A Grassroots School for Social Change

0 Flares Filament.io 0 Flares ×

institution dedicated to the creative construction of
new formulations of the social problems and solutions that
perpetuate that social system. Only one school is dedicated
to such a function and it is located in Urbana, Illinois—
the School for Designing a Society.
The School for Designing a Society is a grassroots school
for social change, started in 1991 to invite participants to
articulate desire statements, to research their interests in the
current society, and to design, construct, formulate, propose
projects, or simply speak in such a way that would not happen
otherwise. Most of the organizing and the activity of the
school takes place in Urbana, Illinois. The project arose from
the political awareness of the need for creative tampering
with communication formats in order to trigger social
change. Thus there is a focus on the arts, and ideas about the
arts are extended and applied to social structures.
At the School, we invite people to formulate their
desires. Our friend/student of 2006 Seung Yong Kim wrote
a 300-page book of which 100 pages are about his desires
and designs that he worked on at the School for Designing
a Society. This is probably the longest text about the School
that has ever been published in a book. Seung Yong also
writes about his adventures traveling the world and volunteering
at work camps by using networking websites.
Though written entirely in Korean, we’re told the title
translates roughly to “I gotta hug the world instead of going
abroad just for English!!” The book was published in
December 2007, and since that time the School for Designing
a Society has received dozens of application from Koreans
who seem to be looking for a school dedicated to education,
rather than job training.
In November 2007 the School for Designing a Society
made its first attempt at an Italian/English session in
Pruno, Italy. We learned a lot about the elements of Italian
society, what issues are construed as social problems, and
thus, where a School for Designing a Society is needed.
With great organizing help from our friends Ginevra Sanguigno
and Patrizia Mainardi, we hope to return to Italy to
work with the young people there on the problems they
see in their society.
This winter, some students from the School for Designing
a Society have been manifesting their presence in
Urbana through several projects. The community garden
at La Casa Collectiva (on Maple Street in Urbana) has been
taken on by Braden and Kyra, two wonderfully critical and
caring people who have lived at the house this year. Our
friend Tim has brought forth an effort to start a community
garden at the Catholic Worker House in Champaign—
translating his critique of charity-based social change into
a perturbation to grow one’s own food.
The other project that emerged this spring is the As If
Ensemble of Urbana (the AIEOU) which performs original
pieces, old traditional songs, beloved new rounds,
Klezmer, Balkan, a capella, circular, and undescribed, with
a bouquet of instruments, including: xaphoon, bassoon,
banjo, baritone, bass, oud, udderbot, clarinet, tenor uke,
tenor sax, tenor, accordion, ascalatos, alto, soprano, guitar,
kazoo, violin, washboard, whistle, and flippers. They are
one of a kind… but what kind?
The biggest news is that we are building a teaching center.
This has been a challenge: the typical image of a
“school” is that of a building; our image of a school is one
of a group of people composing projects together. During
the first 17 years of the school, we established a pattern of
hosting the School for Designing a Society in settings that
were not set up as schools. The most common setting for
classes was probably the living room of a friend’s house in
Urbana or some other community.
We have hosted a half dozen Summer Schools at the
Gesundheit Institute in West Virginia. Architectural drawings
are now being completed for a teaching center there,
where the School for Designing a Society would organize
events at least once per year. This would be the first facility
explicitly designed with the School for Designing a Society
in mind. As we prepare to return to the Gesundheit
Center for another Summer Session, we certainly could
use a teaching facility!
For information about programs or admissions contact:
Rob Scott: rob@designingasociety.org

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.