Democracy Project regularly brings together artists, organizers, funders, and policymakers for workshops, presentations, roundtable conversations and networking events across the U.S.


Muslim Women Write the Body

Muslim Women Write the Body was a series of workshops organized with writer Roohi Choudhry (Nov-May, 2022), focused on Muslim identity and the gray areas of faith, particularly for women. Participants explored their identities in relation to past, present, and future, considering gender, culture and more. Choudhry and guest artists Nsenga Knight, Demo Ibrahim, Hala Shah, Aizzah Fatima led workshops on Zoom with follow up debrief and coaching sessions. The creative work was presented live at our annual Community Iftar on the Avenue C Plaza. 

Community Iftar

After two years of virtual Iftars we were thrilled to hold our Community Iftar in person at the Avenue C Plaza. Neighbors broke fast together and learned about and celebrated Ramadan. The delicious food came from Jalsa Grill and Gravy, Rahuni, and Taj Kebab, representing Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Uzbekistan. Muslim women artists and activists presented their work, with some of it growing out of our Muslim Women Write the Body Workshop. The Community Iftar was hosted by Arts & Democracy, and co-sponsored by ArtBuilt, NOCD-NY, and City Councilmember Shahna Hanif.

Storytelling in Crisis

The virtual dialogue, Storytelling in Crisis, presented by Storyline, Arts & Democracy, The Laundromat Project, Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts NY (NOCD-NY) and US Department of Arts and Culture (USDAC) explored strategies for crafting storytelling responses that center care and connection, amplify resistance, and support resiliency. We heard from storytellers who have learned from their experience of making work grappling with pandemics; epidemics; and natural, social, political and economic disasters. Michael Premo (Storyline) facilitated a discussion with Steven Thrasher (Northwestern University), Nick Slie (Mondo Bizarro, Cry You One, I -10 Witness Project), and Regina Campbell (Rikers Public memory Project).  

Story Circle on the Right to Belong

Following up on the powerful Building Connections gathering in West CLT with a story circle about the right to belong as part of the Peoples State of the Union. Hosted by Arts & Democracy, QC Family Tree, The Tribe, and Power Up NC with US Department of Arts and Culture.

Creative Transformation: Arts, Culture, and Public Housing Communities

Recognizing an opportunity to further integrate arts and culture into the transformation of public housing communities, NOCD-NY brought together a diverse range of tenant leaders, residents, elected officials and staff, city agencies, artists, cultural institutions, advocates, funders and community organizations in an Arts, Culturem and Public Housing Roundtable on July 27, 2015. Drawing on interviews carried out in the field, the roundtable was designed to:

• Showcase exemplary partnerships that illustrated equitable, long-term approaches

• Identify barriers and challenges

• Develop recommendations and discuss how to move them into action

• Identify pilot project(s) that could be supported

• Build and strengthened relationships amongst participants. 

Animating PB with Arts & Culture

The Animating PB with Arts & Culture workshop took place at the 2014 Participatory Budgeting Conference in Oakland, CA. It included a mini workshop with artist/planner James Rojas, presentations by Caron Atlas and Valter Ferreira, and group brainstorming about how arts, culture, and grassroots media can animate PB and other participatory proccesses.

Valuing the Intersection Between Arts, Culture, & Community

"Valuing the intersection between arts, culture, and community: An exchange of research and practice" brought together Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts NY (NOCD-NY) members and allies with leading researchers to demonstrate the value of arts and culture in communities and for the city. Arts & Democracy joined with NOCD-NY to organize this convening.

From the Neighborhood Up: A Citywide Forum on Culture and Community

Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts New York's From the Nieghborhood Up Citywide Forum on Culture and Community convened people from across New York City on May 30, 2013 to create a vision for the City grounded in the cultural vitality and social networks that make its communities strong.

South Oxford Space

Spacing Out: Innovative Urban Uses of Cultural Space

On August 15 Arts & Democracy Project joined Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts NY (NOCD-NY) and Urban Bush Women to cosponsor Spacing Out: Innovative Cultural Uses of Urban Space. The forum took place at the South Oxford Space, 138 S. Oxford, in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

SEIU artist residencies

Arts & Democracy Project and SEIU (Service Employees International Union) are partnering on artist residencies in six SEIU locals in Miami, Florida; Central CA; Las Vegas, NV; Minneapolis, MN; Toronto, ON; San Juan, Puerto Rico.  Each of the residencies will create an artwork to be presented at the SEIU convention in Denver in May 2012.

(Photo: Dave Sanders) 

Home-buying With Artists in Mind

Arts & Democracy Project and ArtHome (Brooklyn, NY) recently hosted a FREE: Artist Homeownership Workshop, which created a working dialogue for participants who were looking to purchase a home.  The event took place at Groundswell Community Mural Project, where there were student paintings still drying on the walls and was further made possible by the co-sponsorship of City Council Members Brad Lander and Steve Levin and the Brooklyn Arts Council.


Image from Housing is a Human Right

Artists in a Movement Moment

Occupy Wall Street and related actions across the country have captured attention for issues of inequality and injustice and have catalyzed momentum for broad social change. This idea Forum at the National Performance Network conference in Tampa organized by the Arts & Democracy Project took stock of the role of artists in this movement moment. (December 2011)

Up From the Roots: Economic and Cultural Equity in Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts

The summary findings for a series of roundtable discussions convened in several cities across the United States between 2009 and 2011 to better understand the growth of “naturally occurring cultural districts”—grassroots, culturally based efforts that are bringing about significant changes within a variety of communities—and to learn from their successes and challenges. 

Cultural Organizing and Collaborating Across Sectors at the National Rural Assembly

This session at the 2011 National Rural Assembly in St Paul, MN was a conversation about cultural organizing and collaborating across sectors and the role these approaches play in rural development and social change. Participants shared their own experiences and best practices, and reflected on the recommendations from the Rural Cultural Roundtable that proceeded the Rural Assembly.

Jeremy Frey Porcupine basket c/o Maine Indian Basketmakers Association

Rural Cultural Roundtable

The Rural Cultural Roundtable demonstrated the role of place-based culture and creative industries in rural communities. Coponsored by Arts & Democracy Project, Arts + Community Change Initiative, Center for Rural Startegies, and InCommon, the roundtable took place just prior to the 2011 National Rural Assembly. (June, 2011)

Cultural Organizing for Social Justice Idea Forum

How we can further our work by connecting with one another and with sustained strategies for social justice and movement building? This Idea Forum at the 2010 National Performance Network meeting in Dallas, Texas explored this questions with examples of creative activism and cultural organizing. (December, 2010)

Breaking out of a Bifurcated World

This session at the Grantmakers in the Arts 2010 conference, cosponsored with the Seventh Generation Fund engaged a paradox faced by many funders: While some of the most creative strategies for positive social change live at the intersections of sectors, disciplines, cultures, and generations; many of the practices and structures of philanthropy create silos and disconnect funders from their grantees and their full selves. (October, 2010)

Activist Artist and Media Justice Networking Dinner

The networking dinner, cosponsored with Center for Media Justice, took place at CMJ's Oakland, CA office.  The event inked activist artists, media justice activists, community mediamakers, progressive communicators, and policymakers and provided a forum to share resources across communities. (October, 2010)

Chicago Networking the Networks Dinner

This networking dinner, cosponsored with the Art and Social Justice Preconference Committee and the Indigenous Resource Network, took place at the Grantmakers in the Arts Conference in Chicago, IL. (October 2010)

A Rural Conversation

This rural panel, cosponsored with the Center for Rural Strategies, took place as part of Double Edge Theater's Art and Place Gathering held in Ashfield, MA, August 8, 2010.

Taking Over and Talking Back

Taking Over and Talking Back tells the story of the community conversations following Danny Hoch’s performances of his play Taking Over in New York City neighborhoods. At the Williamsburg, Brooklyn talkback a longtime resident of Williamsburg's Latino community said, “We fought poverty, violence and blight, and we made the Southside a better place to live. We are now strangers in our own neighborhood, and it’s painful.” 

Brooklyn Networking the Networks dinner

Bringing together a wide range of networks and groups--including Alternate ROOTS, Animating Democracy, Art is Change, Arts & Democracy Project, Arts & Social Justice Working Group, California Alliance of Traditional Arts and Cultures, First Peoples Fund, Grantmakers in Film and Electronic Media, Grantmakers in the Arts, League of Young Voters, MAG-Net, National Association of Latino Arts and Culture, National Performance Network, Opportunity Agenda, and many more--in Brooklyn, NY, October 2009.

White House Briefing on Art, Community, Social Justice and Recovery

On May 12th, 2009, more than 60 artists and creative organizers engaged in civic participation, community development, education, social justice activism, and philanthropy came together for a White House briefing. It was cosponsored by Arts & Democracy Project, Nathan Cummings Foundation, Pratt Center for Community Development, and Arlene Goldbard. This is the report from that briefing.

Cultural Organizing at the Pedagogy and Theater of the Oppressed Conference

This multiracial, intergenerational, and multidisciplinary dialogue between civically engaged artists, cultural organizers, and scholars focused on the intersection between art, culture, and organizing around social change. It addressed both tensions as well as synergies in this work and offered examples of different approaches – some generated by artists and some generated by community organizers. (Minnapolis, May, 2009)

Cross-­Sector Partnerships and the Role of the Arts in Policy and Systems Change

By Erik Takeshita and Anusha Venkataraman

In April of 2009, 27 participants from the arts, community development, education and other diverse sectors around the country met at California State Monterey Bay as part of the Community Arts Convening and Research Project to discuss “Cross-­Sector Partnership and the Role of the Arts in Policy and Systems Change.” This is the report from that session.


Arts and Activism Convening in partnership with Nathan Cummings Foundation

The Arts & Democracy Project joined with the Nathan Cummings Foundation to organize a convening of the Foundation's grassroots arts activist grantees and their allies November 19-21, 2008.  The convening connected people from across the country to discuss the opportunities, challenges, and exemplary practices of linking arts and activism. This is the summary report from the convening.

Cultural Organizing for Progressive Change session at the National Organizers Alliance Gathering VI

This session at the Baltimore National Organizers Alliance conference featured three guest presenters: Walda Katz-Fisgman, Project South; Jerome Scott, Project South; and Ricardo Levins Morales, Northland Poster Collective (July, 2008)

Cultural Organizing for Progressive Change at Michigan Policy Summit

The session explored the power of cultural organizing to expand who is included in organizing and how they are included, creatively frame and communicate visions of change, encourage critical thinking, break down fear, and humanize polarized issues. (Lansing, May 2008)

From Activist Art to Cultural Organizing at Intersection V conference

An interdisciplinary dialogue between artists and organizers, co-organized with New World Theatre, that provided frameworks and went deeper into examples and issues related to cultural organizing. What's the difference between issue-based art and cultural organizing?  What are some of the successes and challenges artists and organizers have experienced in working together? Where does your work fit in the spectrum? (Amherst, MA April 2008)

Learning Community Gathering

This was a key gathering in Arts & Democracy Project's early years which brought together active participants from previously gatherings across the country to help the Arts & Democracy Project shaoe its upcoming plans. The group  committed to continuing as advisors and a core constituency of the Arts & Democracy and formed themselves into an ongoing "Learning Community".  The gathering was cosponsored by Service Workers International's Greenhouse Project and was held at SEIU. (Washington DC, February 2008)

Hip Hop artist and activist gathering

In this strategic conversation, cosponsored with the League of Young Voters, Hip Hop artists, presenters, and activists shared their plans for 2008 and how they might collaborate in their work. 

State of the Nation Gathering

This three-day conversation on cultural organizing, cosponsored with M.U.G.A.B.E.E. and Alternate Roots was part of the 4th Annual State of the Nation Festival in Jackson, MS. The State of the Nation Festival is dedicated to strengthening relationships and supporting collaboration between artists from Louisiana and Mississippi who are committed to addressing social, political, and economic justice issues facing the region. The length of time allotted to this conversation allowed several participants to present their work to the group and to develop an honest conversation about the challenges of the work and how to overcome them. (October 2007)

Highlander 75th Anniversary Celebration Gathering

This gathering took place as part of the Highlander Center’s 75th Anniversary and followed a one-day institute on cultural organizing that was also part of the celebration.  The goal of Highlander was and is to provide education and support to poor and working people fighting economic injustice, poverty, prejudice, and environmental destruction.  Presenters at the gathering included: co-facilitators Anasa Trautman, Highlander Center; Caron Atlas and Javiera Benavente, Arts & Democracy Project; Amelia Kirby, Appalshop; Carlton Turner, Alternate Roots; Michelle Miller, SEIU; Mathew Jones, SNCC Freedom Singers; and Baldemar Velazquez, Farm Labor Organizer Committee.

Imaging the Frame, Framing the Image

In the first years of the Arts & Democracy Project we co-convened small conversations to learn about the needs and interests of artists and activists across the country. Our first one, cosponsored with the New Progressive Coalition, took place at la Pena in Berkeley, bringing together over twenty Bay Area artists, activists, and cultural organizers for a discussion about the relationship between framing, community cultural development, arts, and organizing.  (March 2007)

Cultural Organizing: A Conversation at the Intersection

At the 2005 Grantmakers in the Arts conference a group of activist artists, community organizers and funders began a conversation about the purposeful intersection of art and activism. That session stimulated follow-up e-mail exchanges and writing among the conference participants and a few others. The resulting discussion is reflected in this article, published in the Summer 2006 GIA Reader. Our intention was to make cultural organizing visible by sharing its principles, demonstrating its rigor and creativity, and illustrating its diverse methodologies.