FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
WHAT IS THE SEARCH ABOUT?
A Search for America is a research project that asks, "Do we as Americans share common democratic aspirations?" If so, how are these aspirations expressed through everyday symbols, archetypes and mythologies – the stories we tell and the images we use?
WHAT IS DEMOCRATIC ASPIRATION?
The preamble of the Constitution of the United States of America speaks to an effort to create "a more perfect union." This is a brief and powerful statement of enduring aspiration toward unfinished nationhood, of restless work to build a democratic nation that works for all. I believe this is a beautiful expression of unity of purpose that suggests to every one of us, citizen or resident, a disposition toward one another and provides each of us the opening to play a unique role in strengthening and advancing our country.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
It is an important question to me personally because I love my country – I share a sense of pride in the vast grandeur of our lands and the momentum of our people. We are important force, in the balance, for good in the world. At the same time I hold fear and trepidation around the ferocious and false competition produced by our politics. I believe we can be generous, I believe we can be great. Our challenge lies in securing a unity of aspiration to guide collective action at a time of complex social, environmental and economic change.
WHO SHOULD PARTICIPATE?
My intent is that anyone who learns about this Search and holds a point of view on democracy in America will want to participate. Although selection will be determined by proximity to the final route I'll be able to take, with a concern for demographic representativeness, all are welcome and encouraged to share the stories and images that inspire your democratic aspiration.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
From October 9 to November 20 I'll be on the road, crisscrossing the country to meet and converse with scores of Americans who have elected to share stories and images of what American democracy means to you. Anyone can sign up here. Once you've provided contact information, look for an email with a link to a basic demographic survey. This will help me keep track of demographic representation. I'll be lining up interviews based on ZIP code as I head west and back again.
HOW WILL THE RESULTS BE USED?
The current plan is to share the trip with you, in written accounts and images as it unfolds using a travel blog and social tools like Instagram. The stories I collect along the way will be distilled into a report to the Democracy Fund, which is looking for new ideas and approaches to strengthen their work. The Fund has generously provided support for this trip. Finally, I'll use what I learn to begin a dialogue with arts and culture organizations around ways to engage artists in strengthening our democratic aspiration.
WHO ARE YOU?
My name is Lars Hasselblad Torres and I'm an artist, writer and educator with a long-standing passion for the history of American democracy. I'm also a husband and father with strong ties to my community in Vermont. My work – as an educator, in writing and in art – has often focused on matters of origins and inclusion. I've been fascinated by the problem of intra-group identity and the accommodation of new members in groups. You can learn more about me here.