July 12-15, 2007 - Denver, Colorado

Report Open Dialogue XI, Denver Colorado, July 12 to 15, 2007

You can download a pdf of the 115-page full report "Open Dialogue XI: Global Connections to Cultural Democracy Conference and Symposium Proceedings."

Summary Report of Open Dialogue XI, Denver Colorado, July 12 to 15, 2007

In July of 2007, The Association of American Cultures (TAAC) held its eleventh biennial Open Dialogue (OD XI) meeting in Denver, Colorado, hosted by the Western States Arts Federation, and supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and many state and regional partners. About 200 persons were in attendance. The lasting impact of these biennial conversations is the ongoing interaction that is initiated among the participants, especially on the local and regional levels. As well, specific policy recommendations are made in regards to national US arts funding and programs. TAAC continues to strengthen these connections and improve the services TAAC provides to its constituents.

The Open Dialogue took the form of a symposium with as many as 80 US and international speakers presenting talks and artists exhibiting and performing their creative work. Highlights of the ODXI were: seminar sessions, small group dialogues, skills workshops, viewing of a Latino art exhibition and a performance showcase, youth poetry readings and a sunrise ceremony. Participants from many states, as well as the Denver area, actively took part.

TAAC's Open Dialogue XI focused on globalization and the associated demographic changes that are taking place in the art world and their impact on ethnic and traditional art. A major perspective was cast on the meeting's ability to be a democratic and unifying cultural voice in a de facto world and nation of diverse cultural and artistic traditions. A new generation of men and women are poised to take charge as artists, arts administrators and promoters of the arts. It is important that these emerging leaders are ready to take their places in this changing world that is ultimately being influenced by increased globalization, transnational cultural-arts realities in lived daily lives and systemic political and economic forces. These political systems are not always knowledgeable and/or in favor of diversity as a necessary and valuable ingredient to building common cause through unity in diversity.

Action Circle

With assistance from the NEA, we also convened an Action Circle during the conference, including representatives from arts service organizations. This was the first meeting of the AC and they met twice over the three day OD XI conference. TAAC leadership noted the number of other leaders who joined us for the Action Circle activities to assist the organization in planning its future activities. However, few of these leaders representing diverse cultural institutions were in their 20s, a few were in their 30s, and the majority of the participants were over 50 years old. For the continuation of a vibrant arts community staffed by inspired leaders, TAAC will continue to convene the up and coming leaders together with the older and/or veteran principals in the Action Circle. We hope that this will foster national development of a culture of organizational leadership that emphasizes a deliberate process of generational transference of institution-building knowledge and decision-making authority by developing a mentorship process. This process is fundamentally different from the trendy discussions about philosophical need and procedural preparation of new young-adult leadership that generally lacks actionable steps, yearly tracking and evaluation.

Conference Rationale

In presenting the biennial conference, TAAC's ongoing goal is to initiate and facilitate a dialogue with tomorrow's art leaders, transferring valuable leadership and organizational history and experience as preparation for them for what lies ahead, and simultaneously seeking to learn from and support them in emerging new generational ways of doing and communicating the arts and organizational building. To accomplish this, we draw on our roots as an arts advocacy organization and a continued voice for ethnic and traditional arts in the literal "association of American cultures "

Dialogue and cultural expression are precursors to art. What we envision will result from the next Open Dialogue in Chicago in August 2010 will be an increased expression of art that reflects the new realities put forth and encouraged by men and women prepared with the understanding of art as a tool to educate, inform and inspire new generations. We seek to build an appreciation and increase participation in arts practices---and to consciously and effective utilize artistic imagination and creation in democratic nation building. We have chosen as the major outcome of our efforts 'The arts contribute to the strengthening of communities.' The proposed dialogue and the increased awareness of the impacts of globalization and changing demographics will strengthen the ability of those that shape, administer and promote artists and artistic organizations to insure a sense of continuity and influence in a rapidly changing world.

Follow-up Timeline

The Open Dialogue, a national meeting for emerging artists, administrators and promoters will be held in August of 2010 in Chicago. Two interim planning meetings of the TAAC board and key project personnel will take place in June 2008 in Philadelphia (part of the Americans for the Arts conference), as part of the statewide arts conference in Peoria, IL in June 2009 and as a workshop of the Americans for the Arts conference June 2009 in Seattle. The TAAC board meets via conference calls on a monthly basis.