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An urban education model that responds to the crisis in community participation and political representation by circulating different ways of thinking and making

Values


Curriculum Guide

Learn how we foster a year-long learning environment where different forms of knowledge are exchanged

Fields of Knowledge
  • Comm. Development
  • Design
  • Health / Sustainability
  • Memory
  • Pedagogy
  • Public culture
  • Social Justice

Organizing Institutions

Slought, People's Emergency Center (PEC), PennDesign

Organizers

Steering committee members include Amy Hillier, Aaron Levy, Kira Strong, Teddy Cruz, Jeannine Cook, Kyshaun Parker, Dwaine Ross, and others

Funders

The PEW Center for Arts and Heritage, National Endowment for the Arts

Process initiated

07/16/2009

Opens to public

07/16/2012

Address

Mixplace Studio
Slought
4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

On the web

http://mixplace.org

Economy

50% Formal - 50% Informal

Mixplace is a moving conversation where different forms of knowledge are exchanged between individuals and across institutions. The conversation begins with an intensive six-week summer curriculum that engages youth researchers in the construction of narratives, expands through the fall and spring curriculum to include design students in the construction and sharing of tools, and culminates with an exhibition, at which point the cycle begins again. Throughout, a diverse floating faculty of community organizers, designers, researchers, and other professionals contribute to this conversation.

As a space outside of school, Mixplace Studio balances structured and unstructured learning through a series of facilitated conversations and activities. A primary goal of the curriculum is to foster a comfortable, process-based learning environment in which studio participants develop agency, civic imagination, and interpersonal trust, and welcome criticality and conflict. The timeframe for these three phases is a single year. At the end of each phase, a public celebration and conferring of certificates by the respective institution takes place.

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About this Curriculum

The curriculum developed over the course of the 2012-2013 inaugural year through a series of workshops, conference calls, and email exchanges. In a reflexive manner, it has been continually refined to incorporate the insights, tensions, and experiences of the youth researchers and design students involved in the studio.

Summer Curriculum:

Gathering Neighborhood Knowledge

The intention of the Summer Curriculum is to enable youth researchers (ages 13-18) to gather the knowledge embedded in their neighborhood and translate this knowledge into neighborhood narratives. This phase is guided by People's Emergency Center (PEC) and draws upon the disciplines of community and economic development.

The Curriculum takes the form of a menu, and begins with the youth researchers self-selecting into groups of two. Each team then selects the issues in their neighborhood they would like to investigate, and the media through which they would like to narrativize it. Once each team has made their selections, social contracts are filmed to articulate mutual responsibilities and expectations.

Their selection of issues and media also guides the process of gathering knowledge in the weeks that follow. A variety of texts, scripts, and interviews about their neighborhoods are generated, with support from a diverse floating faculty of community organizers, designers, researchers, and other professionals. The teams then stitch this knowledge together to produce a neighborhood narrative by the final week.

Fall Curriculum:

Gathering Institutional Knowledge

The intention of the Fall Curriculum is to enable graduate students in design to engage in dialogue with youth researchers, and collaboratively translate their neighborhood narratives into community tools that involve new modes of representation. This phase is guided by PennDesign and draws upon the disciplines of design and city planning.

The Curriculum begins with youth researchers interviewing design and city planning students who are interested in becoming involved in Mixplace. The newly expanded group self-selects into teams, and social contracts are filmed to articulate mutual responsibilities and expectations. The teams choose particular narratives from the summer that they would like to further explore. Using these narratives as a script, the youth researchers host and guide the students through the life of their neighborhoods and identify particular traces and gestures that they would like to further investigate and amplify. After, the design and city planning students host and guide the youth researchers through their school and the institutional knowledge they are studying, and select particular forms of institutional knowledge to engage with such as texts, essays, and scripts.

In the months that follow, the selection of summer narratives and institutional knowledge leads to the production of tools and alternative forms of visualization such as mappings and cartographies. The goal is to problematize and redefine conventional representations of the neighborhood. This process is supported by a diverse floating faculty of community organizers, designers, researchers, and other professionals, as well as shared meals and weekly conversation. At the end of this phase, there is a public celebration and conferring of certificates from the design school to the group.

Spring Curriculum:

Performing Urban Knowledge

The intention of the Spring Curriculum is to enable the youth researchers and design students to engage in dialogue with curators, and compile an archive of neighborhood narratives and tools to then mobilize and share with collaborators, partner institutions, and the general public. This phase is guided by Slought and draws upon the disciplines of public culture and the humanities.

The Curriculum begins with youth researchers and design students revisiting the neighborhood and narratives and tools they have produced over the past months. Through guided reflection, the teams brainstorm and develop a plan for their mobilization. Working together with curators and archivists from the cultural organization, the teams then implement these plans in the form of public exhibitions, events, and the Mixplace.org website.

The goal is to organize various forms of outreach and knowledge exchange that positively impact and engage neighborhoods and institutions in West Philadelphia and beyond. This process is supported by shared meals and conversations with a diverse floating faculty of community organizers, designers, researchers, and other professionals. At the end of this phase, there is a public exhibition, conferring of certificates by the cultural organization, and a celebration. This is followed by an informal convening, in which the studio and the steering committee reflect and modify the protocols and curriculum in preparation for the next year.

Additional Readings

A variety of resources - including texts, histories, and practices - inform our thinking at Mixplace Studio, and the ongoing development of the curriculum.

Whenever possible, we share these resources online, which we also recommend to those interested in becoming involved in or learning more about the Studio:

Martin Luther King, Jr., "Letter from Birmingham Jail" (1963)

Martin Luther King, Jr., "40th and Lancaster Ave speech" (1965)

Arjun Appaduri, "Toward an anthropology of things" (1986)

Grant Kester, "Aesthetic Evangelists" (1995)

Elijah Anderson, "Down Germantown Avenue" (1999)

Teddy Cruz, "Where is Architectural Thinking?" (2011)

Amy Hillier, "W.E.B. Du Bois and The Philadelphia Negro" (2011)

Aaron Levy, "One Linear Mile" (2012)