Alumni & Faculty Collaboration: Presenting "Creative Right to the City" at the 2018 Urban Affairs Conference by Salina M. Almanzar
This past April I attended and presented alongside Dr. Andrew Zitcer at the Urban Affairs Association Conference in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Presenting at the conference was made possible by generous support from Drexel University Arts Administration and Franklin and Marshall College. Dr. Zitcer and I have been working on a paper that examines current or recent events around art in the public realm and how these events have been informed by cultural representation, theories around Creative Placemaking and/or Placekeeping, and most importantly the idea or the right to the city. This collaboration grew out of conversations in Dr. Zitcer’s Creative Placemaking course in the summer of 2017 where myself and my classmates were thinking about who art in the public realm is for and how to deal or discuss monuments that exclude or offend. After graduation, Dr. Zitcer expressed interest in continuing the conversation through writing a collaborative paper that synthesized my personal experiences as an artist and Latinx community organizer and our mutual interest in scholarship around the right to the city, public space, and art in the public realm. Through the process of conversing, writing, reading, re-writing, reading and talking some more, and drawing, we came up with a rubric that we feel can help guide both conversations around why some pieces of public art might age out, be inappropriate/problematic, or are exemplary. Our conversations led us to consider presenting our findings to others that might find value in embracing dynamic and informed discourse around art in the public realm and what we ultimately have settled on as the creative right to the city. And so, the proposal was submitted to the Urban Affairs Association and accepted and we plugged away at refining our ideas, trying to stay up to date on current events around cultural representation, appropriation, and incidents involving art in the public realm.
At the conference we presented our findings alongside two other panelists where we all discussed Cultural Life in Neighborhoods. Our paper, titled Cultural Representation and the Expressive Right to the City, was well received and resonated with many of the sessions around similar ideas. We are continuing to work on the paper and rubric and hoping to possibly publish it in a relevant journal or scholarly magazine soon. The experience of presenting work, especially work that was created collaboratively and independent of coursework was extremely gratifying. Outside of the presentation session we had scheduled I made sure to attend as many sessions as possible choosing to focus primarily on education, the arts, and justice issues. Since graduating from the Arts Administration program, I’ve continued working by day at Franklin and Marshall College as a photography technician and professor’s assistant while also serving on the School District of Lancaster School Board (an elected position). I have continued to work with community groups and organize community art making opportunities especially within the Latinx community as I build on the work I started with my thesis. I also am now Chair of the Public Art Advisory Board where I feel I can draw on the knowledge and resources the Arts Administration program and all of my professors shared. The opportunity to attend the UAA Conference is definitely a highlight of what I consider a lasting relationship with Drexel University and I am still processing all of the information I managed to glean in those three days.