Bridge Conversations

People Who Live and Work in Multiple Worlds

Review by Janet Brown

Caron Atlas, Project Director and Editor. 2011, 200 pages, Arts and Democracy Project, Brooklyn, New York

Bridge Conversations is an inspiring collection of interviews, dialogues, and essays with artists, arts administrators, activists, and politicians using the arts to build, reflect, and improve community. It is thoughtfully constructed and inclusive in those selected to participate, their topics, and their approaches.

As each chapter unfolded, this reader was impressed by the far-reaching diversity of the writers, speakers, topics, geographic regions, and cultural perspectives represented. Project director and editor Caron Altas and all those involved are to be commended.

The book is divided into twenty-four short chapters. Each chapter is an interview, essay, or dialogue with or by individuals who are “connectors.” The terminology of seeing themselves as “bridges” between cultures, sectors, and human needs is questioned immediately. Some contributors refute it. Others prefer to define their work as “shape-shifting” or “squatting.” In reality, all these stories reflect how artists and those who work in the arts have broken down barriers and connected community life — connected us as human beings seeking justice, equality, and peace.

This is not a “how to” book but rather a “why did we or should we?” book. Community arts work is not new, but it has a more attentive audience at the moment driven by changing societal needs and the outcry to address inequities. Many voices here represent a new generation of leaders who believe the arts and artists have great influence on democracy and community sustainability. This is a nicely formatted book and an easy read, which is not to say that it is simple in its content. It is full of resources, smart people, and new energy that will challenge the reader. “Something else is possible” is the name of the introductory chapter by Atlas, and that premise is indeed the thread that runs throughout this collection of inspiring accomplishments, hopes, and fresh visions.