Artists as Change Agents
Artists are the real architects of change,
not the political legislators who implement change after the fact.
William S. Burroughs
Seeking Creative Solutions
ArtCity is creating opportunities for artists who utilize their creative practice to address issues and improve conditions in their community and the world at large. These artists have agency and a sense of responsibility to affect change through art. This work often entails collaborating closely with community members.
As a partner in this process, ArtCity is scheduling dialogues with artists,
organization leaders, and community members
to develop creative solutions.
Socially Engaged Art
Socially Engaged Art
EugArt 404: a place-based collaborative
Socially Engaged Art is an umbrella term for many different forms of artistic practice. Some examples include artistic activism, community based art, creative placemaking, cultural organizing, participatory art, social practice, and social sculpture.
Socially engaged artists do not act alone. Period.
Even if a project is conceived and primarily executed by an artist, s/he is always working
in a larger context and environment. This brand of art making takes place
in a dynamic ecosystem of interrelated roles
It uses “forms” and “materials” beyond those used in studio art and often operates outside of conventional nonprofit or commercial presentation settings and formats. The socially engaged artists’ toolkit includes dialogue, community organizing, placemaking, facilitation, public awareness campaigns or policy development, as well as theater games, art installations, music, participatory media-making, spoken word and other media.
Methods & Strategies
Methods & Strategies
The creation process often involves artists working in collaboration with community members, other sectors, or other artists. The artwork, therefore, is usually not an expression of one person’s singular creative vision but the result of a relational, collaborative process. The process of creating the work is often a core part of the artistic “product.” For example, if an artist’s desired “product” is stronger social ties in a neighborhood or mobilizing a community to actively engage in a political process, the “artwork” may be the actions relating to fostering meaningful relationships or demystifying civic processes, made possible by unconventional thinking and new, creative approaches.
Activist methods are as salient as conventional aesthetics. The work may include
subject matter that addresses social, political or economic issues,
but it doesn’t have to.
Change-based, activist methods are as salient as conventional aesthetics. Projects seek tangible change in social, political, or economic conditions.
Possible examples include legislative art and cultural organizing.
Issue-based projects focus on raising awareness about an issue or changing the way it’s understood. Artists may use commercial or mass culture platforms.
Pop justice is one example.
Work is motivated by affecting the conditions of a particular geography. Civic goals like health, safety, or economic growth may be central, along with cross-sector partnerships.
Creative placemaking and civic practice could be described this way.
Who-based projects may pivot on broad participation from community members, and/or reflect the cultural expression and identities of people excluded from the mainstream.
Examples include community-based art, participatory art, and work generated in specific cultural traditions.
While socially engaged art can take a wide variety of shapes,
three essential elements are fundamental to all socially engaged work,
regardless of the variations in form.
The primary consideration for an artist or a funder with regard to socially engaged work is intention — what are you trying to do and who is it for? There may be multiple intentions for a single project, but it is critical that there is a match between project goals and design.
Effective socially engaged work must be iterative and evolve in response to the community’s input. The ‘studio artist’ has complete agency over the process and the outcome. An artist conducting ‘social practice’ may consult with the community along the way, but the artist retains ultimate control over the process and result.
Socially engaged or community based art requires artistic and “social” skills. Like artistic skills, many of the social skills are intuitive and not easily defined.
Social skills may include: Cultural competency • Listening with respect •
Power analysis • Policymaking • Knowing multiple languages • “Human” relation skills like empathy, reciprocity, humor • Ability to deal with delicate power dynamics • Meeting facilitation • Fundraising
Relationship / partnership building • Organizing / leadership
Socially engaged art involves working with human beings, often in communities that have been historically disadvantaged or discriminated against. Social and community-based art practice does not yet have formal code of conduct. Artists who have been working in communities for a long time observe these general principle codes of conduct in their work: Humility – Honoring the knowledge and traditions of the people and place, and being aware of your biases and what you might not know. Honest inquiry and deep listening – Asking people what they want and being aware
Socially engaged art can vary greatly, depending on what makes sense for each artist and context. There are nine attributes around which socially engaged art typically varies, and these can be used to identify and sort work. Each individual project or body of work can be placed somewhere along each of the following spectrums.