In 2009, theatre artist Aaron Landsman was dragged by a friend to a city council meeting in Portland, Oregon. At first he was bored, but when a citizen dumped trash in front of the council in order to show how the city needed cleaning up, he was intrigued. He began attending local government meetings across the country, interviewing council members, staffers, activists, and other citizens. Out of this investigation, Landsman and director Mallory Catlett developed a participatory theatre piece called City Council Meeting.
The City We Make Together looks at how we make art with communities, how we perform power and who gets to play which roles, and how we might use creativity and rigorous inquiry to look at our structures of democracy anew.
“Following a structure that artfully replicates the political dramaturgy of a city council meeting, this lovely and poignant book joins the messiness of politics with the experiment of aesthetics, offering precise philosophical reflection about the significance of the intersection. The elements of theatre—the experience of ensemble, of controlled participation, of qualified access, of self-presentation—all turn out to be vehicles for better understanding the stakes and super objectives of essential civic processes that we too often take for granted.”—Shannon Jackson, author, Social Works: Performing Art, Supporting Publics
“This book is a fantastic and unique examination of participatory art practices, the ethics of public engagement, wildly creative project management strategies, and, most importantly, how to aim the power of imagination and collaboration toward the idea and practice of local democracy. A read I will return to many times.”—Michael Rohd, artist for civic imagination, Center for Performance and Civic Practice
“The City We Make Together is a book that asks what kinds of creative processes build mutual respect within and between communities, and how we honor the histories of our neighborhoods and our activism. Catlett and Landsman help us see the ways the work we are already doing can be made more visible and celebrated as art.”—Rick Lowe, artist, founder, Project Row Houses