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What does utopia look like? How can activism achieve dreams of a better world? These are two of the questions the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum asks in its new gallery experience, “The Utopia Project: Inspiration for Creative Activism,” opening Nov. 1. Through a series of interactives and historic examples of everyday change-makers, “The Utopia Project” asks visitors to explore the issues they care about and harness their emotions to enact change. Experienced and novice activists alike will take away research-informed tactics that have most often led to measurable social change.
“‘The Utopia Project’ re-imagines storytelling using the community-centered approached forged by John Kinard, the museum’s founding director, and the pioneers of the first federally-funded community museum more than 50 years ago,” said Asantewa Boakyewa, supervisory program manager. “Visitors use the visual cues of the museum’s collections most of which on display were created by local community members to imagine themselves as change-makers empowered to create individual and communal utopias.”
Visitors are provided a personal workbook upon entering the gallery, called a Dreambook. As they move through the gallery, visitors will be prompted to fill their Dreambook with their visions for utopia—and what actions they can take to achieve those dreams. After completing exercises throughout the gallery, visitors can take their Dreambook home and share what they learned with their communities.
In addition to the interactive elements, “The Utopia Project” features objects, photos and stories from the museum’s collection, turning abstract ideas into real-world examples of community members making a difference throughout history. Stories include the Black Panther Party’s “Free Breakfast for School Children” program and the museum’s first artist-in-residence, who transformed a vacant lot at the museum into People’s Park. “The Utopia Project” also will showcase a mural of Breonna Taylor by local artist Yetunde Sapp. The mural, which was originally displayed at Lafayette Square during Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, is now part of the museum’s permanent collection. “The Utopia Project” marks the first time that the mural will be on display in a museum.
The museum will host an opening celebration for “The Utopia Project” on Nov. 6 from 3 to 6 p.m. Visitors will be able to mingle with activists featured in the exhibit, take futuristic photos at a selfie station, and have a sketch artist draw them in their ideal future. The event is free and open to the public. Any interested media should RSVP to Madeleine Weyand-Geise at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The Utopia Project” will be on display at the museum until March 1, 2023.
“The Utopia Project” was created in collaboration with The Center for Artistic Activism. Founders Steve Duncombe and Steve Lambert are the authors of The Art of Activism, which contains the driving principles illustrated in “The Utopia Project.”
About the Museum
Founded in 1967, the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum shares the untold and often overlooked stories of communities furthest from justice in the greater Washington, D.C., region. In celebrating stories of resiliency, joy and strength, the museum inspires those who visit to translate their ideas into action. For more information about the museum, visit anacostia.si.edu or follow the museum on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
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