Photo Essay: Looking for Leverage in the Winston-Salem Community Innovation Lab

The Community Innovation Labs program addresses tough social challenges in local communities by deeply integrating artists, artistic experiences and cultural organizations into rigorously designed and facilitated change processes. In our two pilot sites of Winston-Salem, NC and Providence, RI, we commissioned local photographers with ties to the community to produce original art in the form of photo essays. We intentionally commissioned local artists in order to bring greater visibility to their work and to create space in the collaborative Lab process for them to grow and share their own artistic practice. This photo essay by Christine Rucker from Winston-Salem captures and documents the second Winston-SalemLab workshop on Looking for Leverage. See her first photo essay on the “Seeing the System” workshop here.

Christine_RuckerLast fall, I attended the first Winston-Salem Community Innovation Lab workshop and learning journeys, and produced a black and white photo essay. My goal was to photograph the conversations, relationship-building and learning that happened during the gatherings, and to also capture the connections between the Lab meetings and our wider Winston-Salem community through their “learning journeys.”

As part of my commission, here is my second photo essay from the workshop, Looking for Leverage in December 2015. My photos document interactive activities where participants rehearsed systems interventions, learned about local system dynamics, organized ideas around areas of interest, and designed “small experiments with radical intent.”

I welcome your thoughts and comments below! – Christine Rucker.



Workshop participant, Tommy Priest learns about how El Buen Pastor Methodist church successfully serves the Latino community during one of the Lab Learning Journeys. Learning Journeys are a way of experiencing the local system through the lens of different stakeholders. With a facilitator, Lab Members went on journeys to local spaces and connected with communities where they live and work.


A Minister for El Buen Pastor church explains their strategies for successfully serving their Latino members.


Lab members visit El Buen Pastor church, and above them are photographs of Latino teenagers in the community that have graduated with the help of their after-school programs.


Lab participants learn about how successful, local resources for the community of Rural Hall and Winston-Salem.


Lab champions return from their Learning Journeys and share experiences over lunch.


EmcArts’ process facilitators, Wesley Days and Melissa Dibble have fun composing music for one of the afternoon skits.


Wesley Days, EmcArts’ process facilitator gives thumbs up to Melissa Dibble on her well-timed piano composition.


Lab participants discuss ways to put their ideas into action after the workshop closes and make plans for the future workshops in 2016.


Small groups meet to workshop and discuss action ideas.


Geordie MacMinn, Lead Artist Facilitator for the Lab gets high fives for his community action idea, which he wears proudly on his chest.


Lab member looks over the wall of notes from the activity “Proud and Sorries,” which illustrated the roles, views and perspectives of many, unique stakeholders in our local system.


Winter light paints a pattern of branches on the windows of the Delta Fine Arts Center as the second workshop of Community Innovation Labs comes to a close.


Myriad community action ideas rest in the laps of participants before they team up in ‘clusters’ of similar ideas and create plans for implementation.


Tablets of paper rolls page by page with ideas of community interventions and ways to create more economically just, viable and equitable communities in Winston-Salem.


Karina Mangu-Ward, Director of Strategic Initiatives from EmcArts wraps up the December workshop.


Christine Rucker, Guest ContributorChristine Rucker is a professional photographer in Winston-Salem, NC who was commissioned as a local artist with the Community Innovation Labs. She previously worked as a photojournalist with the Winston-Salem Journal for ten years.