This summer the Walker is launching a public experiment called Open Field in which we (the Walker) along with you (the public), will explore the idea of cultural commons out on the open expanse of our adjacent green field.
The commons is an increasingly popular term that seeks to express a very old idea: that some assets belong to everyone and together they form a community of shared resources for the benefit of all. Encompassing subjects as diverse as grazing land and music sharing, the commons has been part of the political, social and economic sphere for hundreds of years.
But what do we mean when we talk about the cultural commons? Lewis Hyde describes it as “that vast store of unowned ideas, inventions and works of art that we have inherited from the past and that we continue to create.” I would expand that definition to include the places we inhabit, the resources we share, and the ways we create. The cultural commons is an environment in which people can freely assemble (such as the Internet or a city park), have access to resources that are malleable like ideas, images, and language, and engage in forms of production and distribution that value exchange, collaboration and stewardship.
With these ideas in mind, we’ve envisioned the Open Field as a kind of intellectual, recreational, social, and creative platform for and with the public. There will be a new outdoor courtyard, tool shed with equipment, a weekly Drawing Club, projects with the artist collectives Red76 and Futurefarmers, and a roster of conversations, workshops and activities for all ages. Open Field’s official launch is Thursday, June 3 with an event to shape the social contract of our commons. In the coming weeks and months, we will be blogging about programs underway, ideas worth debating, questions to ponder and inviting you to share what you would do in an open field.