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The Arts at NCDD Events

Since its inception, NCDD has understood the capacity for the arts to be a powerful catalyst for and component of dialogue. Through the arts, the melody of song can bring comfort, and the rhythmic power of drumming can awaken. Through art, an image or a gesture can bring meaning or elicit feeling that can’t always be easily expressed in words. Art can bring much-needed humor to devastating issues, provide a new doorway to enter into a conversation about painful topics, and lend the personal and human dimension to large social issues.

At the first NCDD conference in 2002, due in large part to inspirational performances and presentations of artists who attended the conference, the arts emerged as a key area of interest deserving further focus within NCDD. Since then, NCDD has committed to exploring the intersection of arts and dialogue through our own resource development, collaboration with such programs as Animating Democracy at Americans for the Arts, and the continued integration of various art forms within our conferences.

Below you will find an overview of the art components from our events. A more detailed description of each can be found in the appropriate event report or conference guidebook.

Arts at the 2002 Conference

A Strong, Unforgettable Art Component

Due in large part to our collaboration with the Animating Democracy Initiative, NCDD 2002 ended up having a very strong art component which left a strong impression on most participants. Animating Democracy's day-long meeting held the day before the conference brought a sizable number of talented artists whose work inspires dialogue and deliberation. Some of these artists had applied to present at the conference. In addition, we were approached by two young, talented artists who provide graphic notation services at conferences and who were especially interested in this conference. And we wisely decided to have artist William Cochran present a slideshow about his unforgettable Community Bridge project during our opening night reception. More details about the arts at the 2002 conference can be found in our 2002 Conference Report.

Art-Based Break-Out Sessions

Five of our most popular break-out sessions were related to the arts. This was the first time many of the dialogue and deliberation practitioners and scholars present had been exposed to some of the possibilities for combining art with D&D;, and these sessions were extremely popular and highly praised by those who attended.

The sessions were titled:

Art & Civic Dialogue: An Exchange Among Arts and Dialogue Practitioners (Andrea Assaf, Barbara Schaeffer Bacon and Pam Korza, the Animating Democracy Initiative of Americans for the Arts)

Dance Exchange on Dialogue & Making Dance (John Borstel and Liz Lerman, Liz Lerman Dance Exchange)

The United States: A People's Dialogue - An arts-based civic dialogue on the nature of citizenship since 9/11 (Marty Pottenger, Animating Democracy and Patricia Romney Ph.D., Romney Associates, Inc.)

Using Informal Writing to Foster Democratic Dialogue: From Small-Group Gatherings to Online Forums (Irene Papoulis, Intercollegiate E-Democracy Project and Beverly Wall, Trinity College)

Using Film to Build Dialogue to Action: How to bring in and sustain effective stakeholders and build new collaborations. (Elaine Shen, Television Race Initiative/Active Voice)

One participant made this comment about the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange session:

“I was brain dead with exhaustion from the adrenalin put out at my own workshop and the listening focus of the prior workshop. This woke me up and got my attention…. You didn't realize until the very end how far you had gone both in deepening your connection with yourself and working in interesting ways with others.”

Because of these sessions, more D&D; practitioners now know that combining the imaginative power of art with the transformative power of dialogue creates dramatic possibilities for communication and connection. Integrating the arts into our work also obtains and holds the interest of some people who might otherwise be uninterested in dialogue and deliberation. The D&D; community now knows the importance of examining this question posed by the Animating Democracy Initiative: How can the arts and humanities contribute most potently to civic dialogue and broader civic discourse?

A Special Presentation on The Community Bridge

During our Friday evening reception, artist William Cochran shared with us the inspiring story of the Community Bridge and the divided community that came together to build a lasting bridge. The Community Bridge is an extraordinary public artwork in Frederick, Maryland, whose meaning and content was created through a two-year artistic interaction with thousands of people of all ages and backgrounds. This large-scale collaboration charged the bridge with such meaning that those who see it and hear its stories often report that it changes the way they look at the world – it certainly seemed to impact many people's thoughts and ideas throughout the next two days of the conference!

Graphic Recording by Megan Schop

Megan Schopf, Founder of Artful Work, is an artist and facilitator who provided the conference with her experience working with groups and individuals creating visuals that support personal/professional development and deepen conversation. Throughout the conference, in both plenary and break-out sessions, Megan created visual learning tools which artistically captured what was being said. Megan has extensive experience in using graphics with people on an individual level, in large groups at conferences and small intimate dialogue groups.

Artistic Notation of Elena Stanger

Elana Stanger, an innovative artist from the Bronx and owner of Diversity Arts, provided us with graphic notation and diversity art services at the conference. Stanger – or St. Anger – created artwork while observing sessions at the conference. Her artwork, which revolves around cartoons in which innocent-looking characters talk to one another about sensitive subjects, is designed to raise questions or awareness in the viewer, leading to greater individual clarity and insight, and intergroup understanding.

Arts at the 2004 Conference

In addition to several exciting arts-based workshops and Monday morning’s plenary session featuring National Playback Theatre, several artists provided artistic notation and graphic recording during the plenary sessions and in some of the workshops. Many more details can be found in the 2004 Conference Report as well as the 2004 Guidebook.

Art-Based Break-Out Sessions

The titles and presenters of the 2004 art-based workshops were:

Bringing Dialogue to the Media: Leaping Between and Beyond the Horns of Dilemma to Paradox (Duncan Campbell, Living Dialogues with Duncan Campbell)

D2 – Dreaming of Democracy Through Dialogue and Dance (Wanjiru Kamuyu, Urban Bush Women; Vincent E. Thomas, VTDance)

ENGAGE: An Exploration of a Community (Leah Lamb, MSW, The Performance Initiative)

Traces of the Trade: Film-based Dialogue on White Privilege (Harold Fields, Denver Victim Offender Reconciliation Program; Holly Fulton, Abraham Lincoln High School; Pam Korza, Americans for the Arts; Chris Waldron, Andover Newton Theological School)

Using the Arts to Promote Dialogue Among Youth (Diana Brittain, Performing ArtWorks; Karen Eberle-Smith and Stella Yu, Arts Street)

Writing, Dialogue, and Community: Sharing What We Know (SY Bowland and Mary Adams Trujillo, Practitioners & Scholars Research Insititute)

Graphic Facilitation

Several artists from Alchemy, a Denver-based company co-founded by Janine Underhill and Patti Dobrowolski, provided real time graphic recording during the plenary sessions. Alchemy creates unique, vibrant maps and charts that capture themes, processes and agreements made during critical meetings.

Elana Stanger (aka St. Anger) joined us again to provide her unique, dialogue-provoking artistic notation services. Elana, an innovative artist from the Bronx and owner of Diversity Arts, will create artwork while observing sessions and goings-on at the conference. Her artwork, which revolves around cartoons in which innocent-looking characters talk to one another about sensitive subjects, is designed to raise questions or awareness in the viewer, leading to greater individual clarity and insight, and intergroup understanding.

Playback Theatre

On the morning of the third and final day of the conference, we began the day with an interactive performance of National Playback Theatre, which turned out to be the most highly-rated and most talked-about feature of the 2004 conference. Playback Theatre is an innovative example of how the arts can foster and enhance dialogue. We utilized this improvisational form of theatre to reflect on our learnings and experiences over the weekend, encourage unresolved conflicts to emerge, and rejuvenate us for the trip home.

Arts at the 2006 Conference

Drumming, singing, spoken word, theatre, the visual arts, music, dance, and film all have the ability to deepen our work in dialogue and deliberation. 2006 conference participants were invited to enjoy, engage in, and be inspired by the arts elements of the conference and to think about how the arts might enhance their dialogue work. You will find more details about the following arts-based activities in the 2006 Guidebook.

Our sincere thanks to Leah Lamb, Artistic Director of The Performance Initiative, for coordinating the arts component of the 2006 NCDD conference!


Several arts-focused workshops were offered at the conference as well. Being in San Francisco - the documentary film capitol of the nation, leaders of the Center for Digital Storytelling shared how their narrative storytelling techniques can be tools for social change. Active Voice also demonstrated their technique for empowering organizations to use film to enhance their work.

Story as Entry to Sustained Dialogue and Social Change (Libby Traubman, Len Traubman, Elias Botto & Miriam Zimmerman, Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue)

The Power of Media: Using Film to Spur Action-Oriented Dialogue (Shaady Salehi and Ellen Schneider, Active Voice)

The Role of Digital Storytelling in the D&D; Movement: First Voice in Media Production (Joe Lambert and Amy Hill, Center for Digital Storytelling)

Inquiring Minds Want to Know: What Do the Arts Have to Do With Dialogue? (Leah Lamb, The Performance Initiative; Pam Korza, Americans for the Arts)

The Maracats

The 2006 conference opened with the ceremonial tradition of drumming. The Brazilian drumming ensemble Maracats will entice stragglers into the Parc Ballroom with Samba drumming, and plan to perform songs and chants for Elegua, the Ancient African Deity of the Crossroads - the Opener of Dialogue and Communication! The Maracats perform the cultural traditions of Pernambuco, Brazil, known generally as Maracatu. This highly infectious drum/song/dance tradition combines ancient African roots with modern soulful and funky grooves to produce a compelling contemporary mix. Maracatu, while well known throughout Brazil, is virtually unknown in the U.S.

Poets for Global Justice

As San Francisco is an epicenter of "spoken word," two artists of Poets for Global Justice opened our second day together, giving us a sense of place and showcasing the roots of hip hop, where young and old poets alike put words to a rhythm that can be listened to, providing a way for difficult social issues to be voiced. Drew Dellinger is a speaker, writer, teacher and rapper. He is the winner of Common Boundary magazine's national Green Dove Award for innovative work integrating ecology, psychology and spirituality. As a rapper and lyricist he uses music to address issues of cosmology, justice and ecology. Danielle Drake-Burnette is a writer / spoken word artist, the 2003 Oakland Poetry Slam Champion and is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing for Poetry at San Francisco State University. Danielle is also the Founder of Creation Cocoon for Girls, an arts education program that teaches girls empowerment through traditional arts.

Unconditional Theatre

Unconditional Theatre (, led by John Warren, brought to life the themes that emerge as the conference progresses, in the same way they have brought voting ballots to life during past elections for their local community. Unconditional Theatre explores contemporary issues and events through the actual words, stories, and participation of those involved. By conducting interviews, sharing stories, and facilitating dialogue, they involve communities directly in dramatic work that builds understanding and seeks to inspire social change. In addition to presenting documentary performances in community settings, they host Story Swaps, Political Dialogues, and Unconditional Testimonials.

Graphic Recording

Christine Valenza of Art for Change ( has created large graphic note-taking templates we will use to record themes, key points, and next steps during the workshops, and smaller note-taking templates for the Open Space. And Nancy Margulies and her daughter Mariah Howard of Mindscapes ( served as our graphic recorder during the Reflective Panel and Exploring the Trends plenaries on the second day of the conference.

Illegal Art

Throughout the conference, participants had the opportunity to connect and create with artists from Illegal Art (, who are joining us from New York City. Illegal Art is a collaborative of artists whose goal is to create interactive public art to inspire self-reflection, thought and human connection. Each piece is then presented or distributed in a method in which participation is simple and encouraged. Among other things, Illegal Art will allow conference attendees to contribute to their "Suggestion Box" – a large cardboard box with a slit on the top where people can submit a suggestion about anything they would like to.

Peace Tiles

The International Peace Tiles Project ( envisions a world in which schools and other public places are bound together through the visual arts. Peace Tiles offers an easy to follow, dynamic process to engage people of all ages in the exploration of global issues through art, while building connections around the world. The Peace Tiles booth, an ongoing display and work station in our exhibit area, invited participants to work on your own tile throughout the conference. The Peace Tiles Project was founded by Lars Hasselblad Torres, who you may know as a researcher for AmericaSpeaks. The booth was managed by Nil Sismanyazici Navaie, director of Arts For Global Development, Inc.

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