The Race Circus Project Film Series and Workshops
The Race Circus Project Film Series, created by Alison Daye of CineBot Video, explores the question, 50 years after desegregation on the federal level, are we now integrated? How does race continue to affect our lives? The film is based on the Race Circus Project, described in detail below, and allows us to continue to invite communities into spaces for dialogue and transformation through workshops which are designed on a case by case basis to meet the interest and needs of any group or organization. The series features real Atlanta residents telling their stories about race while diverse performers bring them to life through trapeze, silks, partner balancing, juggling, contemporary clown and dance. Workshop participants are guided through the process of viewing the films and are invited in to dialogue about race. Willing participants may even learn a little acrobatics of their own! Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in a workshop.
The Race Circus Project
In the seventies, just after the 1960s peak of the Civil Rights Movement in which Atlanta was a major base, white flight and growth in suburban areas began. According to an article published in Ebony magazine in the late 90s, Atlanta became known as a ‘black mecca’, a land of opportunities for black folks in education, employment, home ownership, and entrepreneurship. The 2010 Census reported that in the last fifteen years, Hispanic and Asian populations have nearly doubled. Now, as April 2003 Footnotes article in the Newsletter of the American Sociological Association explores, a current trend has brought the white population back, particularly in the downtown neighborhoods of Atlanta.
With so many shifts and such diversity, we share spaces with other races but we have noticed that when we retire to our friend groups and neighborhoods, they are often segregated by many factors, one of which is race. This brings us to ask ourselves, fifty years after the signing of the Civil Rights Act, where are we in terms of race relations? Are we an integrated city? How so and how not? How does the current state of separation vs diversity effect the lives of Atlanta residents?
To explore these questions, we formed a group of six social circus artists of diverse backgrounds. With the help of doctoral level sociology students and other members of the social justice community, we held recorded race specific and integrated dialogue sessions between individuals who have been a part of the Atlanta Public School System. It is our belief that the public school system is a place where many learn for the first time to interact across racial lines and that what was shared in the dialogue sessions offers a sample that reflects many of the perspectives held by the residents of this city. Over the course of two years, we worked with artistic collaborators and community partners in an exploration of the stories and experiences shared. This exploration culminated in the creation of a circus show that was offered free of charge in the four quadrants of Atlanta in Spring of 2016. After each show, audiences themselves were invited into a 45 minute facilitated dialogue.
<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/178625331″>The Race Circus Project. Sneak Peek!</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/cinebotvideo”>CineBot Video</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
Hello was MakeShift’s first commissioned performance work sponsored by the City of Atlanta. It was showcased at City Hall of Atlanta and in the high-foot traffic public setting of Broad Street. Both performances were in conjunction with Elevate, a public arts festival and project of the Office of Cultural Affairs. MakeShift took this amazing opportunity to use circus artistry to delve into the common experience of isolation in highly populated urban areas. Through this piece we explored the barriers and connections that we find/create when trying to navigate relationships with our fellow city dwellers.
The Follow Your Art Parade
This Spring, makeShift collaborated with the Workshop, an Inman Park puppet and prop shop, to present ‘Follow Your Art’ in the Inman Park Parade. Accompanied by 20 community members, a concert of stilt walkers, dancers, acrobats, aerialists, a 6 foot tall silver back gorilla, an 8 foot tall grey wolf, and a 25 foot long dragon named Kudzu weaved through the streets of this residential neighborhood celebrating the importance of art in creating a healthy society. We felt drawn to explore this theme in response to the decline of arts education programming in schools nationwide in the recent years. Through this presentation, we spoke out against the de-valuation of art in our society by creating a magical visual experience and call on our audience to ‘Follow Your Art’.
The Homage and Gratitude Show
February 2, 2014 (Super Bowl Sunday), makeShift Circus Collective welcomed an audience to our first show: Super Big Bowl of Free Circus. We saw this debut as the birth of our collective, and wanted to create an event that showed our profound love and respect for those who brought social circus to our lives, as well as introducing ourselves to the current circus and artistic community in Atlanta. Conceived and created over the course of three months, the show centered on each of the four ensemble members examining their circus roots and developing performances that honored their journey. By creating interactive playful acts, designing an informal environment, sharing this show free of charge, and specifically inviting other performers, artists and social workers, we hoped to foster a sense of solidarity in our field often faced with competition. Some acts were nods to specific influential elders, while others focused on expressing the questions, themes and positive outcomes that led us to finding a home in social circus; but all were offered in the spirit of celebrating heart-centered exploration for social transformation.
The Social Circus: a realtime graphic novel documenting a social circus caravan from Mexico to Brazil
In 2012, MakeShift member Sara Gregory walked the streets and metros of New York City collecting the email addresses of 1000 strangers who agreed to accompany her on a two year journey through Latin America by receiving monthly cartoons about her experiences and reflections. The cartoons are collected on the following blog:
Below you will find Sara’s description of the project…
Over the course of two mind-blowing years, I had the great fortune to travel through 11 countries from México City to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil collaborating with individuals, groups and organizations who share a passion for social work through the language of circus. I spent the first 7 months traveling with KQDA [Collective That Brings Happiness], a culturally diverse collective of independent social artists [clowns, jugglers, aerialists, dancers, musicians, and anyone else who wants to join in :)] who have developed diverse projects over the last six years using performance art as a tool for social integration and transformation. ( http://www.kqda.org)
I shared the next three months and miles with a group called América Latina Collectiva whose work is oriented to reflect on how, why and who can build cooperation among peoples of Latin America. We were 9 people stuffed in a motorhome traveling from Mexico City to Panama collaborating with various social organizations through a three part strategy: a social circus show with the theme of collaboration, a workshop with the same theme, and the production of a documentary. These 3 actions work together to create a space to reflect and build strategies on how social movements throughout Latin America can collaborate, the idea being that by connecting these movements, we can become one united front toward a more just society for all. ( http://www.alcoop.org/definicion?lang=en )
Through South America, I traveled on my own with the help of generous world citizens who guided me by offering everything from directions to companionship to food to shelter to just a kind smile as I made my way from one organization to the next. I had the immense honor of working with such groups as Arena y Esteras, Cuatro Sociales, ACLAP, Circo del Mundo, Nemcatacoa Teatro, Circo Ciudad, and EcoCirco. This incredible trip climaxed with the experience of my dream to collaborate with the founders of social circus, Se Essa Rua Fosse Minha, in Rio de Janeiro.
The trip was funded through various activities. Many organizations with which I collaborated offered food and housing while I worked with them. For other expenses, performance in the streets [busking] and in local venues, making and selling origami paper products, seeking contracts with social organizations in the communities that I visited, and the generous financial collaboration of the amazing folks who followed me along the way helped keep my belly full [thank you sooooo much!] If you are interested in collaborating financially, please know that your generosity goes a long way to support the continue social projects that have sprouted since my return to the United States. On the homepage of the blog, please click on the “Buy Me a Taco” icon to donate!
In the cartoons you will find stories of wild adventure, connection and loneliness, self reflection, inspiration, disappointment and discovery. Please enjoy and may the stories wash over you as they did me, leaving me forever transformed and with the undying desire to be on a transformative journey no matter where I may be.