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Regarding Us: Creating Art Through Community Engagement

Douglas Wade, "Fallen Housewife"
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Lancaster Museum of Art & History CEDAR
"Regarding Us Chain Letter Project" exhibition, 2015.  | Photo: MOAH:CEDAR on Facebook.

In partnership with Antelope Valley Art Outpost: Antelope Valley Art Outpost is a creative placemaking project that supports regional vitality through artist-driven projects in the unincorporated California communities of Littlerock and Sun Village.

When discussing the relationship between the Museum of Art & History (MOAH), MOAH:CEDAR and the resident artists it serves, the "Regarding Us Chain Letter Project" is an essential piece of the conversation. The project exemplifies the museum’s mission to “strengthen awareness, enhance accessibility and ignite the appreciation of art, history and culture… through creative community engagement.” It also features, as a major component, a survey designed to identify the needs of local artists. The information we gained from the data collected has been informing the museum’s programming for nearly a year and its effects will continue to benefit our local artists and the community at large well into the future in a number of innovative ways.

Our two major annual community-based exhibitions, the All-Media Juried Art Exhibition and the High School Art Exhibition, now in their thirty-first year, are evolving into an exciting arts festival model. The new Cedar Arts Festival and the Cedar High School Student Arts Festival (aka CEDARFEST and CEDARFEST Student) will allow us to better celebrate and connect with the vibrant community of local and emerging artists from around the greater Antelope Valley. MOAH’s goal is to create an experience that will further unite the museum and its local artists utilizing direct methods of feedback in the form of an annual needs assessment survey and increased professional development opportunities such as individual portfolio reviews, hosting an emerging artist workshop, a juried exhibition with free submission and the inclusion of a local juror when selecting work. The "Regarding Us Chain Letter Project" has also informed our programming in other ways, such as the launch of our artist-in-residency program and the Andrew Frieder Creative Space drop-in studio.

Christine Kline, "The Chain Letter"
Christine Kline, "The Chain Letter," 2015. Mixed media assemblage. The artwork was included in the 2015 "Regarding Us Chain Letter Project" exhibition.

It is a vital time for the greater Antelope Valley. New economic opportunities stemming from the region’s flourishing technology and environmental sustainability sectors are coinciding with noticeable cultural changes. To support these shifts, MOAH is spearheading the development of a five-year Cultural Master Plan, including an arts-in-public-places policy. Local artists will be invited to contribute to this process. Not only are artists an essential part of our community, but they will bring a vital perspective and critical lens to the planning process. Together, we will grow with, from and through these cultural interactions, and our communities will directly reflect that growth. The "Regarding Us Chain Letter Project" and the Cultural Master Plan are tied to our unique identity, engaging people from our community and allowing them to experience the local richness of the arts firsthand.

Following the inaugural "Regarding Us Chain Letter Project" exhibition a catalog was made available, showcasing the first 50 artists that responded to our call to participate. The artists contained in the pages are those that participated in our first needs assessment survey. These artists have been crucial in the shaping of the museum’s vision for itself and for the creative community it serves. The "Regarding Us Chain Letter Project" makes no claim to have perfectly represented its community, but it is a touchstone for the museum. Through the project, MOAH is on track to build programs that are responsive to the needs of the Antelope Valley artists during this incredible period of metamorphosis and possibility.

Lancaster Museum of Art & History CEDAR
The exterior of the Cedar Center for the Arts.

Top image: Douglas Wade, "Fallen Housewife," 2015. The artwork was included in the 2015 "Regarding Us Chain Letter Project" exhibition.

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