Photo by Ara Howrani
What I learned at Allied Media Conference
By Beth Warshaw
Beth Warshaw

At this point in my life, I’m no stranger to work conferences. There’s some travel, some question if any outfit can be both serious and interesting, and a lot of presenting my "Best Professional Self." They’re usually educational and always exhausting.

The Allied Media Conference is, happily, an entirely different experience. Everyone is encouraged to see each other as more than their “Work Selves,” because we acknowledge that we bring our whole selves to the hard work of remaking the world to better reflect all of our needs. 

Formally, the AMC focuses on media-based organizing strategies. In practice, it provides a range of ways for people in nonprofit, art, social change, and communications fields to engage in personal and community healing and liberation.  That’s a heady and fairly opaque way to describe 4 days in Detroit, so here are some concrete ways I’m bringing this thinking back to my daily life at CultureWorks. 

The How to Ask for Money workshop asked us to do some real reflection on what it feels like to ask for donations.  Most of us who answered felt some form of guilt or anxiety, and I was faced with deconstructing the shame I often feel in asking for money or, really, any form of support.  Why is it so much easier for many of us to give than to ask, and what does that mean for the success of our work?  This deep critical thinking allows us to understand the power dynamics of asking people for resources, and how artists and activists can fundraise more freely and effectively when we invite people to join in our activism, our art, our mission.

Meditating in a deep listening workshop compelled me to listen to my body and understand that I was pushing my (temporarily) physically ill body too hard to truly focus. Taking that time out to listen to myself and what I needed, both physically and mentally, was crucial in preparing myself for the rest of the weekend and recognizing how rarely we offer that space to ourselves. We don’t have a meditation room at CultureWorks (yet!), but we can always make space for people’s physical needs, experiences, emotions, and even babies in each room.

During our session on fiscal sponsorship with members of Allied Media Projects and Fractured Atlas (FA), Courtney Harge from FA had some real wisdom to share about how we approach fundraising. Namely, if we’re doing a kind of work that lives outside of, or in opposition to, traditional systems and structures, we need to seek funding from less traditional sources. It makes sense to align the type of work we do with the funding we receive, and even though it might be more work to raise the money, it puts more power in our hands.

Each of these ideas is deceptively simple, but radically reframes how we approach and support our work together. Ultimately, the AMC was a gathering place where the idea of abundance was constantly reiterated: we have what we need.We have each other.