Dancing with Peace

Dancing with Peace is a live-in residency for artists who are historically under-represented within dominant global narratives, and exploring today’s pressing questions around peace and conflict. Artists will be supported through collaborations with a cohort of fellow creatives, receipt of financial and resource-based support for their practices to thrive, and plug-ins to a global network of peacebuilders and their work.  

The residency will take place in the house of the late gallery owner Charlie Campbell, and his wife, and artist, Glenna. Charlie and Glenna’s lives were continually in support of artists and their house today is both a sanctuary to peacebuilders and artists as well as to the art that they collected and created over 70 years. In understanding how the narratives and histories of the house can expand in a way that stays true to their lives while also growing new possibilities within it, this artist residency is a beautiful way to honor them and their space. The house and its magic were grown through Charlie and Glenna’s creative gifts and we know that this is a step in further growing that magic. 

Our Arts and Justice Lead on the Build Up Collective, Anooj Bhandari (anooj@howtobuildup.org), will be supporting the development of the residency, working to grow its wings through a careful eye towards how the past, present, and future may collide in the space. As a queer, first generation Indian-American with over a decade working in US-based conflict transformation, restorative justice, and peacebuilding, and an artistic practice steeped in language, movement, and the theater arts as tools for navigating isolation through acts of world-building. 

Why an artist residency? Why Build Up? 

In the recent past, a lot of the work within Build Up has focused on digital peacebuilding across the larger themes of peace innovators, digital conflict, and participatory research programs. We understand that the online and offline worlds are not separate from one another, but rather in deep impact and relationship to one another. Build Up centers relationships and participation in our work so that we can move, or perhaps dance, with the dynamics of the moment while still holding a critical eye towards the past and a fierce dream for the future. 

We know that this work cannot rest solely in the use of written language. We also know that artists use their creative disciplines to both expand outside of the confines of written language and to build new imaginings of what the future can hold, often with a critical eye towards society and history. We are developing an artist residency because we understand that artists are a crucial part of civil society, for these reasons and more. We are developing an artist residency because there are already artists in our peacebuilding community who seek both respite and resources to create. We are developing an artist residency because we know that the inclusion of artists within Build Up is an opportunity for us to expand more deeply into the nuances of creativity and communication that often go unseen between the relationships of online and offline peace and conflict work. 

Build Up is positioned at this time to do this because our organization contains a history of artistic work. In addition, our access to a magical house looking to expand its narratives through art and peacebuilding, and a staff that has come together as a collective through practices as variant as its multiple disciplines while united through its shared curiosity, reinforces our conviction that this artist residency can be an amazing way for us to grow. 

Where is this residency going to take place? What kind of artists are you looking for? 

We envision that our artist residency will take place both in the communities that our artists are coming from, as well as our residential space in San Francisco. The vision is that each of our artists will be able to have time and space in the San Francisco house, located in the neighborhood of Potrero Hill, while also continuing to connect and collaborate with other artists during the rest of the year from wherever they reside. When we say we are looking for artists exploring today’s pressing questions around peace and conflict, we mean artists who are both impacted by those questions, as well as artists investigating those questions through their practices. What this means, practically, is that we hope the residency space can be one of both respite and disciplinary practice. In terms of what discipline of artist we are looking for, we are extremely open, and would ideally love to develop a multidisciplinary cohort each year so that residents can collaborate across artistic disciplines. 

How long is the residency for? Are you hoping for artists to be compensated? 

The vision, as we look for funding to support the dreams of this project, is to have chosen artists name both how long they want to do the residency for, and what they need on a week-to-week basis to feel supported in their work. We imagine selecting artists on a year-by-year basis, aiming to configure a schedule in the house that can accommodate multiple artists (ideally four to six in 2023) over a 12-month period. Each artist will be able to suggest their ideal time of year and amount of time that they would like to be in the house in the initial application. Whether it be two-weeks or two months, along with a needs-based weekly stipend to support their work while in the live-in portion of the residency. In addition, we hope to kick off the residency with an initial weekend bringing all of the artists together for an initial community and skill building workshop, and having them return at the end of the year to reflect collectively on their experiences.   

Can artists apply from around the world? 

Funds allowing, we would love our cohorts of artists to be from the US and abroad. With that being said, artists from around the world are encouraged to apply! In addition, pairs or smaller groups of artists can also apply together to support collaborative work. 

What will Build Up be able to support artists with during their residencies? 

Build Up will aim to support artists through an initial weekend retreat of community building and connecting with other artists around tools and methods for conflict transformation, a needs-based weekly stipend, a resource map of the San Francisco area (including artists and institutions supportive of the initiative), and interpersonal support throughout the year including one on one reflection and support in documenting personal artistic processes and practices. Finally, we hope to find opportunities for artists to plug into the larger scope of work at Build Up that can aid in the continuation of their inquiries and investigations as well as our efforts to build peace through the support of peace innovators. 

Will artists be required to make a specific piece of work during their time in the residency? 

Our vision is for each artist to be able to self-guide their work, with an emphasis on documentation of the creative practice rather than the creation of a specific project. The hope is that we will be able to digitally share and archive the processes of each artist within their residency as it relates to how they explore, unpack, and dive into the tensions and dynamics of conflict and peace.  

What has the Arts landscape at Build Up looked like in the past? 

We traditionally host a number of artists at our annual conference, Build Peace. In addition, we have worked with a number of artists through our Peace Innovators programs and supported a number of projects through a creative lens, for example within the Central African Republic

Has Build Up already been working in the United States? What has that work looked like? 

Over the past five years, a part of our work has centered around expanding the peacebuilding movement in the United States, specifically in relation to addressing social division and polarization, with a specific attention on the growing relationship between online and offline realms, their impacts on one another, and how technology can offer us potential tools to have agency over that relationship and impact. A majority of this work has come through our central US-based program, The Commons. The Commons centers our everyday relationships and the digital spaces that impact them. Our goal is to depolarize the United States through strengthened, healed, and humanized relationship-building online, from a project that started out as a small community of digital conflict disruptors during the 2016 US election to its most recent version as a larger set of online tools and tactics created to meet online peacebuilders at various stages of the longer journeys of practice, including an online course centering the rehumanization of relationships on social media, and a playbook on ideologies, methods, and action within this work.