The Community Built Association is coming together in a conference that seeks to expand and deepen the practice of community engagement through the lenses of art, play, nature and the built environment. Portland is the gracious host city, case study, and inspiration for this event. Participants will include—but will not be limited to—artists, architects, builders, organizers, gardeners, planners, students, teachers, and volunteers. The conference is intended for anyone who is interested in engaging their community in collaborative works, from experts in the field to those exploring this way of working. It’s a place to share ideas, learn from each other, and get inspired to bring community building to our own cities and neighborhoods. Come join us!
This dynamic, interdisciplinary gathering will feature presentations, panel discussions and workshops focusing on the practice of community participation in the overlapping fields of: Public Art, Play Environments, Gardens & Green Spaces, and Community Engaged Architecture. The conference will include:
- Presentations and discussions from leaders in the field of community-based practice
- Hands-on workshops that will engage participants’ creativity while they contribute something of lasting value to the local community
- Tours of local “place-making” sites around Portland, where volunteers have shaped community spaces with their own hands over time
- Informal networking and sharing sessions with Inspirational community builders from Portland and around the country
- Student or Community: Students, volunteers, friends and neighbors. Includes all on-site conference programming & shared meals.
- Professional: Anyone actively engaged, on a professional level, in community built work. Includes all on-site conference programming, shared meals, & table space.
- Business or Organization: Businesses or organizations that engage in or support community built. Includes all on-site conference programming, shared meals, table space & listing in the conference program. Good for 2 attendees.
* Registration cost includes CBA Membership.
CBA is happy to be able to offer Work Trade opportunities at this conference. If you are interested, please contact us at
Conference Program will include:
Art and Social Practice – Jen Delos Reyes
This lecture will examine the primary tenants of art and social practice through focusing on several key figures and projects that have informed the direction and sensibility of this approach to art making. The practices of Stephen Willats, Group Material, The Artist Placement Group, and Mierle Laderman Ukeles have shaped numerous approaches to socially engaged art making including the relationship between artist, audience, artwork and context, neighborhood based approaches, the artists’ role in society, art and daily life, useful art, artist in residence models, and alternate forms of sustainability for an art practice outside of market constraints. This talk will also survey the educational turn towards art and social practice in the academy and education reform towards changing how we teach art and what art is for.
The Art of the Possible: Jazz and Community-Building – Tim DuRoche
Jazz is a highly democratic art form that is deeply concerned with participation and community, where risk, collaboration, and individual voice are all highly valued. This conversation will look at the literature, economics, and history of jazz, as well as invite participants to think about the social values, such as unity, equality, integrity, and freedom, inherent in the genre. Independent scholar and professional jazz musician Tim DuRoche will explore how jazz represents an “art of the possible” where, as communitarian Peter Block has written, “diversity of thinking and dissent are given space, commitments are made without barter, and the gifts of each person are acknowledged and valued.” The conversation will also consider how jazz as a “community of memory” might inspire us to embrace cooperation once again as an important cornerstone of our culture.
Community Engaged Architecture: the design/build studio – Steve Badanes, Daniel Winterbottom & Katherine Melcher
This panel will feature three professors with extensive experience conducting design/build studios with their architecture and landscape architecture students. They will discuss the challenges and successes they have had engaging both students and community members in design/build work. For example, working with communities traumatized by violence, extreme poverty and social injustice offers tremendous opportunities for academic community design and design/build programs. These endeavors address issues of cross cultural exchange, the politics of class, gender and ethnicity and complexity of working in conflict zones. The potential benefits to the communities are vast, however the risks, including the potential of co-option, difficulty of having small scale projects address institutionalized problems and student safety are all challenges to be overcome.
Building Sustainable Communities through Civic Engagement – Steven Reed Johnson
Steven Reed Johnson chronicles the evolution of Portland’s sustainability story back to the 1960s and 1970s when grassroots activists and government leaders took Portland on a radically different path than most other cities in America. He argues that Portland’s sustainable community policies and programs are due to wide spread community participation. Summarizing talks he has given in 150 cities in 17 countries over the last 6 years, he discusses the importance of community governance, facilitation of the wisdom of crowds, “software” approaches to community problem solving, and the value of understanding the narrative of a community. A broader theme in his lecture is what he calls the Sylvia Beech factor; that is the importance of understanding the role of grassroots activity–parallel to pioneering plants in an ecosystem–in shaping social and political change, and our mistaken focus on heroes, celebrities, and electoral politics.
Collaboration and Creativity – Milenko Matanovic
Pomegranate Center and its founder Milenko Matanovic are known for their exceptional work in creating gathering spaces that involve community members in all phases of a project, from initial visioning, through design development, fabrication and construction. The visible parts of this work are unique parks, amphitheaters and artistic creations. The invisible part is community engagement that is anchored in collaboration and creativity. Milenko will share his working model and show examples of Pomegranate Center’s work.
Community and the Seeds of Change: The Park that Kids Built
This film screening and discussion will center on the urban environment as a mechanism for creating a successful and complete community. A complete community is a place where there are facilities; retail, walking to satisfy ones basic needs, and open space and parks as a place for a community to come together. This session will show the historical arc of a challenging neighborhood park project that began over 28 years ago in South Los Angeles, in the shadow of the University of Southern California (USC), by 2 teachers, and a group of fifth and sixth graders, and how the original participants and the park are thriving today. This project is about how a vision of a better community, outreach and engagement were key to its success.
Community Organizing and Engagement for Making Murals – Robin Corbo
Mural painting is an amazing medium that can cater to every painter with any level of artistic experience. It can be executed in a very traditional manner or with creative innovation. My process is based on empowering community members to design and execute public art that is specific to their mission. The simple act of a group of people all lending individual brush strokes to create a large mural is an event that has had a profound impact in every mural I’ve organized. Each mural has also had unique challenges that I have worked to over come with these same participants. Every project has informed the murals that have followed after them. In this presentation I’ll relate the incidents that have shaped my best practices for organizing and engaging participants in creating murals. This will include dialogue with reluctant building owners, critical feedback from neighbors, organizing youth, representing communities other than my own, the role of public art in gentrification, working with dozens of artists of varying painting abilities simultaneously, and the relationship between graffiti and public art.
Community Participation in Design, Building & Stewardship of School Grounds – Sharon Gamson Danks & Lisa Howard
Schools around the world are using their grounds to enhance hands-on teaching and learning, enrich outdoor play, and improve the ecology of their neighborhoods. Green schoolyards along these lines seem like a great idea…but how can schools create them? Participatory design processes can be used to engage the whole school community in imagining their school grounds in a new light, drawing their dream master plan collaboratively, and then dividing that plan into manageable parts that can be achieved over time, harnessing the skills of capable, creative parents, teachers, and students along the way. Bay Tree Design principals Lisa Howard and Sharon Danks will use a slideshow to describe various types of participatory design processes used in their firm’s projects, and illustrate how school communities can work together to become stewards of their own shared environments. Examples will be drawn from the San Francisco Bay Area.
Designing Improvisational Mosaics & Sculpture: Weaving Together Glass, Tile & Poetry – Lynn Takata
Artists work with community participation using diverse approaches. Some work with the community to build a design created by one artist, others listen to the communityís ideas in developing the idea, while others choreograph many designs of the community into a larger composition. Much of a participatory artistís approach will depend on the site, materials and the artistís level of comfort with uncertainty. Being open to new ideas after a project has begun can add more interest, but can also be stressful. How will new ideas change the project, can the client be flexible and will the new ideas fit into the budget? Takata will share her process in the development of several large scale public projects including: a 100′ ferro-concrete sculpture/amphitheatre, a mixed media mosaic with cast and fused glass, stone, high relief ceramic and poetry from the community, several concrete and mosaic sculptures built by children. Takata will talk about her improvisational process utilizing cast glass, fused glass, concrete, high relief ceramic and poetry in the murals and sculpture she organizes. Mosaics are a perfect media for collaboration as they allow an artist to lead multiple workshops in various settings and increase participation, rather than having people come to the site of the artwork.
Invasion of Place – Graham Klag
Invasion of Place was a public art project created by Graham Klag to educate the community about non-native invasive plants plaguing Portland. The project was located at multiple sites around the city and focused on removal of five major non-native invasive species. At each site, a crew of community volunteers helped to remove the non-native invasive plants. In four of the reclaimed areas and in one studio setting, sculptural armatures were constructed from bamboo. Armatures were then adorned by the community with the removed non-native plant biomass. Each piece became a visual narrative placing the non-native invasive plant and its environmental impact in a historical and cultural context. Following the sculptures ephemeral installation, in each of the sites northwest native plants are being planted to competitively replace the non-native invasive species. This lecture will outline the process, planning and execution of the project, highlighting unique methods of gaining community participants.
Neighborhood Hangouts for Kids in the 21st Century – Mike Lanza
If kids don’t have a physical “third place,” or hangout, where they can drop in and play with other kids, they’ll end up watching TV or frequenting a virtual hangout like Facebook for hours a day. To overcome these screen-based temptations, kids need an extremely attractive playspace that offers almost instant gratification. Parents won’t let their kids play outside on their own unless they can keep frequent tabs on them. The answer to both these demands is a neighborhood hangout very close to home, within a block or less. In this presentation, Mike Lanza will show many examples of successful neighborhood hangouts and describe the common characteristics that they must have.
Structure and Pattens of Large Scale Community Built Projects – Tom Arie Donch
There are common structures and patterns to all successful, large scale, community built projects. These projects involve hundreds and sometimes many thousands of participants working together to transform their communities and themselves. This illustrated talk will explore the how-to’s of designing and orchestrating large projects with all kinds of communities. Perhaps the greatest wonder of this work is the ability to help achieve and empower the dreams of “unimportant people”. Case studies of large projects working with the blind, with high school students, and with at-risk communities using these structures and patterns will be featured.
Text in Community Built Projects – John Pittman Weber
Weber will show images of community murals and mosaics, from the 80’s on, many from Chicago, many of the examples from his own collaborative projects, using verbatim resident/passerby quotes, collective poetry, song references, bilingual English/Spanish poetry selections, statistics, key words, multiple languages (as many as 9 in one project). Examples will include images from Isaiah Zagar’s work in Philadelphia and the mosaics Weber has led in recent years in Chicago and Spain. Text can be used to add multiple layers of meaning, engage minority or other specific groups of residents, encourage communication across linguistic/ethnic/generational lines, even add jokes. Official public art commissions, especially memorials, over the last two decades have used increasing amounts of solemn text, often engraved in granite or marble or cast in bronze. Community built projects can also use text to help engage and build community—economically and within budget!
Wellness Playgrounds for Elders – Michael Cohen
In 2010, after 21 marvelous years creating community-built playgrounds for children, I learned about a new playground in Manchester, England, designed for older adults. I had never heard of such a thing, and needed to know more. We will explore the origins of this phenomenon, from China in the mid-1990s, to Japan and then to Europe and BC, Canada. The designs I found were for bland outdoor gyms, focusing on providing opportunities for physical exercise. We will look at the broader needs of elders not only for physical exercise, but also mental exercise, socializing, and playing. We will look at the importance of landscaping, particularly horticultural therapy and paradise gardens. I will present details of our designs and discuss how we advocate for and apply the community-built process.
Concrete Casting with Mosaic: design & build – Steve Wood & Betty Rosen Ziff
In this project we will be helping Tabor Space build an artistic and structural kiosk. The kiosk has two components that will be offered simultaneously: concrete form work and design using various casting techniques, and mosaic panel design and construction and installation techniques. Steve Wood and Betty Rosen Ziff will collaboratively present this workshop, and the participants will be exposed to a unique integration of techniques to produce this neat addition to the Tabor Space campus!
The Contemplative Labyrinth – Stephen Shibley
Landscape Architect Stephen Shibley will lead attendees through the design, layout, and installation of a contemplative walking labyrinth. Mount Tabor Presbyterian Church has been dreaming about offering its congregation and its TaborSpace community an on-site labyrinth. This CBA installation will provide this community an affordable and immediate access to an outdoor labyrinth. Participants will learn to draw a labyrinth from a labyrinth “seed” pattern, help lay out the pattern on the ground, remove sod, and install pavers to reveal the pattern.
From Faerie Hut to Swarm Build – Rusty Keeler
Come one, come all to an ongoing hands-on natural playscape build-a-thon workshop. We’re teaming up with a local childcare center to help take their natural playscape “to the next level”. Part construction project, part loose material improv-installation, we’ll be planting trees and shrubs, messing around with loose natural materials, and maybe even build a fairy hut or two. Join us as we swarm the site and transform the play space together.
Conference venue: TaborSpace, a vibrant neighborhood community center in SE Portland will be hosting our gathering this year. This will be the site of our presentations, group meals, and hands-on workshops.
Food: We will be sharing fresh local lunches and dinners together. Breakfast is not provided, but there is a community-run coffee shop on site.
Housing: There are hotel, hostel, and homestays options for out-of-town conference participants. CBA will be coordinating homestays between Portlanders and conference participants. For those who would prefer to stay in a hotel, we have an arrangement with the Crystal Hotel to provide discounted room rates to CBA attendees. The Hawthorne Hostel is a short bike or bus ride from the conference venue.
Transportation: The conference venue is easily accessible by Portland’s excellent public transportation system and by bicycle. There will be regular shuttle service to and from our hotel and hostel accommodations.
Connections with the Village Building Convergence – The CBA 2012 Conference is planned in collaboration with the annual Village Building Convergence (VBC), which begins on May 25th. Conference participants will have the opportunity to join in VBC evening events, workshops, and community build sites around the city. vbc.cityrepair.org
If you have any questions, please send an email to
See you in Portland!