The Voices of Creative Change Initiative

The Voices of Creative Change Initiative | Fugitive Laboratory for Ideas and Creativity (VCCI | FLIC) emerges as an essential component in the educational, curatorial, and administrative teams within in the development and management of dynamic and community-responsive programs at Plains Art Museum. The VCCI also generates an emerging set of programs and projects (under FLIC) that are designed to elevate diverse artists’ voices, build trust between the Museum and communities of color, and advance the Museum’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility (IDEA) motivations. VCCI | FLIC generates planning, collaboration, and evaluation/assessment, concomitantly delivering compelling programs that advance creativity and foster inter-connected experiences for diverse audiences. Consequently, VCCI is capable of supporting both internal and external initiatives and programmatic efforts.


Voices of Creative Change is an initiative that advances three fundamental goals:


. . . is something that must be properly and adequately understood before institutions can honestly and justly assert that they are, in effect, building relationships with its publics that are mutually grounded in trust. Therefore, it also means understanding that trust is always already about the risk we assume in the act of placing ‘faith’ or ‘confidence’ in another party’s fiduciary obligation–which is to say, faith and confidence in another’s actions and motives in placing the interests of other above one’s own. This constitutes a very complex and complicated terrain. One the one hand, Museums as community-based cultural institutions, exercise a degree of cultural and pedagogical authority. This authority results from forms of accumulated value that are linked to colonial and imperial regimes as well as war, looting, and private collecting practices. On the other hand, Can the interests of such institutions take a back seat to external interests? What does it mean to ask such institutions to place interests of marginalized communities ahead of its own? If such an act was possible, how might this look? Finally, to what extent can museums and marginalized communities mutually attune themselves to each other’s interests?


. . . happens when, over time, VCCI has situated itself, as a collaborative entity, within Museum’s educational, curatorial, and administrative infrastructure. This means that educational, curatorial, and administrative initiatives benefit greatly when time, effort, and attention is given over to serious engagement with context, power, and culture. This means creating the inclusive and diverse spaces for exhibitions that allow for serious engagement with relevant issues around history, culture, and artistic value. It means interpreting exhibitions from a curatorial standpoint that seriously interrogates art historical themes, cultural heritage, and cultural power. It means having educational programs that will continue to emerge that extend the dialogues generated by these exhibitions in ways that, rather than isolate audiences, encourage critical thinking and  reevaluating traditional beliefs and assumptions. In this atmosphere, Plains Art Museum will continue to practice accessibility, not just in terms of increasing physical access to its structures and its galleries but also in terms of thinking seriously about how museums access their publics and influence the activity of everyday lives.


. . . requires a certain mode of radical listening that repositions us as learners and increases opportunities for cross-experiential interactions that are sometimes pleasant and sometimes antagonistic but always productive. Through radical listening, we are able to work toward co-creating equitable context for productive and equitable communication. To do the work of elevating voices–those voices that already exist under the duress of regimes of censorship–means submitting ourselves to encounter the full range of emotional and affective contexts out of which these voices articulate themselves. This means creating programs, exhibitions, speaking opportunities, events, and a multitude of creative contexts that make room and allow for these voices to speak, be heard, and to be engaged.


VCCI | FLIC is driven by several fundamental imperatives:


The idea of Thinking and Working under Erasure is derived from the notion of “thinking under erasure” which is taken from Stuart Hall (recaptured by David Scott), who borrowed the concept from Jacques Derrida. For our purposes, the idea of Thinking and Working under Erasure captures the fact that in the realm of intellectual thought there are rarely absolutely new models about which no one has ever thought. More, there is the idea that not only do we think within historical patterns and traditions but also that historical patterns and traditions “think us.” Therefore, VCCI | FLIC is grounded by the imperative that to Think and Work Under Erasure is about thinking and working from within a kind of fugitive space–a space that, Fred Moten tells us, 

occasions a desire for and a spirit to escape and transgress the proper and the proposed. It’s a desire for the outside, for a playing, thinking, or being outside, traversing an outlaw edge that is proper and adequate to an always already improper voice, expression, perspective, or way of being.


As VCCI | FLIC generates and produces educational programs, there remains at the core, the idea of productive transgression. Productive transgression, then, is about cultivating and enacting a sense of (creative) freedom and social agency. The purpose of doing so speaks directly to the idea of fugitivity. This means critically examining traditional forms of artistic value, examining constraining understandings of artistic and creativity activity, and rigorously taking to task oppressive narratives that propose to dictate how we understand, interpret, and exist in relationship to traditional forms of knowledge–artistic and otherwise. In cultivating creative freedom and social agency, productive transgression seeks empowerment, engagement, and excellence. Finally, to talk about productive transgression is to come to terms with erasure, with fugitivity, and move out into the world from that understanding into an active refusal of objectification–whether artistic, symbolic, cultural, or otherwise. In this way productive transgression is transformative. 


VCCI | FLIC is grounded and situated by a fundamental critique of culture. This is not to suggest an arbitrary and willy-nilly contention with all things for the sake of being contentious. No. This is, however, to suggest an intentionally aggressive polemic with “culture” as a site that produces and reproduces forms of control, power, and violence that, more often than not, results in silencing voices. Remaining consciously aware of the rise of gendered, racialized, and epistemic violence, VCCI | FLIC takes up and seriously engages what Paget Henry calls the “poetic power of artistic practice” to “un-name and re-name, to de-institute old selves and establish new ones, and to silence imposed voices and reclaim lost ones” in the collective and collaborative efforts to not only avoid what Paget Henry calls the “crisis of entrapment” but also to avoid what Lewis Gordon refers to as a kind of “disciplinary decadence.” Cultural critique, then, does the work of unearthing and eradicating implicit forms of violence and aesthetic domination which, therefore, positions VCCI | FLIC to 1) engage archaic, traditional, and cultural rigidity, 2) to empower its publics to speak with liberated voices, and 3) to shift the boundaries of language and artistic practice that embrace thinking and working under erasure as a way to promote productive transgression and fugitivity, engage in cultural critique for the purposes of resisting imposed identities, and embody, embrace, and foster a diversity of knowledges and practices. 


Dr. Kelvin Monroe, Voices of Creative Change Coordinator
701.551.6120 •


Writing the Self: Poetics & Portraits
Four Sessions: Sundays on January 29, February 5, 9, 16, 26
Special Guest Teaching Artists: Ann “Sole Sister” Johnson and Stephanie Lemmer

Are you interested in visual art (printmaking, collage, assemblage, drawing, and photography) and writing (narrative self-reflection)? Join Plains Art Museum every Sunday beginning on January 29th through February 26th for an experimental conceptual art program that will explore and examine identity and social issues while also addressing self-awareness, confidence, and leadership potential for young women who embrace, embody, and declare different identities. For each session, teaching artists will guide participants as they engage with themes around identity, self-awareness, self-confidence, and self-potential by asking participants to respond to an array of cultural texts (artworks, lyric song, and poetic verse). During the five weeks, participants will construct a “self” that takes into account both written and visual creative activity. This creative activity will be assembled, documented, and chronicled into Art books produced by participants. All materials and supply costs for this program will be provided. Ages 16+ are welcomed. We exercise respect among ourselves.

For more information and/or participation contact Dr. Kelvin Monroe

Critical Grooves Book Lab
Select Thursdays, 6:30-8 PM
February 23: Midnight Hour (Stories 1-10)
March 23: Midnight Hour (Stories 11-20)
April 27: Two Parts Sugar, One Part Murder
May 18: Devil in the Blue Dress

For our third iteration, we will read a collection of twenty short stories by twenty writers of color as well as works by both Valerie Burns (aka V. M. Burns) and Walter Mosely. In Midnight Hour (edited by Abby L. Vandiver), we discover twenty voices of color who take us through an expansive terrain of crime and mystery writing, sure to keep you reading well past the dead of night. Valerie Burns’s Two Parts Sugar, One Part Murder promises a sassy, stylish mystery set in a cozy little Michigan town—the first installment of Burns’s Baker Street Mystery series. Finally, Walter Mosely’s classic Devil in a Blue Dress takes us on a scintillating ride down mean streets, through bedeviling political plots, and right into the house of American-as-apple-pie-style relationships.

To encourage broad participation, you may acquire the selected texts through convenient means, as per your situation. Also note: Critical Grooves Book Lab selections will also be available for purchase from The Store at Plains Art Museum. Ages 16+ are welcomed. We exercise respect among ourselves.

For more information and/or participation contact Dr. Kelvin Monroe