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Home > About > News and Events > News > Guild News > Interview with Michael Rohd on Building Effective Partnerships

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Interview with Michael Rohd on Building Effective Partnerships

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Oct 15, 2015

This year’s Conference for Community Arts Education will feature innovative thoughts on building lasting partnerships with community stakeholders. On Saturday, November 14, Michael Rohd will advance this conversation during his hands-on session Devising Collaborative Projects: A Workshop to Develop Your Next Community Partnership. Rohd is founder and director of the Center for Performance and Civic Practice and artistic director of Sojourn Theater. He has helmed dozens of innovative partnership projects using performance to serve deep civic needs, and he has fostered and mentored dozens more.

The Guild recently spoke with Rohd about his work bringing together organizations, artists, and civic leaders.

Why is the work you do with arts partnerships important to you?

MR: As I've continued as an artist and have grown older, I have become clearer about what my service as a human being should be. For me, it is to look at how communities can become fairer and more equitable and to make spaces for progress in that direction. My service is not just as an arts maker myself but in working with others to help them make work that makes change in their communities.

There's a movement in the arts and out of the arts that is drawing on the power of art to bring about positive change, and my work is part of that movement, a movement around making the most of the assets that artists bring to the table. It’s a new frame for how arts and non-arts sectors collaborate in our communities.  My work is to ask, how do we make space at the table for artists? How do we express and build on that value in lots of vectors and contexts?

I love making my own work but I am as jazzed about helping support the work of others in this arena. Helping an artist bring their talent to a defined group of community needs is amazing.  I think about my ability to ‘make’ in terms of encounters and relationships.

Could you share a project or initiative that had the kind of impact you aim for?

MR: There are tons of projects right now. The clearest example is our Catalyst Initiative funded by the Mellon Foundation. This is an initiative of the Center for Performance and Civic Practice [which Rohd founded and leads].  We identify and support a cohort of individual artists or small collectives working with civic partners. We mentor and support this work, and we are currently supporting eight projects around the country in round two of the initiative.

We funded the projects, but more than that, they become part of a learning community. We provide mentoring and we make a commitment to documenting and evaluating each project. We published a report and put detailed information on our website and have gotten a lot of excitement. It also allows us to clearly articulate the process of creating this work as we try to support and grow the field.

What is coming up that you are excited about?

MR: Our Civic Practice Lab, a Doris Duke Charitable Trust supported supports a partnership with Lookingglass Theater Company in Chicago which pairs Lookingglass artists with non-arts community partners, creating new relationships and new models for performance and civic practice.

Cuyahoga County [Ohio] has a local tax supporting the arts, and they're engaging us to bring the whole arts and culture community into dialog around a new initiative. I’m excited about where that can lead.

This resource brought to you by the National Guild for Community Arts Education.