The American Arts Incubator kicked off at the ZERO1 Garage in San Jose, California this past week. After over a year of planning, the excitement in the room was palpable as the four participating artists gathered for the first time with the ZERO1 staff and a U.S. State Department Representative to discuss the details of the project. We talked at length about the challenges and opportunities that the artists will face in each of the countries that we will be visiting: Mongolia, Papua New Guinea, Laos and the Philippines.
We tackled some big questions. How do we come alongside local artists and community members in each city and empower them through a communal exchange of ideas and artistic expressions that is not only impactful but also sustainable beyond our visit? How do we leave enough room in our plans to allow unexpected ideas, voices and circumstances influence the outcome of our project while still honoring the overall intent of the program? Innovative ideas and strategies came to light through numerous brainstorming sessions and roundtable discussions. The ZERO1 staff is incredibly talented and is deeply committed to supporting the artists and setting us up for success by helping shape the vision for each of our projects.
After years of leading community based murals projects in the States, I look forward to the unique challenges of working in Laos. I was truly inspired by all of the participants at this three-day orientation. I left feeling motivated to push myself to reconsider what a mural can be and how it can function in a society whose perspective and relationship to public art is vastly different from our own. Stay tuned as our projects continue to evolve and take shape!