Syracuse Symposium: Conventions

In conjunction with The Most Beautiful Home…Maybe and Syracuse Symposium: A series of four free special events examining housing insecurity in Central New York leading up to performances of The Most Beautiful Home…Maybe.

The Most Beautiful Home... Maybe is a devised theatrical performance that brings together artists with local residents, community development corporations, and government officials to undo some of the policies that keep our most vulnerable on the margins


EVENT 4: Creating Conventions: Creating a Future with Housing for All

MONDAY, April 11, 2022 | 5:30 – 7:30 PM
Virtual: Zoom Webinar

What is your most audacious vision for the future of housing in Syracuse? Can you imagine that everyone has a home? This interactive workshop led by theater artists Mark Valdez and ashley sparks will guide participants to build a collective daydream for the future of housing. Through poetry, guided imagery, life expectancy data, and song, this experience invites hope for a future that we can tangibly see. By imagining Syracuse in 2050, we are both within reach and just over the horizon. This workshop gives us permission to dream and see what’s possible in our collective imagination.



Mark Valdez is a director, writer, and cultural organizer who partners with communities, organizations, civic institutions, and others, using theater and creative tools to address community needs and to lift up community voices and stories. He is the recipient of various grants and awards, including the Zelda Fichandler Award and the California Arts Council's inaugural Legacy Artist Fellowship. Mark was recently appointed as the Artistic Director of Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis.
ashley sparks is a writer, director and engagement strategist that has collaborated with ensembles like Cornerstone Theater Company, PearlDamor, and ArtSpot Productions. sparks has curated and produced cross-sector gatherings for the Network of Ensemble Theaters, Alternate ROOTS, the Network for Energy Water and Health in Affordable Buildings (NEWHAB), the Highlander Center for Research and Education, and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). sparks is an awardee of the Princess Grace Award, A Blade of Grass Fellow and current board member. She holds an MFA in Directing and Public Dialogue from Virginia Tech University. sparks is a facilitator with the Emergent Strategy Ideation Institute and a member the Guild of Future Architects.


EVENT 1: Historical Conventions: How we got where we are

A presentation and discussion that explores how historical conventions have brought Syracuse to its current housing issues. Presenters will guide participants through the history of how individuals living in Syracuse’s 15th ward have been impacted by redlining, federal policies on “urban renewal,” and unwritten rules on housing discrimination. Balancing first-person accounts with expert historical and legal background, this discussion will share the stories of Syracuse neighborhoods thriving in spite of implicit segregation, resistance to their destruction in the name of economic development, and the dispersal of the community as I-81 tore through their homes.

Watch a recording of session that was held Monday, October 18, 2021 at the CFAC Galleries and over Zoom.

Syracuse Housing Action Steps

Deka Dancil, president, Urban Jobs Task Force, and Bias Response and Education Manager, Syracuse University
Dana Olesch, PhD candidate, Department of Anthropology, Syracuse University
Maggie Sardino, research assistant,City Scripts, and student, Writing and Rhetoric and Civics and Community Engagement, Syracuse University

Facilitated by Joann Yarrow, director of Community Engagement and Education, Syracuse Stage

EVENT 2: Current Conventions (and best intentions)

A community story circle centering on current fears and truths around communities dealing with the pandemic, removal, eviction and the realities of how policies have impacted lives, led by Lenessa Owens-Chaplin, Esq., Project Counsel for the New York Civil Liberties Union. Chaplin and NYCLU fight for civil liberties and rights through a multi-layered program of litigation, advocacy, public education, and community organizing. Additional panelists include David Rufus, lifelong Syracuse resident and Central New York Community Organizer at the New York Civil Liberties Union; Joquin Paskel, Pioneer Homes resident and entrepreneur; and Kathy Fudge, lifelong Syracuse resident and Tenant Rights Advocate.

Watch a recording of session that was held Monday, November 15, 2021 at the CFAC Galleries and over Zoom.

EVENT 3: Breaking Conventions: Examining Our Streets, Culture, and Stories

MONDAY, February 7, 2022 | 5:30 – 7:30 PM
Virtual: Zoom Webinar

Dr. Juhanna Rogers, artist and activist, shares the power of place-based storytelling in urban communities activating systemic empathy and accountability. We will take a look into urban spaces and the way of life as a manner to tell new stories that focus on geographic identity and how that identity is leveraged in underrepresented and under-resourced communities. What are ways to ensure voices don’t get lost? How can our stories redefine current models of policy and community engagement?

Dr. Rogers 
is an author, playwright, director, and actress. Her passion for dance, storytelling and the stage has cultivated performances that explore the intersections of Black life in the United States and the diaspora. Her poetry was published in the Divine Feminist (anthology), and she makes regular appearances on the BronxNet and The Today Show speaking on the Black experience. More of Dr. Rogers' work can be found on various online blogs, offering commentary on Higher Education and the Black Woman’s experience. 

Watch a recording of session that was held Monday, February 7, 2022 over Zoom.



Past Shows