Editor’s Welcome, by Jan Cohen-Cruz
Welcome to the first issue of Public: A Journal of Imagining America! We aspire to be a space where a diversity of people exchange ideas and share projects integrating humanities, arts, and design in public life. We are mindful of the shortcomings of the very idea of a “public,” from which whole groups of people have historically been left out. We know that some publications are intended for people in higher education while others are for practitioners, and most all of them are discipline-specific, bringing to mind these recent exchanges:
A Leader in Community Arts: Will Public be an academic journal?
Me: If by academic you mean rigorous, asking questions from multiple perspectives, seeking a balance between action and reflection, and building on knowledge that precedes it, then yes. If you mean cut off from our shared lives, theoretical rather than practical, and in a language known only to those with graduate degrees in particular disciplines, then no.
A Leader in Engagement but Not the Arts (heard secondhand): Is she (me) only going to include submissions about the arts?
She (me): No. Having directed Imagining America (IA), I embrace the full range of disciplines in which our constituents are grounded, the dazzling array of partners with whom they collaborate, and their commitment to conjoin imagining with actions of all sort.
Me (asking myself): Is Public only going to publish material written by or about projects involving professors and university students?
Me (answering myself): No. People who are interested in “artists and scholars in public life” want to know about rich projects and debates in this spirit whether the academy is involved or not. Universities must evoke the universe, exploring significant initiatives whether or not they are involved in them.
Public, as a platform of Imagining America, a consortium of some hundred colleges and universities, reflects the organization’s commitment to creating a vocabulary and sharing initiatives that illuminate the work of public scholarship, making it recognizable apart from service. We support boundary-expanding artists, scholars, and designers whose contributions do not always “count” as knowledge and pedagogy in the academy. We include contributors based on their insights, whether they come from lived experience, rigorous study, or both. We are multimodal in that we appreciate not only words but also still images and moving pictures, maps and orality, as expressions of what we know and how we know it. The discourse we seek goes in both directions–by and for people in arts and cultural organizations, in colleges and universities, and in other public and community-based venues–with some submissions integrating several of these perspectives.
Submissions are peer reviewed but we recognize, importantly–as IA founding director Julie Ellison and current co-director Timothy Eatman note in Scholarship in Public –that one’s peers in public scholarship and practice are not all to be found in the academy. With reviewers from different professional and experiential locations, the likelihood of Public as a truly public journal increases.
This, our first publication, is a double issue, designed to present a range of subjects, formats, and contributors germane to the journal project. While twice as long as future issues, it is organized into the same five sections with which we expect to continue:
Editorials/Introductions: Here we frame the current issue. Cofounders and journal designers Kathleen Brandt and Brian Lonsway share design aspirations for Public. Jill Dolan, writing on “critical generosity,” articulates the constructive and rigorous criticism we hope will characterize Public. Given that our host, Syracuse University, is situated in what has been historically Haudenosaunee Nation territory, Phil Arnold, a spokesperson for the Nation, acknowledges values that Public embraces that have long underpinned the Nation’s way of life.
The 2012 IA Conference: As the journal of a membership organization, one of our two issues per year is aligned with our annual national conference. This issue takes up the theme of our 2012 conference in New York City–”Linked Fates and Futures: Communities and Campuses as Equitable Partners?” Conference cochair Randy Martin lays out the thinking that led him to propose this theme. Cochair Marta Vega offers brief yet trenchant remarks from the opening plenary followed by a response from a cohort of PAGE (Publically Active Graduate Education fellows). Jack Tchen recreates “Professor Jack’s Walking Tour,” a slide show and talk that prepared attendees for the site visits characteristic of IA national gatherings.
Features: An opportunity to think in depth and often from multiple perspectives, this section includes IA associate director Kevin Bott’s interview with Bill Aguado, former director of the Bronx Council of the Arts; a conversation between Pam Korza, codirector of Animating Democracy, and three members of the Cultural Studies Praxis Collective; Laura Browder and collaborators on an archive exploring civil rights in Richmond, Virginia; Madupe Labode and colleagues on a controversy around public art in Indianapolis that led to a conference cocurated by people from within and outside of the University of Indiana; Jocelyn Zanzot’s video-centered piece about the Mobile Studio in Alabama; and Vialla Hartfield-Méndez on the relationship between Emory University’s museum and the neighboring Latino/Hispanic community.
Resources and Exchange: Here, our focus is the presentation of innovative projects, research methods, cross-sector partnerships, syllabi, and assignments, often intended to start a conversation. Marc Schlossberg and Nico Larco describe the University of Oregon’s Sustainable City Year Program. Rebecca Yenawine’s video seeks a common language for practitioners of community arts. Patrick Lee Lucas shares a design course that brings his students into direct contact with local organizations. Ann Shostrum’s multimedia piece about the creation of an art space on a vacant urban lot includes a range of individuals and organizations, including colleges and universities, united through commitment to their neighborhood. K. Valentine Cadieux describes a prototype for an interactive food system resource in A Field Guide to Making Food Good.
Reviews: These will be selected from works accessible to readers generally. Here Patricia C. Phillips writes about Shannon Jackson’s Social Works: Performing Art, Supporting Publics.
I am deeply grateful to those who made this journal possible: Syracuse University Chancellor Nancy Cantor and Associate Provost Eric Spina, both of whose commitment to public scholarship are breathtaking; the ever-steady Chris Sedore and the persevering SU ITS team, featuring Beth Teska; former Dean of Libraries Suzanne Thorin, DeAnn Buss, the intrepid Suzanne Preate and her coworkers Nick Nosko, Russell Silverstein, and Sarah Theimer from the SU Libraries; the SU Press, especially editorial and production manager Kay Steinmetz, designer Lynn Wilcox, and editor-in-chief Suzanne Guiod; and our Engagement Scholar Ousman Diallo. I thank IA current directors Tim Eatman and Scott Peters, assistant director Jamie Haft, and associate director Kevin Bott. The journal’s editorial board members have been stellar; Aimee Cox, Dana Edell, and Jack Tchen worked most closely with me on this issue. I especially throw my arms around Public cofounders and design editors Kathleen Brandt and Brian Lonsway, as engaged in content as they are astounding designers, for taking such an active role in bringing this initiative into being.
Thanks to all the submitters to this issue and to our second, Volume II Issue 1, “A Future-Oriented Democratic Revival,” which is currently in peer review. Click here for the call for Vol. II, Issue #2 on alternative/hybrid/customized professional paths.