The Utopia Project
Location: Anacostia Community Museum, Washington D.C.
Dates: November 1, 2022 – March 1, 2023
from the Smithsonian Anacostia Museum website on the Utopia Project at the Anacostia Museum:
For over 50 years, ACM has exposed injustices and has provided a platform for under-told stories in our urban community. Many of these powerful examples have illuminated the power of collective action toward a more equitable future. The Utopia Project seeks to deconstruct the reasons why social change happens. Why does one tactic work and another fails? This interactive gallery will be a space to learn the art of activism and to unlock the creativity in each of us to transform our world.
Through a series of experiential activities, visitors will first learn to tap into the issues they care about and then envision their own version of a utopia in an immersive “Dream Space.” Here, visitors will be asked to imagine, with all obstacles removed, a world beyond the problem at hand to the awe-inspiring end goal. With that image of success in mind, they discover the research-informed tactics that have most often led to measurable social change. Last is the maker space – where dreams become actions. With everything from cardboard and tape to Legos and whiteboards, visitors are invited to prototype their ideas for making a better world.
Objects, photos, and stories from the ACM collection will be featured throughout the gallery, turning abstract ideas into real-world examples of community members making a difference throughout history. Accounts of these everyday change-makers serve to remind us that the ingredients for change reside in each one of us. And the Utopia Project makes the process transparent and reachable so that the impossible becomes possible.
This project was created in collaboration with The Center for Artistic Activism, a non-profit organization that helps people use their creativity and culture to affect power. Their founders’ book, The Art of Activism, as well as the Center for Artistic Activism’s ongoing research and training provided many of the driving principles illustrated in The Utopia Project.
Behind the Utopia Project at the Anacostia Museum
In 2022 the Center for Artistic Activism ran one of our workshops for museum staff on how ideas from the arts and activism can work and have worked together. At the time they were considering a more practical exhibit on activism and the workshop seemed to inspire them to continue.
The Center for Artistic Activism’s Rebecca Bray deserves recognition for helping to make this happen on our side.
Personally, it was just stunning to see ideas and phrases blown up on the walls of the space that had been passed to me by other teachers, or coined and developed in a bar with Rebecca, Stephen Duncombe, or other colleagues.