For over a decade, the Community Arts Network was the world’s single most comprehensive website devoted the potential that the arts represent for community growth and improvement. It will be shocking to some that I include it in the “Under the Radar” category. For those of us vitally interested in the work of the arts in communities, CAN is (was-more on that in a second) the shining beacon on a hill illuminating all that was wonderful about community engagement work on the part of artists and arts organizations. That to many in the arts establishment CAN is unknown is one explanation of why I feel compelled to produce this blog.
It’s probably been a decade since I first discovered CAN, a project of Art in the Public Interest (when I first read the name of the organization my heart went pitty-pat) and a labor of love of Linda Frye Burnham and Steve Durland. Over the years, CAN–an outgrowth of High Performance magazine (issues are archived at CAN), another API project–collected in one place an incredible compendium of “what’s happening” examples, writings, research, and training opportunities in all areas related to connecting the arts and communities–not engagement as a marketing technique but as a path to deep, abiding, mutually beneficial relationships. It became what to me was one of the broadest, most comprehensive websites on any topic I have ever seen.
Unfortunately, the labor of love finally proved to be unsustainable. After a long search for funding, the website was closed down for lack of resources to maintain it. Fortunately, it lives on in its last form (as of 9/6/10) via an archive sponsored by Indiana University. The link above is to that archive. The day-to-day life of CAN is now housed on Facebook. [CAN on Facebook] In that venue it is more open source than before, with anyone able to contribute. I hope a growing number of practitioners use it to keep us posted on their work.
If you are unfamiliar with CAN, I urge you to check out the archive as well as to keep up with its Facebook presence. The latter is a wealth of examples, research, and wisdom about community arts work. The latter is still one of the best ways of keeping current on “what’s happening” on the ground around the world in the arena of grassroots community engagement via the arts.