Book and Site for Transforma
Texts— Aimee Chang, Maria Rosario Jackson and Tom Finkelpearl
Edition of 2000
Printed in Canada by Prolific Group
Typefaces— Bodoni, Mercury and Franklin Gothic
This volume documents the history and activities of Transforma, a collective of artists and creative professionals formed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to support and celebrate cultural practices that impact the social and physical environment. The initiative sought to expand opportunities for artists to use their creativity in the rebuilding of New Orleans by exploring the relationship between art making and issues such as education, health, the environment, and community development. As founders of Transforma and members of its volunteer-based national resource team, we came together following the destruction of Hurricane Katrina to consider how our experience, resources, and networks could supplement and enhance the social and physical recovery of New Orleans. After a few conversations, the initiative was born and the name Transforma followed.
As practitioners within the field, we had seen art and culture become increasingly commercialized, limiting the opportunities for artists to work in public or socially engaged practices. To counter this trend, Transforma strategically supported such practices with direct financial assistance, technical assistance, and networking opportunities. Generally it encouraged a greater emphasis on the role of artists, the arts, and culture in addressing the social and political needs that confront our society.
Transforma was committed to supporting and validating public and socially engaged art practices, which are often overlooked by art critics and rarely considered by those in other fields. Given that such work is often process-oriented and that the physical products themselves are often ephemeral, effective documentation is difficult. For the past two years we have intensely considered how to document Transforma and called on advisers to help determine an appropriate approach. From the beginning we have been dedicated to making the work of Transforma accessible to a diverse audience. Thus, with the input of advisers, we created a framework in which two investigators, working independently, would have the opportunity to research, investigate, and write about Transforma from their individual perspectives. The two essays in this publication are the result of this process. One, written by Aimee Chang, manager of public programs at the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin, looks at Transforma through the lens of art history and pedagogy. The other, by Maria Rosario Jackson, senior research associate at the Metropolitan Housing and Communities Center at the Urban Institute, considers the initiative within the context of community development and urban planning.