Aesthetics of Process in a City Master Plan in Western Sydney, Australia
The Future of Penrith/Penrith of the Future came out of the C3West initiative (community, commerce, contemporary art), and demonstrates how partnerships between artists, city councils, urban planners, architects, and businesses have resulted in positive social outcomes where communities reimagine urban life, establish relationships to place, and experience what art can be and do outside the museum. The C3West model challenges the orthodoxies of community art by bringing in civic and business partners, tapping into sources of money that would not normally be available to artists.
Enough with the Tea Already
At the MAP fund, we want panelists to be passionate advocates for artists and share their unique perspectives; the problem is that those preferences can block their ability to support artistic work that is not reflective of their tastes, expertise, and cultural biases. The Aesthetic Perspectives framework offers a bold new lexicon that greatly improves upon what is often dismissive language used by gatekeepers to assert one dominant aesthetic approach above others.
Changing a Dominant Evaluation Paradigm
Aesthetics and their interpretation are defined by institutionalized notions of excellence, and when artistic work speaks to social justice or traditional practices, its creative aspects are often considered lacking the value assigned by entrenched evaluation standards and practices. The Aesthetic Perspectives framework takes the conversation of evaluation to the next phase as it broadens the frame and brings forth a holistic approach to include and honor alternative attributes to define excellence in arts for change.
Postcards from the Field!
This summer, 12 Diversity in Arts Leadership interns from all over the country have descended upon arts nonprofits in New York City for ten weeks to explore and build skills in arts administration and leadership. This week, six interns are profiled and next week, six more! For 25 years, the Arts & Business Council of New York has been hosting the DIAL internship program as an investment in a more equitable arts management field. Let’s check in on the intern experience so far …
Evaluating the Social Impact of Indigenous Art Projects by Way of Aesthetic Impact
Aesthetic Perspectives firmly positioned our inquiry as “How do we know that this is going well?” as opposed to “How well is this going?” This step was pivotal. As evaluators, we understood our work to be asking the former question. Yet the word “evaluation” often shifted our conversations uncomfortably toward the latter. By returning again and again to the questions in the framework, we were better able to draw out stories and to identify the projects’ specific impacts. As a result, the final impact evaluation report presents a textured set of findings that allows artists, funders, and communities to see the difference these projects have made.
Validating the Democracy of the Arts
For a very long time, the criteria for excellence in the arts have been owned by a particular body of experts who generally have a condescending view of the quality of art developed in community-based and social change programs and projects. These credentialed “experts” hold to a definition of quality largely based in an “art for art’s sake” paradigm. However, this definition loses the connection with the vast majority of people who live in the country, as well as the vast range of arts that is produced here and the range of reasons for which people make art. Art is for many sakes, including but not limited to art’s sake (whatever that restriction means in practice).
The Spirits Sitting on My Shoulder
Maybe these are familiar to you: you have a great idea but you cannot get it off the ground because funders cannot see its worth; or, worse yet, you cannot get the community you want to come see it to actually come. Those are real problems. So, that’s when the Aesthetic Perspectives: Attributes of Excellence in Arts for Change could beautifully help guide our creations, and to truly engage community.
A Slap Upside the Head: Attending to power, privilege, and cultural context in panel process
As grantmakers, we distribute scarce resources, so I worry when panels cannot have an open, honest discussion about important issues like cultural appropriation and how that might result in how we mete out funds. If tokenism limits the ability of people of color to impact grant decisions, or panel dynamics shut down discussions about uncomfortable issues, we are not doing our jobs. The 11 attributes offered in Aesthetic Perspectives provide a new framework for evaluating applications that could facilitate productive and meaningful panel meetings.
Get Sticky with Me
One of the issues arts presenters face when programming for social change is that of follow-up. Often, we bring in an impactful work that delivers a clear and concise message to our audience. But once the performers leave our city, there is no follow-up. The topic of the work is forgotten and we move on to our next presentation. Given this, I was fascinated to read the 11 qualities in the recently published Aesthetic Perspectives: Attributes of Excellence in Arts for Change. Right there … attribute number 11. Something called stickiness.
Rural America’s Art of Connection: Building Community through Exchange
As a field focused on demographic similarity across great cultural and physiographic difference, rural artists explore their commonalities by exchanging projects, strategies, and challenges. Relationship to place is our tie that binds, so the field is increasingly prioritizing projects that connect people and organizations across distance and divide. These relational projects, conferences, and digital resources use cultural exchange as a vehicle for social transformation by expanding connections between people and places.
How Art is Creating a Youth-led Vision of Justice
When artist-activists Mark Strandquist and Trey Hartt contacted me about partnering on a project to make people see, through art, that youth are more than their crimes and more than statistics, I felt both completely out of my depth and finally understood. This was something I wanted to do for years, but I didn’t have the partners, the talent, the language, or the framework to make it happen. I knew instinctively that if decision-makers could see, feel, and hear the experiences of youth, they would empathize with them, and that could open up new possibilities.