Photo Essay: Planting New Seeds to Cultivate Food Security in Dallas

Community Innovation Lab | Dallas is part of the second round of EmcArts’ Community Innovation Labs program, which addresses tough social challenges in local communities by deeply integrating adaptive response approaches and artistic practice into rigorously designed and facilitated change processes. In Dallas, the local convening organizations–Big Thought, the Embrey Family Foundation, Ignite/Arts Dallas, the Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity at SMU, and Make Art with Purpose–crafted a complex challenge around food security and nourishment in Dallas, recognizing the extreme issues of nourishment and access to healthy foods in practically the entire southern half of this burgeoning and highly prosperous city.

The 40 lab members have come from a wide swathe of the community, including city agencies, the local school district, grassroots community groups, larger non-profits, community gardens, arts and cultural centers, community development organizations, higher education, and local businesses. For 6 months, members attended 4 workshops guided by EmcArts facilitators in conjunction with local facilitator Kamilah Collins and local artists Constance White, Iv Amenti, and Jeff Colangelo. Through creative, experiential, and artistic activities, the group undertook various forms of experimentation and explored a series of capabilities or skillsets aimed at strengthening their muscles to be able to respond nimbly and adaptively to such a complex challenge as this group has undertaken.

Following the workshops, 3 “ensembles” were formed to develop prototyping activities aimed at deepening the incorporation of the capacities and to test out approaches, involving a broader group of community members, that may gain traction for real system change around the core issue.  What follows is a series of photos captured by local photographer Kim Leeson and through this short series, we hope to convey some of the essential elements of the Dallas Community Innovation Lab.

Facilitator Kamilah Collins helps lab members uncover their shared resources and needs
Lab members Lizzie MacWillie and Clarice Criss go deep on next steps
Developmental Evaluator Chikako Yamauchi leads the group in reflecting on their process through the Lab
Artist Facilitator Constance White leads the group through making their clay pots – symbolizing the molding of ideas that transform from one substance to the next
Lab members getting serious about their potting
Lab members Rochelle Marrett-Smith, Rafael Tamayo, and Darryl Ratcliffe share a moment
Ritual planting, led by local artist Iv Amenti, symbolize the ideas and hopes cultivating in the Lab
Formation of the “Extreme Desert Food Makeover” group – one of 3 teams developing prototypes
On the last day, Lab members were encouraged to reflect on their experience across the 4 workshops using images or visual representations.
Mission Accomplished as Lab members (Candace Thompson and Martha Rodriguez) honor the closing of their workshop time together and the start of the Phase 3 prototyping work

All photos were taken by Kim Leeson Photography.

See our photo essay series from our Winston-Salem Community Innovation pilot lab here and the Providence Lab here. You can also read our blog series documenting our Lab journey from conception and design through piloting.

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