Walking has increasingly been adopted by artists, arts organizations, and social scientists as a means to develop socially engaged, community-based research. As part of a larger partnership grant funded through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Kimberly Powell is working with colleagues at the University of Toronto (Canada), University of Queensland and University of South Queensland (Australia), to explore the the ways in which walking as a sensory experience facilitates place-making, public pedagogy, and civic engagement.

Her research focuses on San Jose Japantown in California, one of three remaining Japantowns in the United States, a town affected by the Japanese American internment of World War II (as per Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, 1942). Powell is collaborating with taiko drumming artist PJ Hirabayashi, the San Jose Taiko performance group and arts organization, the Japanese American Museum of San Jose, local artists, and community members. She is documenting five threads: 1). walking tours of the museum docents, many of whom were evacuated and interned during the War; 2). video walks with multi-generational community residents; 3). ritualized and ceremonial walking (e.g., Obon festival and Day of Remembrance); 3). the relationship between walking, choreography and metaphors of migration in taiko drumming performance; 4) and the creation of sensory walks that (re)sensitize people to experience place and walking. Powell and Hirabayashi will be working with videotape, cartographic methods, and audio recording in order to record these different movement narratives. An interactive installation is being planned for the Japanese American Museum in San Jose that will highlight walking as place-making.

Penn State collaboration examines communities through walking