Dialogue Workshops

During February of 2002, The Working Theater and Snug Harbor convened a series of three workshops in New York City led by project artist Marty Pottenger in partnership with an extensive network of collaborating organizations. Each workshop group included approximately fifteen participants, and each met twice during a one-month period. The dialogue was grounded in both the participants’ sharing of personal experiences and in an energetic exchange of thinking about the issues raised by those stories among the group. Participants also employed their own art-making, storytelling, photography, Haiku, QuickTime movies, and other mediums, as an integral part of the dialogue process.

Workshop participants included business leaders and managers, mothers receiving public assistance, New York City government employees, union members, formerly homeless people, and political officials. These workshops included people from the widest array of economic experiences, whereas the individuals interviews involved only those at either end of the wage-earning spectrum.

The methodology employed in this workshop process followed directly from the learning achieved by Marty Pottenger and The Working Theater during their collaborative project: TheaterWorks! – in which Pottenger assisted members of different local NYC union in developing short (1 – 3 minute) performances about their work. Those workshops focused on many aspects of work in people’s lives, including the work itself, unions, employers, co-workers, family, money and retirement. Participants’ use of storytelling, movement, poetry and song made a truthfulness, sassiness, directness, warmth and vision possible in the resulting performances. TheaterWorks! placed a strong emphasis on building relationships among the participants in each workshop group and on individual relationship-building between Pottenger and each participant.

Following the initial ABUNDANCE workshop process, Pottenger invited fifteen of these 45 workshop participants to join an ongoing New York City-based dialogue group. This group met once a month over the course of 8 months to explore issues of the personal, local, national and global economies, again using art-making as an integral part of its process.

In-Depth Personal Conversations
In addition to these New York-based participating organizations, ABUNDANCE engaged a network of affiliated friends of ABUNDANCE partners nationwide. In 2002, Pottenger traveled across the county to ten cities in addition to New York:

Atlanta, GA
Boston, MA
Burlington, VT
Chicago, IL
Honolulu, HI

Houston, TX
Minneapolis, MN
New Orleans, LA
San Francisco, CA
Seattle, WA

In each of these communities, local partners worked with Pottenger to arrange meetings and interviews with people whose personal wealth exceeded one million dollars and people who were employed in minimum wage jobs. The minimum wage workers reflected the tremendous diversity of nationalities and ethnicities of people in the United States, offering the opportunity to work with several different groups, each bringing a unique historical relationship to the United States, as well as the added insights of “insiders/outsiders” to the workings of our economic system. The millionaires were chosen with an eye towards representing an involvement in a range of key economic sectors including Energy, Transportation, Media, Arts, Communications, Technology, Finance, Fashion/Beauty and Insurance/Healthcare.

During the course of these meetings nationwide, Pottenger invited twelve people (six minimum wage workers and six millionaires) from around the country to become long-term participants in the development of ABUNDANCE, and continued to engage each of these twelve individuals in one-on-one conversation throughout the following year. Their experiences and observations became a major element of the ABUNDANCE performance.

A stand-alone website – www.abundanceproject.net – was critical to the conception of ABUNDANCE as a useful player in the national conversation. The website served as a platform for participation and dialogue, as well as an ongoing travelogue of ideas, information and experiences. The intention of ABUNDANCE was to carry on the project simultaneously in the most intimate settings of one-on-one interviews and small group workshops and at the same time in the most public media arenas – broadcasting the progress, discoveries, and experience of ABUNDANCE to readers / viewers / citizens / participants locally, nationally, and internationally.

You’re invited to take the interview, respond to the questions that Pottenger asks both minimum wage workers and millionaires, and enjoy these refrigerator poems created by workshop participants.