ToP Trainer Laura Johansson facilitates a session honoring ICA 'torchbearers' at the 2019 ToP Network Annual Gathering.
Meida Teresa McNeal grew up in the Fifth City neighborhood of East Garfield Park on Chicago’s West Side, where her parents participated in ICA’s Fifth City community development project in the 1960s. Curious about her own memories and her parents’ stories, Meida began to explore the history of Fifth City.
Her journey eventually led her to our Global Archives project, where she connected with ICA colleagues Jean Long, Karen Snyder, and Pam Bergdall, among others. The wealth of information—records, reports, and stories—in the Archives helped Meida develop her solo performance project, Fifth City revisited / Imaginal Politics reimagined, which she performed four times in Chicago this past June.
“Digging in ICA’s archives has created a next level of richness to the project and the storytelling in the work,” Meida says. “I am inspired and intrigued by the complexity of the work at the human scale. I find myself seeing many parallels in the work I do as an artist-administrator-educator and the core principles and methods ICA uses around consensus, creativity, experimentation, collective labor, contextual/historical information, facilitation, and dialogue.”
Fifth City revisited weaves together interpretive dance, spoken word, symbol, audio, video, props, and dynamic lighting into an hour-long meditation on the implications of the Fifth City project on everything from her childhood and family to discriminatory policy, urban planning, and contemporary movements for social justice. It is a stunning work that draw a bold line from ICA’s early days to its influence in the present.
Earlier in the year, another storytelling experience brought ICA’s past to bear on the present. In January, fourteen ICA colleagues were invited to share stories of their work and life with ICA at the ToP Network Annual Gathering in New Orleans. As ToP continues to reach newer and younger audiences, more and more people come to the methods without fully learning about the history and context from which they emerged. ToP Trainers saw this as an opportunity to deepen understanding by positioning colleagues torchbearers who would pass their stories along to those willing to carry that flame into the future.
This year saw the passing of colleagues Jean Long and Sally Stovall. Jean dedicated her recent years to the organization and cultivation of the Global Archives, which she championed vigorously in weekly conference calls with remote colleagues. Sally was partner of colleague Dick Alton and founder of Green Community Connections and One Earth Film Festival. Hundreds came out to her memorial services, a demonstration of Sally’s leadership, enthusiasm, energy, and unwavering dedication to environmental work.
Our work depends on a groundswell of individual supporters. If you, like the many people featured in this issue, have been inspired by our work, we ask that you make a contribution.