For this challenge, I came up with an interactive experience designed to get people thinking about their ideal version of America. The vision I had was that groups of people–high school classes, groups of coworkers, etc–would come to participate in this event, which would likely be a limited-time program sponsored by small local governments, or a temporary installation at someplace like an art museum. It is not meant to be commercially successful in the long term (although it may be in the short term); I expect that this would be a one-time experience and not something that a person or group would go to more than once.
My idea was that there would be a small, windowless room that participants would enter one by one. In order to make the experience sensory and subtly encourage participants to think beyond their own needs and American identity, soft music of different styles and from different cultures (reggae, country, jazz, Indian, American music from various decades, etc.) will play in different parts of the room. In the center of the room will be a small box filled with items unique to each individual. The contents of the box are meant to represent different qualities, talents, and characteristics that are somewhat randomly dealt to people in life. Examples include a glowing glass star to represent celebrity, a heavy “gold” bar or a few small coins to represent wealth (or lack of it), a pencil (either new and sharp or old and dull) to represent educational attainment, etc. The purpose of this is to get participants in the mindset of someone other than themselves, and to be conscious of the idea that people are randomly and somewhat unfairly dealt different cards in life and this can affect how they see America.
After parsing through the items in the box, the participant will be prompted to go to one side of the room where there will be a whiteboard on one of the walls and they will draw or write a vision of their ideal America. They will be provided with different colored markers and told that they can complete the task however they want, be it a brainstorm, a paragraph, an abstract drawing, etc. After all participants have gone through this independent portion, pictures from each person’s whiteboard will be collected and projected onto the walls of a different room. The entire group will them be asked to walk through the room silently and look at each other’s creations. Finally, there will be large containers in the center of the room where each participant will deposit the items from their personal box according to the labels on the containers (i.e. all of the pencils will go in one box, all of the money in another, etc). The total amount of each item in each container at the end will have been predetermined to reflect the current relative importance of each item in America today (ex. the container with all of the money may be much more full than the container with objects representing family). The program will then culminate with a group discussion of people’s reactions to the drawings and how their views about an ideal America may have changed or come to light through this experience. Finally, the group will rearrange the amounts of items in each container in order to reflect some mutual agreement of what they want the future of America to be.