Blog Posts for Social Change

Is Photography Dead?

Posted by Joanna Chin, Nov 11, 2011 0 comments

Joanna Chin

I just returned from a FotoWeekDC lecture at the Corcoran Museum by photographer, Trevor Paglen where he began his talk with this question. The answer is no; however, the crucial point of his talk was about the necessity of broadening our definition of what photography is at this particular point in time.

So, is art dead?

In my opening post for the salon, I said that the arts and culture have always had a place in this work of creating a sense of place, strengthening civic participation, and bolstering positive social change. I refrained from suggesting exactly what arts and culture looks, sounds, and feels like; yet, the overarching thread of blogs throughout this salon have alluded to a broadened definition of the arts as something beyond just a physical object constrained to a physical space.

Our bloggers shared a diversity of opinions and perspective, but two of my big take-aways from the salon overall were:

1.    It’s all about time (not just place): The making of a place isn’t just about the physical space, but also the cultural and social space that continues to develop and change over time. The most vibrant places are those where the process of creation, storytelling, activation, and use becomes woven into the changing fabric of the place.  Part of the key to the future is bridging the past/existing conditions with the present, which is typified by inter-generational work.

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Community Engagement & College Degrees: Building the Next Generation of Arts Leaders

Posted by Sara Bateman, Sep 23, 2011 2 comments

Sara Bateman

Lately, it seems that every conference I attend, classroom I enter, or art forum I participate in is fixated on the notion of transforming those in the arts field from just merely that of an artist or an administrator to that of a community leader.

While the arts have been recognized for over two decades as a way to revitalize our neighborhoods, it seems like now more than ever before people are reaching out as a way to ignite community engagement and inspire change. But if we are to depend more and more on the arts as a way to transform not only the structural but the psyche of our communities, if we are to elevate from simply artist to organizer, how do we train the next generation who will be stepping into these roles?

Colleges worldwide have the answer through a new breed of degree being offered behind the walls of academia. Or I should say, outside. Breaking artists out of the solo studio experience, placing administrators in the community, and creating programming that reaches beyond the college boundary, colleges are offering an educational experience that focuses on engagement and activism through the arts.

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Civic Engagement in the Arts…In Action (Part 2)

Posted by Maya Kumazawa, Sep 23, 2011 0 comments

Maya Kumazawa

For the last two posts in a series on how the arts can foster community engagement, I interviewed Sara Potler, founder and CEO of Dance 4 Peace (D4P), a global peace education and civic engagement nonprofit that engages young people through dance and creative movement. Sara shared with me her perspectives on the arts, civic dialogue, and sparking social change through dance. You can read the first half of our interview on yesterday's post. Her are my final questions for her:

Q (Maya): How do you measure impact / what has been the impact so far?

A (Sara): At Dance 4 Peace, it has certainly been a fun challenge to measure how our program is creating peace in classrooms and communities. To measure our impact, we have thought long and hard about our vision of peace and broken this down into specific areas, such as anger management, physical violence, and appreciation of diversity. Using surveys and coded observations, we have been able to demonstrate real change as a result of our programming.

To date, our evaluations have shown that students who participate in Dance 4 Peace are less likely to choose physical or verbal violence when angry. On the flip side, they are 15% more likely to listen to others, 30% more likely to enjoy working in groups, and 25% more willing to try new things. In several schools, pre- and post- evaluations showed a dramatic decrease in tendencies toward physical and verbal violence. One school in DC, for instance, when given a case study of an NBA player punching a fan, 32% more students said this was not okay in the post-test than the pre-test.

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Civic Engagement in the Arts...In Action (Part 1)

Posted by Maya Kumazawa, Sep 22, 2011 1 comment

For the last two posts in a series on how the arts can foster community engagement, I interviewed Sara Potler, founder and CEO of Dance 4 Peace (D4P), a global peace education and civic engagement nonprofit that engages young people through dance and creative movement.

D4P inspires a generation of leaders and peacemakers through an innovative curriculum that promotes empathy, mediation skills, anger management, and conflict resolution to instill social and emotional competencies for peace.

Sara shared with me her perspectives on the arts, civic dialogue, and sparking social change through dance.

Q (Maya): How can the arts create civic dialogue? And how does Dance 4 Peace serve as a leader for community engagement?

A: (Sara): The role of the arts in society has long been to start difficult, even disruptive conversations. Whether dance, or fine arts, or spoken word, these tools have been extremely valuable in bringing together communities around a single thought or idea and then inspiring them to take action.

Dance 4 Peace builds on this legacy of using the arts to spark social change. Our classroom activities involve students in civic dialogue, although we aim to use our bodies more than our words to express ourselves. As a leader in community engagement, we view our students and schools as active participants in shaping the curriculum and driving the choreography and creative movement in the classroom.

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