• Kristine Leslie

Cheers to A Successful First Coffee Talk!

The National Consortium for Creative Placemaking’s Community Director, Andrea Orlando, introduces a new production: Community Coffee Talk. Participants from Philadelphia to Canada to New Mexico to California to Atlanta and so many more wonderfully diverse places, filled seats at our virtual table. Together, we quite literally raised our glasses (mugs) for a welcoming toast to the first episode of an exciting series. Bring your favorite mug and join us for live, interactive video Community Coffee Talks on Thursday afternoons, 1 p.m. EST. Next Thursday, we’ll converse with the innovators at They've been connecting underinsured artists with medical professionals for years. Let's find out how they're shifting their work in a socially distanced world. Tamara Gatchell, Principal at Cadence Creative and graduate of the Certificate in Creative Placemaking program will lead the discussion. Click here to register.

Andrea’s opening remarks included the mention of her deep respect for the creative placemaking field and both the work and intense curiosity of creative placemakers. “What is everybody thinking; What is everybody trying? I know you are all trying to bridge the social distance”

As participants enthusiastically occupied the chat with their names, affiliations, reactions, responses, and further questions, self-proclaimed “Resident peanut gallery”, Megs Rutigliano covered some ground rules (get it? GROUND rules!). As Tamara Gatchell later commented, “ground rules can often lead to greater freedom :)”. Megs then proceeded to monitor the chat with engaging feedback, while our featured guest, Phillipa Hughes, began discussion with Andrea.

The two originally met last April, right before Philippa began to tour the country with her project “Looking for America”. She traveled to places like Salt Lake City (UT), Sioux City (SD), Anchorage (AK), Detroit (MI), El Paso (TX), and Northwest Arkansas. The inspiration? After the American Presidential election of 2016, Philippa found herself devastated over the voting results. She began to host dinners (Blueberries and Cherries) as a sort of safe haven of open conversations between people who disagree about policy and politics. Somewhere down the line, she thought to herself, “Working in the arts for over 10 years-I should be applying the skills and knowledge I have gained from those things here, turn it into a project”. And so, Good American was born; A curated art show to experience art and artists and talk to each other- across the political spectrum. “It’s not binary, it’s not just left versus right.” Looking for America bloomed from that installation as a way to use arts and culture to talk about immigration. Philippa dubs it as the most fulfilling project that she’s ever done, professionally. But what's next? In the age of COVID-19 “How do we bring people together in a time where we can’t get together?”.

Andrea: What is your theory of change around depolarization?

Philippa: The basis for all change is relationships… How do we build better relationships?

Philippa stressed that relationship building lies at the core of depolarization. Without relationships we cannot survive, humanity would die.

Andrea: Why do people need to see each other face-to-face? (As opposed to virtual platforms such as zoom)

Philippa offered a disclaimer, sharing that she believes social media to be an awesome tool for good when not being used to evil; a tool to get to face to face interaction because there are subtle nuances in dialogue that you can’t capture through a screen.

Philippa: We have to be in the same room, see each other.

Andrea: What role does art play in eliciting good conversations?

Philippa: I kind of have to back up...I love art...I love art objects; I like collecting arts; I love being around artists…the power of art in itself is zero. It’s just materials.

Philippa admits to still working out her thoughts around this evolving concept: trying to de-objectify art and think about it as a means to learning about yourself. She believes that the value in art is to reflect on oneself, see others, and to spark curiosity, for if we aren’t curious about one another, we can’t form relationships.

Andrea: What is the future of gathering when we can’t gather? How are you shifting your work?

Hear Philippa's response to this question and more of Andrea's thought-provoking inquiries in our latest podcast, provided below.

Like our podcasts? You'll LOVE our webinars.

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