MAKETANK Projects is a creative space in College Corner, OH
Since December of 2011 MAKETANK Projects has hosted focused discussion-meals designed to realize the MAKETANK Inc. mission of connecting people who do not normally interact and to creatively investigate the issues that challenge isolated communities with the goal of generating a set of creative outcomes. The dialogs are both projects and methods of research, which is an ideal combination that handily fits the inquiry-based model of art for which MAKETANK Inc. is best known.
First, invitations are sent/emailed to prospective participants. Many who are invited will set foot in the MAKETANK Projects space for the first time during this event, and some of them are locals who we have yet to meet. Some are skeptical, some choose not to come, so there is never 100% buy-in. We understand that it may be too unusual to be invited by an art collective to eat and talk with a group of strangers who are not originally from the community. For those who commit, we simply asked them to join us for a meal, to share with us what they are curious about, and to participate in some creative brainstorming about how the artists of MAKETANK Projects can realize our community’s best ideas.
The studio is transformed into a temporary kitchen and dining room. A gas griddle is set up in the front of the studio, a sideboard is stocked with appropriate drinks and coffee, and the work tables are covered with paper and set with markers. The MAKETANK Inc. team often prepares pancakes, although for some groups we have instead served soups, wine with hors d’oeuvres, or cocktails. In all cases, the food is delicious, is made with the freshest ingredients, and all dietary needs are met upon request–meals have been vegetarian, gluten free, casein and lactose free, and even vegan (a real challenge when making pancakes!). When pancakes are on the menu, sometimes they are sweet, sometimes savory, but there are always enough for second and third helpings.
Community members know the community best, of course, so while everyone eats, questions are asked, challenges are exposed, interventions are proposed, stories are heard, and trust is built. Facilitation is done using techniques of appreciative inquiry and solution-focused approaches, therefore we don’t dwell on problems but instead focus on the things about the community that make it unique, versatile, and interesting. We work to create a group vision of an amazing future for the community and its members. As participants come up with ideas, they are able to immediately write them down on the table coverings with the markers–this has allowed great ideas, names of contacts, and simple yet profound thoughts to be recorded in a form that can be revisited later as each table-paper is archived. Every dialog has creates networks, not only between MAKETANK Projects and the community, but also between the community members themselves. The conversations also provide the foundation for a better understanding of the challenges in College Corner specifically and isolated or marginalized communities in general. With this information we are able to propose creative answers to meet the social needs of our community through artistic practice.
In addition to the Pancake Dialogs that are hosted at MAKETANK Projects, there have been dialogs in Lancaster Pennsylvania, Warren Vermont, and Copenhagen, Denmark.