Tang’s We the People continues mission of civic engagement

By Paul Sambroom

Town meeting photos on display: Wayne County, Utah (population 2,114)
Board of Commissioners, April 5, 1999,
Scott Durfey, Clenn Okerlund
(Chair), Stan Allen

By Paul Sambroom

 

Tang’s We the People continues mission of civic engagement

January 24, 2012

As President Obama begins his second term, and against the backdrop of public disillusionment with government and the heated debate over second amendment rights, the Tang Museum is offering an opportunity for visitors to step back and re-engage with their Constitution and renew their sense of citizenship.

The Tang exhibition We the People is a dynamic laboratory for exploring constitutions—the U.S. Constitution in particular—as lived processes, examining the way these documents create order, configure communities, and form collective identities.

The show, which opened in September and runs through April 7, offers an ongoing series of events to help the public explore these themes, with upcoming topics ranging from the “slow democracy” movement to the growing power of the market in shaping civil society and the debate over constitutional rights for corporations.

Public events are held in the Tang’s Payne Room, which features recent artworks by Francis Cape, Allison Smith, and Nari Ward. Opening January 26 is a new display of photographs titled Paul Shambroom: Meetings in the museum’s Winter Gallery. Between 1999 and 2003 Paul Shambroom attended and photographed over 150 town council meetings across the United States, capturing the workings of government at its most fundamental level. The show offers a sampling of these photos, along with the minutes of each meeting.

“Shambroom’s photographs and documents capture our government at its most fundamental level and reveal the ritual and reality of community empowerment,” said Tang Associate Curator Rachel Seligman, who organized Meetings. “These images present the enacting of our highest democratic ideals, while at the same time showing the everyday and mundane aspects of performing civic service.”

Below are event highlights for We the People through April. For a full listing of Tang events go to www.Skidmore.edu/tang.

Friday, Jan. 25, noon
Lunchtime conversation with Paul Shambroom
Photographer Paul Shambroom will discuss his four-year project of photographing town council meetings across the United States. Bring your own lunch; drinks and dessert provided.

Thursday, Jan. 31, 7 p.m.
Government by and for the People
Skidmore senior Jean Ann Kubler will lead a discussion of democratic ideals and obstacles. The workshop is designed to engage people of all ages in conversations about what the role of government is and what it can be.

Thursday, Feb. 7 p.m.
Panel Discussion: Civil Society for Sale, Part 1
Three clusters of institutions—the market, the polity, and the civil society—have been especially important and relatively balanced in American history. Now, however, the market economy is dominant over the other two spheres. Can anything hold back the overwhelming power of the market? This two-part series led by Skidmore faculty will explore this question. Specific themes for part 1: sports in society, education, human service agencies, and digital technology and the Internet.

Tuesday, Feb. 12, 7 p.m.
Panel Discussion: Civil Society for Sale, Part 2
Three clusters of institutions—the market, the polity, and the civil society—have been especially important and relatively balanced in American history. Now, however, the market economy is dominant over the other two spheres. Can anything hold back the overwhelming power of the market? This two-part series led by Skidmore faculty will explore this question. Specific themes for part 2: social movements, religion, unions, and academia.

Thursday, Feb. 21, 7 p.m.
“Slow Democracy” workshop with author Susan Clark
Susan Clark, co-author of Slow Democracy: Rediscovering Community, Bringing Decision Making Back Home, will speak about the book and lead small-group discussions. Copies of Slow Democracy will be available for sale and book signing.

Thursday, March 28, 7 p.m.
Lecture by Jeffrey Clements: Corporations Are Not People:Responding to the Supreme Court in Citizens United
Clements heads Free Speech for People, an organization dedicated to challenging the creation of Constitutional rights for corporations and to overturning the 2010 Supreme Courts ruling on Citizens vs. Federal Election Commission through a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Thursday, April 4, 7 p.m.
Crowd-Sourced Constitutional Convention
Students and faculty from Skidmore College’s Government Department will lead a conversation about the current state of the U.S. Constitution. What are its strengths and weaknesses? What would people like to see added? What do people think might be removed?

The Tang Museum is open noon–5 p.m., Tuesday–Sunday, closed on Mondays and major holidays, and open until 9 p.m. on Thursdays. For more information call (518) 580-8080 or visit www.skidmore.edu/tang.

Tags: Tang Teaching Museum, We the People, Franci Cape, Allison Smith, Nari Ward
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