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Models for Collaboration in Documentary Photography at A Blade of Grass Assembly


A Blade of Grass Assembly is a biannual day-long learning exchange and magazine launch for creative changemakers to investigate the methods, ethics, challenges, and joys of practicing art that advances social justice.

Rooted in the themes of Issue #2 of A Blade of Grass Magazine, the Spring 2019 Assembly will be co-presented by FABnyc and explore the diverse partnerships that make social change through art possible. Socially engaged art projects frequently bring together a unique ecosystem of community members, city agencies, business owners, and community-based organizations, among other stakeholders. What can we learn together about creating thriving and sustainable project ecosystems that positively impact communities?

Unlike conferences or panel discussions, the Assembly is structured to be intimate and dialogical rather than presentational. After introductory remarks and a keynote by magazine contributor Robert Sember, the afternoon will be devoted to a series of site visits to Lower East Side arts and culture organizations followed by small group discussion and reflection. We’ll focus on questions like:

  • How do artists and curators listen to, understand, and respond to their collaborators’ opinions, creativity, labor, and leadership in the project?

  • How can artists navigate power differentials and misunderstandings or conflicts when working with communities outside of their own?

  • How do artists manage partners or participants’ expectations of project outcomes or political/social impact?

  • How have commissioning/host organizations learned from their past experiences to restructure artist residencies or commissions to enable more equitable, transparent, and successful partnerships?

Assembly attendees will be able to choose amongst six experiences specially curated by the following host sites: Abrons Arts CenterFABnyc & Downtown ArtLoisaida CenterMagnum FoundationUniversity Settlement, and a tour of Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA) with Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani of the Layered SPURA Project. Each of these intimate site visits will provide an in-depth look at how artists, cultural organizations, and community members have developed successful working relationships. See the day’s schedule below, and scroll down to read more about each of the site visit offerings.

About the Magnum Foundation Site Visit

Visual storytelling is filled with possibility to speak across difference and connect with our shared humanity. At the Magnum Foundation, we believe that the images we see—and who makes them—shapes our understanding of the world and each other. We will bring together Cinthya Santos Briones, Mengwen Cao, and Groana Melendez, three Magnum Foundation fellows who have explored collectivity, participation, and collaboration in their creative practice. They will be joined by collaborators from recent projects to present their work and engage in a conversation about what it means for an imagemaker to partner with the individuals in front of their lens. We’ll delve into the challenges of collaborative practice and the components that are integral to its success to ask about tensions in representation, how to build and maintain trust, and what authorship looks like in a collaborative space. Attendees will be encouraged to contribute to the conversation and offer lessons from their own experiences for a dynamic exchange of knowledge and ethical frameworks that we can all learn from together.