IOPN recently published Et Al.: New Voices in Arts Management, a book edited by Dr. Amy Shimshon-Santo and Dr. Genevieve Kaplan and which features essays by twenty-four individuals working in arts and arts management. Et Al. appears under the IOPN imprint Publishing Without Walls. To celebrate its publication, we are interviewing co-editors Amy and Genevieve about this book and its development process. Amy is a poet, writer, and educator whose instruction areas include the arts, culture, and education, with a focus on praxis and community arts practice. Genevieve is a scholar, poet, book-maker, and fiber artist whose instruction areas include writing, creative writing, and poetry. Et Al. explores the possibilities of a justice-centered arts management praxis by providing space for those working in the arts to reflect and share insights on their work.
1. Et Al. comes at a time of great change in this world, with the past few years bringing pandemic and major social upheaval. What was it that inspired you to publish Et Al. now?
There is tremendous creative potential in upheaval. It is painful, but it’s also a time of clarification and change. We wanted to provide space for people to reflect together on the conditions of their creative lives and communities in an open and multicentered way. We imagined a kaleidoscopic literary space that would feel welcoming, human, and insightful. Let’s disrupt the persistent hoarding of attention that reproduces hegemony.
In one of his last interviews, James Baldwin stated the obvious, “the world is not white” (Baldwin, 2014). Nor does the world consist only of men, speak just one language, or belong to one nationality. Myriad forms of knowledge, culture, creativity, and language go chronically under-resourced, side barred, or misrepresented to maintain the status quo. An open source publication could become a space for people to speak to their own communities, while also reaching across communities. It is paramount to see, hear, and think expansively. Et Al. centers multivocality, moves across genres and spaces, and is made accessible through open source publishing.
Social upheaval is exactly the right time for new and daring projects like Et Al. So many communities have been struggling for a long time, and the pandemic shut down and related difficulties served to illuminate the issues being faced. We hope that essays like Abraham Ferrer’s and Karina Yánez’s, that delve into historical memory or imagine educational startups, showcase how creative spaces and artistic practice fuel social justice. Et Al. was both a labor of love and a way for us to harness our collective energy. As editors, we were excited about this project as a way to showcase community knowledge. We see the book as a platform for reflection, conversation, and imagination.
2. What was it that drew you to digital publishing with Scalar as the platform, rather than print, for Et Al.? And additionally, why did you choose to publish open access with IOPN?
This digital platform offers so many opportunities for sharing work, like the ability to showcase multiple languages, images, audio, and video. While print books are wonderful, the ability to add related full-color multimedia and to link to related resources, is such a boon. The digital publishing platform necessitates an interactive elevation of storytelling. The digital platform makes it easy for readers to click and hear the authors’ voices, visit the related websites, and to experience more of their artwork.
In Michaela Paulette Shirley & Kayla Jackson’s co-written essay “Shí Yázhí: ‘there is money underneath your fingers’,” readers can also experience audio and video of the authors learning from their mothers and grandmothers. Loreto Lopez’s “Interaction and Accessibility through Public Art Maps” analyzes public art for true access, and also shares screenshots and links. Readers can listen to Avila Santo’s music videos in the essay “Creating Spaces for Black Artists to Thrive” by Allen Kwabena Frimpong, or link to poems and women’s mariachi performances in Janice Ngan and Brittany Campbell’s essay about Manuela Garcia and intersectional women’s histories in museum sound archives.
3. In the book synopsis, it’s mentioned that Et Al. provides “rare, behind-the-scenes insights on justice-centered arts management praxis.” Could you expand on that? Why was it important for this project to focus on justice-centered arts management praxis?
In times of change, there is no better lighthouse than justice. Centering justice opens spaces to imagine new approaches for different ends. Management protocols and procedures are too often entrenched in systems that perpetuate inequality. What is an arts management of liberation?
We ask, what knowledge, tools, and resources are people activating in the arts for justice? What ancient and emergent ways are being sustained and developed by communities to provide ethical stewardship for the arts and culture across generations? What are communities creating when they feel free, inspired, and empowered?
This book invites readers to reimagine arts administration and management as radical practices of cultivation and care. In Et Al., “rare, behind-the-scenes insights” means prioritizing a respect for, and confidence in, community sustenance.
4. You’ve mentioned some of the challenges encountered in bringing Et Al. to life. What have you found particularly rewarding while engaging this work?
The most rewarding part of Et Al. is of course the work itself! We imagine readers enjoying both a feeling of deep connection and familiarity with some chapters, and a sense of awakening as they experience perspectives that are new to them.
As editors it was exciting to receive the initial pieces, learn more deeply about the authors–and their projects, perspectives, and desires–and to begin to imagine a type of book that we’d never seen before.
We are not spiders, but we started to visualize the book as an orb web that we were spinning together from multiple threads. Teshome Gabriel wrote about the internet as digital weaving, and working on this project felt that way. Kio Griffith’s rainbow orb web cover art for the book’s splash page captures this process of beautiful entanglement precisely.
The arts and culture are perfectly suited for the layered juxtapositions possible in digital humanities — from archival photos to spoken word, and percussion to pottery. So many of us involved with the project are diasporic, multilingual people who’ve grown up recognizing, and splicing together, different kinds of expertise and information throughout our lives. It is especially satisfying to include knowledge via multiple technologies such as music, movement, and weaving alongside narrative. We see the arts and culture as technologies of identity, learning, and liberation.
What does it mean to become a literary citizen in a world increasingly connected by the internet yet still emerging from the fog of hegemony, erasure, and domination? Our rewarding task was to come to know each other better. Now the macrame web of stories gets plugged into publishing circuits that will connect even further to serve readers, listeners, and viewers.
5. Reflecting on what you’ve learned from this undertaking, do you have any advice for people considering similar projects?
Make friends. Take positive risks. Trust and be patient with yourself and each other.
Some elements we hadn’t initially considered might be part of this project, or part of our purview as editors, ended up being integral to Et Al.. Working with our publishers at IOPN and being open to the process–which meant that we were able to invite complimentary media, to link pages and ideas through code, to add new dimensions and layers to our orb-web–made our book stronger. Keeping an open mind allowed the book to develop in positive and unexpected ways.
Importantly, we kept the power relations of publishing in mind throughout the extended decision making process. This meant a lot of back and forth conversations in an attempt to balance authorial voice with the publisher’s requirements and our holistic editorial vision. We wanted to both push boundaries and play well together.
Our note to future editors: Doing this kind of work will expand your understanding of what knowledge is, what knowledge objects are, and the technologies and structures used for circulating ideas through publishing. Making a multimedia book requires numerous types of knowledge objects that use different file formats, take up different amounts of (server) space, and are archived or linked in distinct ways. Creating a multidimensional book that includes audio, video, and narrative is a kind of fabulous nightmare that demands humility, patience, and constant learning. For educators, projects like this may also challenge your notions about teaching and learning. What do we need to teach or learn to participate in the future of digital humanities? One thing is certain, transdisciplinarity and collaboration have the potential to pollinate new relationships and publishing experiences.
This book may have been conceived during a global pandemic, but it has been born into what we hope will be fresh horizons. Having an awareness of the rapidly changing world also informed our presentation and writing through the known and the unknown. How might these essays and the projects the authors intervene in the present moment and remain relevant in future years? A goal we’ve kept in mind as editors is to try to think through this kind of integrity: we want the digital book, the language and ideas within it, to offer a snapshot of a tumultuous time but also to remain informative for future generations. Having both an immediate and long view gives Et Al. a quality of memoria, or memory, as well as an aspirational tone capable of seeding future ideas and action.
6. Et Al. is a large collaborative effort with twenty-four total authors across eighteen essays. Could you tell us about how you engaged the editorial process and the work you did to preserve each author’s own voice in such a multimodal publication?
We designed an open call to articulate the tenor of our vision. We wanted writers to feel comfortable speaking about the range of arts administration actions — from Indigenous planning to Black arts cooperatives, or from multilingual immigrant research to nascent policy and inclusive curation. Our original book structure idea adapted to the responses to the call; we identified themes in the works that we formed into Et Al.’s streams of exponential power.
As editors, we demanded each author’s style and voice be honored alongside the rigorous expectations of academic publishing. Some essays evolved from the initial submissions as we invited authors to augment their written texts with links, images, audio, or video. For example, in Robin Sukhadia’s essay, “A Suit and Tabla,” he provided photos of music education in India and Los Angeles, and included links to traditional music performances and global nonprofit resources.
So as not to romanticize any challenging process, making this book wasn’t easy. Working across media meant grappling with multiple systems of publishing, archiving, coding, and shared accountability. In addition to standard editing responsibilities, we also coded footnotes, managed an extensive metadata spreadsheet, and developed a functioning book in Scalar. The process resembled preparing a book, an exhibition, and a performance simultaneously. We could have never completed this task without patience, devotion, and friendship. These are qualities that helped us push the idea over the mountain to the other side. We learned that kindness, open-mindedness, and mutual respect are important to tackling unexpected obstacles.
IOPN has been a great publishing house to collaborate with on this project because of their depth of knowledge in the digital humanities, their co-commitment to our social justice aims, and their patience with our desire to include the nuances of visions and language, including translations from multilingual writers. This multimodal publication required more than digital and technical knowledge. It demanded an ontological shift in imagining what a book is, or could be. We hope that as a book, Et Al. disrupts, connects, and inspires.
7. Do either of you have any other upcoming projects you’d like to discuss?
Amy went through a radical change during the making of Et Al. and has come home to her creative practice. Her next poetry collection, Catastrophic Molting, will be published with Flowersong Press, and is available for presale now from the Flowersong Press website. (Another poetry collection will follow next year about restoration and the natural world, but she can’t tell much more about it quite yet.) Currently, she mentors and teaches in the community with CREO Changemakers and leads courses in Creative Agency, Transnational Participatory Research, and Environmental Humanities for educators and cultural studies scholars at Claremont Graduate University.
Genevieve co-guided a publishing merger during the making of Et Al. that transformed Toad Press and Veliz Books into a united entity to better promote the work of contemporary literary fiction, poetry, and translation; the press is on the path toward becoming a nonprofit organization. Check them out on the Veliz Books website. She teaches poetry courses for graduate and undergraduate students at Chapman University, serves as an upstanding literary citizen in her communities, and acts as Communications Manager at the American Museum of Ceramic Art in Pomona, CA.
Baldwin, J. (2014). James Baldwin: The last interview and other conversations. Brooklyn: Melville House.