In our call for this issue of Public, we asked: What alternatives to single-discipline job trajectories do public scholars and artists find and generate? What are ways of applying knowledge and skills associated with one arena to something else? In a gloomy academic job market, how are people finding satisfying positions? How can career paths evolve along with one's interests? In response, people submitted often-poignant stories of efforts to find or expand a position, and to seek out collaborators in order to make space in their work for multiple concerns.
Cover Image by Jason Mrachina
High Trestle Trail Bridge, 2011
Used under Creative Commons license
Five doctoral student members of Imagining America's Publicly Active Graduate Education network share their perspectives on ways to shift graduate education towards embracing hybrid career paths. The text is organized into thematic sections that organically emerged in a series of conversations among the co-authors. The accompanying video highlights many of the main points in the text and serves as an abstract of each author's individual perspective. We see this multimedia article as a launchpad to build community among like-minded alternative job seekers within and outside of academia. It is a call to action to identify our commonalities, differences, hidden strengths, and unique qualifications so we can better equip ourselves to forge new pathways towards hybrid career alternatives.
This presentation will discuss efforts to proactively engage in disciplinary innovation and evolution, through project-based learning in community settings with community partners. These projects have shown us that, even in a large university setting, experiential learning can offer students alternative ways of imagining their futures as design professionals—and as citizens—after they leave school. We also believe that the core principles we adhere to can be of use to those in other disciplines and professions.
This project emerges from sessions held at the 2012 and 2013 Imagining America conferences, organized around the work of university staff committed to publicly engaged universities and operating in the middle ground of campus-community partnerships. The project is a twenty-first-century triptych with three parallel sections. A Manifesto from the Middle Ground advances collective claims about hybrid, intermediary work and positions. Myths and Manifestations enacts a critique of the institutionalized assumptions about these positions and their work. Grounds initiates the project of collecting stories that inform the first two sections—and invites reader response. While one can read the piece linearly, hyperlinked bridges also open thematic pathways through the text. We present here the insights, dilemmas, and strategies of those working in hybrid positions in order to elaborate our critical agency in social and institutional change work; to specify our knowledges and skill sets; and to inaugurate more inclusive narratives about collaborative work and knowledge production.
The author reflects on the mutually reinforcing aspects of her professional experience developing community-based learning programs in higher education and her graduate study in nineteenth-century African American "benevolence" literature. The work of her early career led her to research issues of race and benevolence and write a dissertation examining four African American-authored narratives written between 1793 and 1901 that depict acts of benevolence by African Americans to white recipients. The study focuses on the power relations represented by benevolent acts and social perceptions regarding benefactor and recipient roles, thus complicating the dominant American narrative of benevolence. Troppe uses nineteenth-century benevolence literature as a means of teaching students to challenge constructs of race and power in twenty-first-century social activist movements. Her research underscores the importance of cultural work as a form of community activism.
Public interest design expands the practice and education of architecture and design by shifting from the narrowly focused production of objects to a multidimensional process for achieving change and impact. It moves design from adherence to goals created by wealthy and powerful clients and policymakers to engaging proactively with a broad range of stakeholders. Design thus contributes to solutions to issues connected to the built environment, such as climate change, increasing urbanization, and growing inequity between rich and poor. Present in university design centers, nonprofit organizations, for-profit firms, and university courses, public interest design is providing new opportunities for students, young professionals, and others interested in using their knowledge and training to create positive futures.
This article examines the hybrid careers of a group of public scholars who form the core faculty for an academic program on a campus defined in part by its commitment to civic engagement. To better understand our status as public scholars, we posed four questions to ourselves that invited reflection on our work, our positionality, our professional objectives, and the expectations that others have for us. The text presented here is a synthesis of our responses to that questionnaire. We each define our work differently, and none of us took quite the same route to arrive at our current faculty appointment. Looking closely at the pathways that lead to and through our hybrid careers reveals an intricate combination of personal commitments, professional identity, larger goals, and broader perspectives.
Imagining America Publicly Active Graduate Education Fellows LaTanya S. Autry and Kinh (TK) Vu discuss the emergence of unexpected career paths that helped them explore new ground within and outside their fields of art history and music education. They consider integrated roles of researchers, teachers, artists, and activists in public life, hoping these ideas will resonate among readers who feel similar tensions between what exists now and what might exist in the future.
This paper describes the career paths of three women who draw upon their own creative spirit to pursue educational opportunities for social justice and transformative, multicultural learning through art and design. Although their respective backgrounds are quite different, a convergence of shared values, principles, and practices bring them together in a university setting to forge alliances for broader impact. Through personal narratives, this article weaves together the common ground they share, the visual communication tools they have begun to develop to bridge discipline specific episteme, and their ideas to expand undergraduate experiential learning and establish a network of engaged scholars.
This article, with accompanying videos and links to online journals, tells the tale of the public art course that ended my first academic career in a research university when my students' projects displeased the provost and upset the "campus climate committee." What follows is a picaresque journey through the possibilities of scholarship and community arts activism outside the fetters of academia from a career as a "Latin music maven" and journalist to blogging on "worthy causes" for a multimillion-dollar start up to helping an architect build low income housing. Finally, I return to academia at a liberal arts college with a community engagement mission, which allows me to maintain a large audience as the founder of an arts media bureau, collaborate with dozens of artists as the founder and director of an arts learning program for youth in crisis, and invent new forms of community through a neighborhood carnival.
Crossing Bridges to Create Change
People Who Live and Work in Multiple Worlds
Arts & Democracy Project, 2011
This book presents 24 conversations with community-engaged scholars, artists, urban planners, rural activists, philanthropists, public officials, and others who bridge professional and social sectors to create change. The resulting respectful dialogues with these bridge people cover such important topics as community development, transformative spaces, the power of art, and crossing the borders of culture and politics. The essays foreground the importance of dialogue and provide examples of change-agents who make meaning in action.
Though I have stood before countless activists' bookcases and run my fingers along the spines of shelves-worth of books about arts activism, I find that Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution, assembled by Andrew Boyd (2012), concisely captures the most useful tactics, principles, theories, and case studies related to progressive social justice work today. This book is a must-have for educators working with novice activists, for artists hoping to push their practice towards activism, and for activists seeking new, creative approaches to igniting positive social change.