In Academia “Collaboration” is a word used to inspire. It is thrown around and used to “break down silos” on campuses and create “Cross Collegiate efforts.” But all too often in actuality it is just a Buzzword… Zip! Zap! Boom! For the powerpoint presentations, the academic theorists, and administrators they are just catchy words without real gravitas.
It is something as an academic that I have grappled with my whole career, as the ACTLab, my graduate program that I attended at UT Austin from 1999-2010 preached individual development and cooperative play. Something that sounds like collaboration, but in many ways differed in just the right ways.
Often collaboration is institutionally impressed upon organizations and individuals; it becomes a frame work, but never fully matures. The people and ideas are often lost in the adherence to the initial process.
Finding a Balance Between Institutional Framework and Creative Collaboration.
As an academic, it is hard finding a balance between institutional framework and creative collaboration. Most creative collaborations I have seen have been liminal events. Even my own.
The ones that I often feel are most successful are informal ones that break the institutional frameworks and the weight of the collaboration fall under a community to live and survive.
It should be noted the kind of creative collaborations do not refer to one with MOU’s, with financial investment, but fall more under the liminal agreements, through kindness, kinship, encouragement and often emotional support.
It is a different type of collaboration, often more interpersonal with co-operative collaboration stemming from it. With all that being said, when that creative and collaborative space is found the real fun begins and truly flourishes.
Fall 2021 LatinX Critical Creative Consortium
The LatinX Critical Creative Consortium Fall 2021 is an event that stemmed from creative collaboration. From my own standpoint (joey lopez phd), the event happened through a bunch of creative happenstance. A good colleague of mine, Ph.D. Candidate Anthony Ramirez hosts a Podcast, Academics & Amigos. As soon as I heard he was producing his podcast I decided to take a listen, and low and behold on one of his podcasts he interviews this amazing Professor named Fredrick Luis Aldama, who specializes in LatinX pop culture. Fast forward a year and here I am November 13th, 2021 co-hosting along with others (Anthony being one of them!) at the LatinX Critical Creative Consortium, an effort to bring together academics and creatives across Texas to talk about LatinX topics.
Hosted at UT Austin by Dr. Frederick Luis Aldama, the event was a day-long set of workshops, seminars and in all reality, creative conversations in the hallways. Frederick worked to bring together professors and students from Texas State, Southern Methodist University (Dallas Area), University of Texas at Dallas, University of Texas at Austin, Our Lady of the Lake University (San Antonio, TX) and of course Texas A&M College Station. He also garnered an amazing group of professional speakers.
Christopher Carmona. Writer, poet, editor
Reyes Ramirez. Writer and poet
Richard Gonzalez. Music editor & photographer, Latinx Spaces
Aaron Jimenez. Publisher & editor-in-chief, Latinx Spaces
Luis Linan. Chief Operating Officer, Latinx SpacesOscar Garza. Comic book creator
Tim Fielder. Comic book creator
Hector Cantú. Nationally syndicated cartoonist
|Creative Critical Consortium Coordinators & Co-Sponsors|
UT Austin: Latinx Pop Lab Director, Dr. Frederick Luis Aldama with Sam Ceballos
TAMU: Media Lab Director, Joey Lopez with Anthony Ramirez
SMU: Director of English Graduate Studies, Dr. Jayson González Sae-Saue
UT Dallas: Dr. Manny Martínez
Texas State, San Marcos: Dr. Sara Ramírez & Dr. Gloria Martínez-Ramos
What I love about events like this is how informal they become even with the best of plans. Because of the UT football game, the catering couldn’t deliver right to us, so a group went out and helped bring it over and it was so cool to see even just a little thing like that already have people chatting and ideating. We ended up gathering outside for our morning introductions and it was great. People from all walks of life, with various ambitions, some comic creators, some professors, graduate students, publishing professionals, teachers, etc, they all introduced themselves and created the “aura” that would build throughout the day.
When we started the first panel based around professional comics and moderated by Samantha Cebellos, the panelists were questioned not just about their process, but their vulnerabilities. Sam’s ability to evoke personalized responses from the panel really re-enforced a creative collaboration of not only professional skills, but emotional understanding of the journey of becoming a professional in general. This would also ring true when Anthony Ramirez was the moderator of the last panels of the day, where again, professionals were questioned about their drive as creators and academics. Hearing minority perspectives of the academic process reminded me how much Academia in general tends to try and form individuals into hegemonic institutional cogs and that we must continue to encourage up and coming academics (and our colleagues) to continue to embody their lived reality in their academic works. It was beautiful to be in the presence of such talented individuals who were sharing their experiences throughout their own journeys and trajectories.
I took notes throughout the whole experience, mental and written, I also photographed the event and made a video (as you see). My personal takeaway from this experience was that creative collaboration is possible within institutions, but it takes a mix of happenstance and structure for them to have an impact on personal levels. My practical takeaways are as follow:
We need to have more of these!
I want to organize a hands on Media Production For Academics and Artist Workshop/Conference
I had and this event re-enforced the feeling of wanting to literally travel to other campuses and visit other academics and see their process and practices and further build out collaborations.
I want to bring more academics and artists to campus to guest lecture and do workshops and informal production based events (Think community engagement).
I want to produce the third ACTLab Conference aka ACTLab Conference 2022 and need to get on it.