. . . field reports from a creative catalyst in the Pacific NW

public scholarship in a nutshell

In 2010, I attended the Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life conference: Convergence Zones: Public Cultures and Translocal Practices at the University of Washington. Imagining America is a consortium of universities and organizations dedicated to advancing the public and civic purposes of humanities, arts and design. It just so happens that the leading scholars at UW’s Simpson Center for the Humanities, who hosted the conference, are at the forefront of this interdisciplinary practice. My purpose in attending was to get a better picture of “public scholarship” in action. What I knew about this work was that it seemed to operate at the edges of academia and create vital and generative connective tissue between the ivory tower and the public sphere. A juicy place indeed!

Picture 14

Kathleen Woodward, Dir. UW Simpson Center, Miriam Bartha Associate Dir. of UW Simpson Center with artist, activist, and scholar Sharon Daniel

“Publicly engaged academic work is taking hold in American colleges and universities, part of a larger trend toward civic professionalism in many spheres. It encompasses different forms of making knowledge about, for, and with diverse publics and communities. Through a coherent, purposeful sequence of activities, it contributes to the public good and yields artifacts of public and intellectual value.” – from Imaging America’s Tenure Team Initiative on Public Scholarship. 

Courtesy of Imagining America is the current definition: Public scholarship joins serious intellectual endeavor with a commitment to public practice and public consequence. It includes:

  • Scholarly and creative work jointly planned and carried out by university and community partners
  • Intellectual work that produces a public good
  • Artistic, critical, and historical work that contributes to public debates
  • Efforts to expand the place of public scholarship in higher education itself, including the development of new programs and research on the successes of such effort.

P.S. What more can I say…I’m IN!


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