ART/CITY: John Spiak

The Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley is sponsoring the symposium “ART/CITY” on March 16, 2012. Participants have been invited to respond to the prompt “in relation to the arts and civic life, the question I am wrestling with right now is…” in advance of the event. This guest posting is by John Spiak, Director/Chief Curator, Grand Central Art Center, Cal State Fullerton.
Can an institution expand upon its current, more traditional, institutional structure – a structure in which community members must physically enter its doors to engage – to create a new vision that breaks down the barriers, creating an institution that considers its entire community as its activation space.
Can a series of Social Practice residencies be developed through a respectful, artist-driven approach, an approach that not only allows artists to engage and take full advantage of the resources of a university, community and its neighbors, but also supports and works to retain the cultural identity of the downtown in which it is located?  Can these Social Practice residencies encourage relationships and dialogue to occur that are inclusive of existing businesses and individuals living in the institutions zip code area – individuals who activate a community through their presence?  And can this occur in a unique city that, according to the 2010 census, reported being 78.2% Hispanic population (total population 349,889), in a direct zip code area that reported 88.9% Hispanic population (total population 53,908), with 81.6 % of Mexican origin?
Will the institution be able to gain collaborative partnerships with the individual including: school children who traverse and gather in downtown before and after school; members of the surrounding low-income residential communities which include many young families (Avg. Person Per Household: 4.26; Avg. Income Per Household: $33,728; Median Age: 27); a large homeless community who converge on the streets during the day; young professionals from visiting the developing restaurant scene for lunch and dinner; artists who occupy studio spaces; young 20s-30s crowd frequenting an emerging nightclub scene; and government workers of local, county and federal buildings located in the downtown civic center?
Will current standard of granting practice and philanthropy fund and be open to collaborative support in consideration of a series of Social Practice residencies to realize a forward vision for an institution?   Is it possible for these residencies to be truly artist driven, while at the same time focus on revitalizing community and relationship through collaborative, social responsibility practices and engagement?  Can the invited artists break down barriers and bring community together – yet still retain high quality artistic vision and relevance within contemporary art practice?   And can institutional initiatives create mutually beneficial outcomes through creative process, with emphasis on engaged collaborative creation of art over the passive consumption of art. 
Is it possible for an institution to receive funding/grant seed money to realize new and innovative projects without pre-determined outcomes/exhibitions. Can an institution truly be allowed to measure/report the matrix of success, not by the numbers, but by the quality of the outcomes? 
In addition to the standard matrix measurements, will institution be allowed to measure, validate and share the success of project  through the following supplementary and alternative methods: gathering of personal stories and testimonials (artist, institution, organizations, community); presenting at national conferences (American Association of Museums, College Art Association, Open Engagement, Creative Time Summit); creating web and print based documentation (website, blog, catalogues); writing and publishing articles in national journals (Museum and Social Issues, Art Education, Journal of Art for Life); and direct sharing with colleagues at peer institutions.