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

GET INVOLVED

Email

artcityeugene@gmail.com

to make your interest known

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

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

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.

Place

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

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.

Essential Elements

Intentions

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.
 

Skills

 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
 

Ethics

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.

Nine Attributes

Aesthetics

 from

    

SOCIAL AESTHETICS

(Laurie Jo Reynold)

    

to

    

FINE ART AESTHETICS

(Kara Walker)
 

Artist Role

from

    

FACILITATOR

(Pedro Reyes)  

    

to

    

PRIMARY CREATIVE

(Eve Mosher)

 

Artist Origin

from

    

BEING FROM THE COMMUNITY

(Complex Movements

Detroit 

    

to

    

NEVER HAVING BEEN THERE BEFORE

(Complex Movements)

Seattle

Work

Definition

 from

    

PROCESS AS 

“THE WORK”

(Marty Pottenger)

   

to

   

FINAL PRODUCT AS

 “THE WORK”

(Alex Rivera & Aloe Blacc)
 

Influence

Direction

 from

    

INWARD TO SERVE COMMUNITY

(Alaskan Native Heritage Center)

   

to

   

OUTWARD TO SERVE OTHERS

(Tibetan Freedom Concert)


 

Work

Origination

 from

    

 COMMUNITY

GENERATED

(Alicia Grullón)

   

to

   

OUTSIDE GENERATED

(Cornerstone Theater)
 

Place

 from

    

 INSEPARABLE FROM PLACE

(Rick Lowe)

   

to

   

NOT PLACE SPECIFIC
 

(Hank Willis Thomas)

Issue

 from

    

 SINGLE ISSUE FOCUS

(Thenmozhi Soundararajan)

(Rito

   

ADDRESSING MULTIPLE ISSUES
 

(Queens Museum​)
 

Duration

 from

    

A ONE TIME PROJECT

(Suzanne Lacy)

     

to

    

A COMMITMENT OVER MAANY YEARS

(Thenmozhi Soundararajan)
 

The above content was resourced from Art Making Change.

    

More Resources:

Helicon Collaborative 

Resources

GET INVOLVED

Email

artcityeugene@gmail.com

to make your interest known

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160 E Broadway, Eugene, OR 97401

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