Community event to use art to address city issues

By Sam Beard, @SamBeard_DE

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. One group in town is tired of the same methods of problem solving and is turning to artists for help.

Carbondale Community Arts University, a three-day event starting Thursday at 304 W. Walnut St., is an attempt to begin building the multi-disciplinary relationships necessary to address local issues.

Jessica Lynn, executive director of Carbondale Community Arts — the non-profit hosting the event — said the process of getting artists’ perspectives on how to solve issues, such as homelessness, has worked in the past and is called artist intervention.


She said the lack of collaboration between artists and institutions, such as universities and city governments, creates a division among people and Carbondale is no exception.

“You have people working on different aspects of issues and they are very separate from one another,” Lynn said. “You can see that between departments on campus. You can see that between various organizations around the city.”

She said the phenomenon doesn’t necessarily come from a lack of desire to collaborate, but rather the lack of resources and space to work together can be a deterrent.

The event aims to facilitate a space that makes building new relationships possible, Lynn said.

Faculty from the university will facilitate some of the event’s programs, including Sarah Lewison, associate professor of radio, television and digital media.
Lewison said community members should play a role in shaping their community.

“There is a need for people to be able to feel like the place they live is their place and that they are invested in it and it reflects who they are,” Lewison said.

She will lead a discussion Thursday with the hope that people will be excited about doing different kinds of art, specifically socially-minded artistic endeavors that harbor direct involvement and community participation.


Thursday’s discussion will focus on defining “creative community” and problems in Carbondale, the root causes of those problems and beginning to develop ideas of how they can improved.

Lewison said the group — which welcomes everybody’s participation — will explore root causes of run-down housing in Carbondale, with the hope of finding solutions.

She said a lot of issues come from the top-down approach leaders have when addressing issues, in which only people in positions of power make decisions that affect everybody.

The event aims to build horizontal power structures that do not concentrate decision making power into the hands of the few, but distribute it to the stakeholders directly affected by an issue and who will benefit from it being resolved, Lynn said. 
“There are all kinds of ways that local governments are structurally set up so that only certain people get to make the decisions in the end,” Lewison said. “And this is usually on the basis of profit making.”
The event is free and open to the public and one of its goals is to address issues of local governance.
The program is not only about the problems in the community, but also what it is doing well and how it can continue to build upon those things. The event will also offer participants and guests food and entertainment.
A local jazz and funk band, Phuesis, which is comprised of SIU School of Music students will perform from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday.
Sam Beard can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @SamBeard_DE.