Producing Local Color: A Study of Networks and Resource Mobilization in Three Local Communities

March 2, 2004 - 4:00pm to 6:00pm

Quad Club. Library Room

Presenter: Diane Grams, Associate Director, Cultural Policy Center at the University of Chicago

View Diane Grams' paper: "Producing Local Color: A Study of Networks and Resource Mobilization in Three Local Chicago Communities"

According to Becker (1982) art is produced through a network of people who share an understanding of what can be considered “art” and who directly or indirectly participate in the activities necessary to create the art. By shifting the frame of art production from a “field” or “occupation” to “locality,” I explored how the social linkages necessary to produce art constituted a local community and were shaped by local possibilities. This comparison of art production networks in a predominantly black area (Bronzeville), a predominantly Mexican-American area (Pilsen) and a racially/ethnically diverse area (Rogers Park) showed how network participants mobilized local cultural, physical and human resources to attract economic investment, often from external sources, and produced art that filled a local purpose. Through interviews with 80 people, participant observation of art events, classes and daily life of arts producers, I constructed a typology of art production networks identified by their local purpose. Among the types of networks were those organized around producing territorial markings, producing collections of locally significant art, asserting artistic autonomy, asserting local sovereignty, providing youth services and solving local problems. The art created a local identity by re-presenting community history, its people and its potential vitality to itself and outsiders. Local identity became another resource to be exploited by the community.

ABOUT DIANE GRAMS: Diane Grams is the Associate Director of the Cultural Policy Center at the University of Chicago. Her research focuses on cultural organizations and art production networks, particularly those found in low-income and minority communities. Since 1998, she has worked as an independent consultant for foundations and non-profit organizations doing research, program evaluation, management consultation and fundraising. She was a principal investigator for Leveraging Assets: How Small Budget Arts Activities Benefit Neighborhoods, a 2003 report commissioned by the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation and funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. She was co-author of “ArtsAlive: The 2001 Report on the State of Arts Education in Michigan for Art Serve Michigan and the Michigan Board of Education.” As a Ph.D. candidate at Loyola University, Chicago, she won a 2002 Schmitt Dissertation Fellowship for her research, “Networking for Arts Sake: A Comparative Study of Art Production Networks in Bronzeville, Pilsen and Rogers Park.” She was a part time faculty member at DePaul University 2001-2003, and at Loyola 2000-2002, teaching courses in the sociology of art & culture, gender, and race/ethnicity. During her twenty-year career in the Chicago arts community, she was named among One Hundred Women Making a Difference in Chicago by Today's Chicago Women in 1989 and given the 1989 Civil Liberties Award from the Roger Baldwin Foundation of the American Civil Liberties Union of Chicago for her work in support of artistic expression. She was the Executive Director of The Peace Museum, Chicago, 1992-1998.