What is an Authentic/ Topic Expert Voice

What is an Authentic/Topic Expert Voice?

We have added the word “authentic” to help explain the concept of what we need for “expert” voices in our event.  We might also call these integral team mates  a “primary source voice.”

Fundamental to the ACW mission is the notion that bringing alternative worldviews together to deepen cultural understanding and critical thinking magnifies the potential for change.  See. Say. DO was designed as an opportunity for social justice artists to expand their thinking on their chosen topic for the event by partnering with authentic voices as their work is developed. The goal is to enrich the quality of their art and its potential to effectively communicate; to bring new communities into their work; and to provide a platform that helps them to bring their unique creative perspective and approach to problem solving in a way that helps to move their social practice into action. Each artist selects authentic/topic expert voices to comprise a “primary source voice;” these voices bring first person informed perspectives, and their communities, to our projects; we bring new perspectives and our communities into their world; and together with our audiences we creatively explore relevant issues of our time, empowering us all to take concrete actions to have a positive impact on society.

ALL of the team members learn from the other team members. The expectation is that there will be interaction during the development of the art work, attendance  on opening night and possible participation in a workshop.

How it works:  Testimony from Barbara  In my project on Recovery, my team mates are Marya Hornbacher, an author who is in recovery from addiction and David Swarthout, a psychotherapist specializing in addiction. Marya has already influenced my thinking. She indicated when people ask her if she is “in recovery” she responds with strength, contentment, and peace of mind “Today, I’m alright.”  I am currently rethinking the title of my work. Personally, I have experienced addiction (food) and my friends and family have also been challenged.  It would be difficult to find anyone who does NOT have this issue in their lives- we just don’t talk about it – so we suffer alone. I now believe my loved ones are sick of people treating them like it is all over-that they are recovered.  I now know that Today- they are alright.  This new insight will inform the direction of my large 5‘X 5’ W X 7 ‘ T sculpture and will most definitely  influence the workshop which is developed to engage our audience moving forward.

I give this personal example as a way to illustrate that I am of the opinion that the more I know, the more I know how little I know.  I believe that our “authentic voices” – people who live in the worlds of our topics will bring a first person informed perspective to our projects AND we may bring a new way of thinking to THEIR world.  I hope that we all, and our message, will be richer for the dialogue.

Our biggest challenge, I predict, will be for us, and our team mates, to understand that we may want to go beyond preparing a lecture.  In my world of education, this “expert/teacher centered” approach is called intructivism.  The teacher stands up and lectures.  Research shows this has very little impact.  What I hope for all of us is to consider taking a constructivist  approach. The entire team of artist, authentic/voice(s) AND the audience will all CONSTRUCT the new knowledge we discover by synthesizing ALL our data streams together. My rule of thumb is to keep my “data dump”, as I call it, to no more than 1/3 of my time with the target audience. This approach is incredibly empowering, effects change and takes the pressure off the teacher/leader.  You and your team build the framework and the participants fill it in.

You might want to use the following for inspiration as you design your project:


  1. Collect new data from credible sources
  2. Process that data alone and collaboratively ( I do this on my discussion boards with essential questions)
  3. Present your reflections/findings – which in our case will be our team projects (art!!), performances and workshops.

You might want to develop a few Essential Questions with your authentic voice which point your audience in the direction you want them to go.  They also always help ME get focused! Mine might be something like the following for a middle school audience:

1.Does art have to be beautiful to be good art?

2.What is social justice art? Why do you think artists make social justice art?

3.What do you know about the connection between mood disorders and addiction?
Can addicts just say , “no”?

If you choose to offer a workshop, design an activity which engages EVERYONE in the dialogue, creating an object (optional) and most importantly, with the goal that ALL participants will go away with a positive action item to DO. What’s Your Issue: See something DO something,

Frankly, I have been teaching for over 40 years and this constructivist approach is the only reason I am still in the game.  I would never think of myself as an ”expert.”  I always tell my students, “This is what I know so far. Let’s build on this data with research and YOUR knowledge and experience. “ Out with The Sage on the Stage and in with the Guide on the Side!!