Cultural action casts a wide net. All kinds of people, all over the world, are engaged in cultural action -- organizing projects, leading community activities, creating new approaches to cultural issues, making imaginative new uses of community cultural resources. They may engage with different issues, work with different kinds and levels of support and opposition, and envision the future differently. But it's all cultural action.
Webster's World of Cultural Action provides a center for information about approaches to cultural development. They may be promising or problematic, but they all deserve wider attention.
Like all of Webster's World, we are at an early stage in building our World of Cultural Action. Please share your comments about what's here -- and what should be -- by contacting us at the address at the bottom of every WWCD document.
Webster's World of Cultural Action served as the incubator for the new Web site of A More Perfect Union (AMPU). This video-and-print -- and now Web -- production project aims to catalyze conversations about cultural diversity and American identity. Visit the AMPU site to learn how to get involved.
Community theatre worker Nick Hughes introduces WWWebsters to the rich community arts movements of Australia. This first Webster's World material from Australia includes three articles by Nick:
Since Americans may have forgotten -- or never known -- what it's like to have public support for community-based and socially-engaged arts work, we asked Nick to provide some background on the Australian picture. You'll find his response in Community Arts in Australia. (As soon as we get the time or the volunteer support, we'll install Culturelink's précis of Australian policy, so you can compare Nick's version with a more official description.)
Nothing's perfect, and privatization (though spelled with an "s" in Australia) is a buzzword there as it is around the world today. But community arts is a real job for Australians, and there's a rich tradition of the kinds of discussion and exchange about the challenges of community cultural work that we need here in the U.S.A. Check it out!
"Acting" has multiple meanings -- "social action," "acting out," "acting the part." These meanings all converge in socially-engaged theater.
In theater, we find an especially accessible and personal connection to the idea of action. Popular theater, people's theater, instrumental theater, political theater, activist theater -- we have rich traditions to draw on today.
A number of fine organizations have survived the unfriendly climate of the Reagan-Bush-Clinton Era, in part because their small numbers make them "unique" and therefore of interest to some private-sector funders. But much of the active national theater networking that persisted into the 1980s didn't make it out the other end of that infernal decade: the last issue of the short-lived but important journal Theaterwork died for lack of cash at the printers in 1983.
That's why we decided to include several resources on the social applications of theater in this first installation of Webster's World.
Interest in the work of Paulo Freire and Augusto Boal -- two longstanding world leaders in cultural action -- has steadily grown since the Sixties. Webster's World features several resources about Boal's approach to activist theater -- Theatre of the Oppressed.
Doug Paterson has contributed Theatre of the Oppressed Workshops (12K, All text) -- a short introduction to some of Boal's "various forms of theatre workshops and performances which aimed to meet the needs of all people for interaction, dialogue, critical thinking, action, and fun."
Be sure to check out the information about Boal resources and projects offered by the Applied and Interactive Theater Guide Web site. The Theater Guide site also features listings of many socially-engaged theater activities: consult the overall Theater Guide Home Page at
The Mendocino People's Portrait (MPP) project was a national demonstration project in community arts undertaken with the Institute for Cultural Democracy's assistance in Mendocino County, California. Theater artist Doug Paterson presents the story of Phase One of this project -- the creation of a play about timber issues in a rural community at the heart of conflict -- in UpROOTED! (89K, All text) This case study contains sage advice for outside artists working in community-based situations, and for everyone involved in making art about social issues.
Documentation of a workshop at the Horizons School in Atlanta informed by Boal's ideas and approaches can be found at the Peace Troupe Web site at
Richard Geer of Chicago describes his work with a community in rural Georgia in Of the People, By the People and For the People: The Field of Community Performance. This article first appeared in High Performance magazine, and is posted at their Web site:
This 1982 essay by Don Adams and Arlene Goldbard helped introduce cultural professionals in the U.S. to an international discourse on the practice of community cultural development that had been flourishing -- mainly outside our borders -- since the Sixties. This article links cultural activists with a world of experience that can advance their own efforts.
First of all, take a look at Webster's Guide to the Cultural Landscape. Many of the groups that are listed there are engaged in cultural action and have resources to offer of their own.
Several links focus particularly on cultural action projects. Look at our embryonic list, and send us your own suggestions: we expect this section to grow a lot!
Art in the Public Interest (API)
See API's Web site for links to other projects and groups at
and for links to selected essays at HP's home page:
for API's Resource Catalog at
Benton's Communications Policy Project Web site contains listings of many other groups and projects at
Of particular interest in the context of cultural action is Benton's listing of community computer networks with Web sites, located at
This Institute for Alternative Journalism project's Web site contains links to activist groups engaged in combatting right-wing efforts to censor arts and media, restrict civil rights and influence government at
This weekly Web publication for progressive activists, also maintains the WebActive Directory, containing links to many activist groups and networks having Web resources. Consult the Directory at