When Imagination Goes Public

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When Imagination Goes Public
When Imagination Goes Public
Deborah Cullinan, Chief Executive Officer, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Deborah Cullinan, Chief Executive Officer, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.



Project News
YBCA + Groundplay

At Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, our mission is to generate culture that moves people. We believe that culture – our collective stories, traditions, values, and beliefs – precedes change. Cultural movement leads to social movement and it is the responsibility of our arts and culture institutions to turn their creative resources toward the work of positive transformation.

We pursue this work through five key platforms:

  1. The making and sharing of leading edge contemporary art
  2. The incubation of game changing creative ideas
  3. A commitment to inquiry, and asking the urgent questions of our time
  4. Convening that bridge people, communities, and sectors
  5. Civic coalitions that create lasting change and policy shift

Our signature partnership with the San Francisco Planning Department is a powerful example of our commitment to broad-based civic coalitions and to the incubation of ideas that can create breakthrough change. In 2015, we launched a project called the Market Street Prototyping Festival with the complementary goals of shifting the culture of planning in our City and engaging San Franciscans in reimagining our main thoroughfare.

Over the course of two festivals, we have received more than 350 ideas for creative projects designed to make Market Street a more connected, compassionate, and inspiring place. The 2015 and 2016 festivals hosted some 80 of these ideas in prototype form. Hundreds of thousands of people engaged with the projects and let us know what matters to them in the making and shaping of public life in our city. This game-changing methodology is now being adapted and replicated in cities across the world – from Perth, Australia to Mesa, Arizona. Groundplay is an outgrowth of this work and is a testament to the vision we share to ensure that people are empowered to help shape the future of their neighborhoods. It is unlikely and even radical partnerships – like one between a contemporary art center and a city planning department – that will allow us to pool our expertise and resources toward creative collective action that fuels a better future.

The big work that we need to do in our city and our country requires that we reignite the public imagination. Together, across difference, we all need to imagine a world that thrives on the common good. At YBCA, we believe that art centers are civic assets and it is our mandate to collaborate across sector in pursuit of collective prosperity. We are honored to be a founding partner of Groundplay – this next iteration of this work.

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