To Build Strong Children: Toledo, Ohio as a Case Study in Arts Diplomacy

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    • Presentation speakers
      • Thor J. Mednick, University of Toledo, Toledo, OH, USA


    This talk focuses on the use of art as a means of social interventional in the United States, focusing specifically on the writings and practice of Kansas-based community artist David Loewenstein. While there is some support for public art in the United States, it is primarily a private enterprise. Loewenstein collaborates regularly with government-funded agencies like the Mid-America Arts Alliance, and non-governmental organizations like the U.S. Department of Art and Culture, a grass-roots movement for creative change; as such, Loewenstein’s career provides an interesting example of the constant negotiation between private and public interests required of a practitioner in this field. It also indicates the extent to which a practitioner must see him/herself primarily as a facilitator of change for the community, rather than a motivating agent. It is a basic tenet of Loewenstein’s approach that for a community art project to have integral value, the needs it addresses must emerge from, and be articulated by, the members of the community themselves. This winter, Loewenstein worked with students at the University of Toledo (Toledo, Ohio, USA) to research and create a mural at the Frederick Douglass Community Center, in Toledo. Using a methodology derived from the World Café model, students interviewed members of this marginalized and underserved community and discussed what they wanted the mural to say and achieve. From the beginning, the process was collaborative, and the in the end there were painters from the community than from the class of University students that initiated the project. This talk will discuss the aims, process, and short-term legacy of this project, and will propose applications of this approach in European countries such as Denmark, which are currently struggling with the integration of Eastern and Western populations.