Over the last eight days, we’ve been meeting with various arts practitioners, arts organisations and their staff, and other city stakeholders, and seen some performance practices that are happening in the city at the moment. We’ve been asking all of the people that we’ve met a series of questions that we think are relevant to the broader concerns of Performing City Resilience. These have included asking about the city’s: challenges, arts infrastructure, audiences, collaborations, engagement with the arts as a social, political or cultural concern, artists’ understanding of their position in the ways the city thinks about itself.
From these conversations, some of the things we have noticed have been to do with the centrality of cultural practices as part of the city’s fundamental understanding of itself, that different spaces and companies have different audiences but that many of these spaces and companies are directly engaged with increasing diversity in these audiences. That there are multiple inequities that divide, for example, across race, class, economics, and one’s time in the city. Allied to this, the city has challenging infrastructure, and faces changing environmental conditions (both ecological and in terms of ‘recovery’ and ‘reconstruction’). Despite these, people dance in the streets, spend a year crafting costumes for a single event, and music is everywhere. That eating together is important. That artists are profoundly engaged in thinking about the challenges that the city faces, as well as the joys of living here, in with and through their work. This is often implicit and deeply embedded in their work rather than an explicit ‘mission’.
The city has a rich and plural arts scene, that has the potential to contribute to resilience thinking for itself, in relationship to formalised processes of resilience at city government level, and from this, inform more nuanced understandings of resilience internationally. However, there is no unified language to facilitate this potential and perhaps this is where our project has something to offer. In the coming months, we will be working on blogs that reflect on our trip here, as well as academic publishing that theorises our findings in more concrete ways.
For now, we are looking forward to our event at the Contemporary Arts Centre at 6pm tomorrow (http://cacno.org/special-events/arts-and-city-resilience-new-orleans) and, hopefully, to facilitating an interesting and timely conversation about Performing City Resilience with makers, spectators, resilience professionals, residents from and visitors to New Orleans.