“Imagining New Worlds” was the theme for my education- and outreach-focused artist residencies and artist talks in 2016 at: Madison Public Library’s BUBBLER, Lussier Community Education Center, Blackhawk Middle School, O’Keeffe Middle School in Madison, WI, and University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. This was also the theme for the outreach work that students undertook in my course Art & Social Justice at University of Wisconsin-Madison in Spring 2016.

^Mirror Portraits by students at Blackhawk Middle School. When do you feel seen? Do you always feel safe when you’re seen?

^Collaborating with a teacher at O’Keeffe Middle School, a rigorous month-long residency integrated artistic confrontations about privilege with Common Core standards. Art from this “Imagining Worlds” unit was displayed at a local coffee shop; poetry from the project was performed during the opening reception.

^Mirror portraits produced by students of University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point during a talk + workshop at their Women’s Resource Center.

^Library-goers drew self portraits on the BUBBLER window (Who gets to be seen in public spaces? Who gets to claim space?), participated in a creative campaign concerned with youth homelessness, pitched in to our talking painting, and imagined new worlds with ArtWrite during our two-month residency at Madison Public Library.


^Teens at Lussier Community Education Center imagined that the best schools would have free transportation for all students.


^Comparing the hardships of Earth in the present with an ideal world–perhaps some folks’ present, perhaps all of our futures? “Earth & WOW” by Jess & Kat, students at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Find more “Imagining Worlds” projects here.


The Mirror Portraits Project was a temporary public art exhibition where teens and artists drew their self portraits with dry erase marker on public mirrors, leaving short poems and stories to live alongside them. Mirror Portraits were installed as a BLINK project of the Madison Arts Commission on August 12th and 13th, 2015 with additional support from Madison Public Library’s BUBBLER and the ArtWrite Collective.

Self portraits and the accompanying stories were intended to offer a glimpse into the lives of our neighbors. For LGBTQIA+ folks, people of color, immigrants, and women, displacement is a persistent experience. Because our community has averted its collective gaze long enough, particular experiences and people are either made invisible or are subject to over exposure on a regular basis. In the mirrors project, participating artists had control of their image, their narrative, and the stories they chose to share with strangers. While more than a few artist-participants shared their experiences with housing insecurity or homelessness, this crew of artists came to the project with vastly different life stories and motivations for participating. How might seeing your own reflection in the work have implicated you in our stories?

Artists who participated alongside me:

Tawania Alston


Sisa Poemape

Marcelle Richards

Karena Ware

Sofia Ware

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Toast wasn’t for sale but Toast cost us money. Support this project by donating $3, becoming a sustaining patron, or ordering Toast the book.

“Arts + Literature Laboratory presents an exhibition by artist Alaura Seidl. Toast, on view from April 1 through April 23, 2016, is an installation and video-based work reconciling the tension between private confrontations and public spectacles, contemplating both what people do spontaneously and what people perform consciously. The exhibition, screened in its final form, is born of a lifetime of intimate encounters and one night of filming with community members. Alaura is negotiating with memories while investigating accountability for social dilemmas, celebrating queer identity and cleansing the palate.”





Documenting intimate conversations using a Polaroid camera.IMG_4905

Index is a collection of conversational encounters documented using instant film and a few words. The location, duration, and subject matter of each conversation is dictated by participating collaborators. The primary prompt for us is to discuss something specific to the participant, although this can be interpreted in a number of ways. Some exchanges are intimate. Some are casual. Some feel like an interview. Others are confessional.

Participants make more decisions along the way than I do; I have taken certain precautions to put as much agency and power in the hands of my collaborators as possible.  Participants decide exactly where we meet and choose when in the conversation they would like me to take their picture. They decide what caption I will type onto the margin of the Polaroid, which may or may not be representative of our conversation. Participants can decide if they would like to see the photo after I take it. They determine if they would or wouldn’t like their photo shared in a culminating book publication.

What will the images tell about our conversation? What is lost in translation? What will happen when I arrange the images in an arbitrary sequence? Can intimacy be documented?

What are the boundaries between memory, artistic documentation, and creative commodities?

Feel welcome to pass this along to anyone you know who may be interested in participating. I’m curious to see what happens when I work with individuals I know and have history with, and those who I do not.


To participate, contact me at alauramegan [at] gmail.com

Note: In putting the specifics of our encounter under participants’ control, I have had to put myself in some vulnerable positions. Please understand if I ask new acquaintances to schedule our conversation in a more public location than the one you propose. Sites have included living room couches, coffee shops, tea houses, parks, that one bench on that one hill in Portland, and a bed.

Tech: I am not in the business of editing artistic documentation. If something should “go wrong” with the film during our encounter, I will not attempt to re-capture the moment. We will embrace overexposed film and blotchy chemistry. If something should “go wrong” while I type your chosen caption onto the photo margin, I will not attempt to clean up or edit the results. I will do my best to secure healthy film and treat the typewriter with care.

Consent: I will provide a photo release form at the close of our conversation. If you choose to have your photo included in the final book publication, signing this document will give me permission to do so.


Conversations have lasted anywhere from 20 minutes to 8 hours.

As an act of gratitude and reciprocity, I will return the original Polaroid to you after the book has been published.

Funds raised through sale of the book will cover material costs of this and future relational projects.

I will not transcribe our conversation or share the details of our conversation with anyone.

I may include prose, poetry or theoretical essays in the final book based on my own experiences.

My goal is to engage in 50-75 conversations before the close of the project.

This project began in 2011.

The ArtWrite Collective

Alaura is the founding director of the ArtWrite Collective, an emerging community arts initiative in Dane County, WI.

Check out our website: theartwritecollective.org

Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theartwritecollective

Contact us at theartwritecollective@gmail.com


The ArtWrite Collective uses art as a tool for social justice through creative youth development, activist artist partnerships, and arts landscape diversification.


To be an affirming leader in arts-based changemaking whose collaboration with artists, youth, and peer organizations creates pathways for a more equitable, healthy, and just community.

Any educational, consultative, design, or public art project that we undertake fits within one or more of our three strategic areas:

Creative Youth Development

We are designing and facilitating creative youth programming alongside nonprofits and other organizations to promote the well being of LGBTQ youth, youth of color, and young women. Depending on the partnership, our workshops are held weekly, monthly, or sporadically throughout the community as requested.

Activist Artist Partnerships

Our team is passionate about fostering economically viable professional opportunities for artists engaged in anti-oppression work. We advocate for paid community-based creative gigs, host shows, design artist retreats, and connect artists doing the hard work in our community.

Arts Landscape Diversification

Collectively, we are shifting the local aesthetic and cultural landscape to better represent the creative processes and experiences of everyone growing up today. We do this through public art projects, publications, and by infiltrating public spaces with our creativity and our voice.

Contact lead artist Alaura Seidl at alauramegan [at] gmail.com for information about bringing ArtWrite programming to your agency’s portfolio, to apply to volunteer with ArtWrite, or to offer resources to this arts initiative.