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.
A beautiful & eclectic voice in a family of frameworks
Animating Democracy’s new beautiful Aesthetic Perspectives framework gives voice and importance to the myriad aspects that work together to create strong art for social change. With this lens, it adds important ways of seeing “quality” in general, offering an eclectic voice in the family of other frameworks that describe what quality and excellence is—in product, in process, and in programs. Able also to hold the paradoxes, it states, “Ambiguity, contradiction, and co-existence are essentials for a tolerant democratic society. Art can help us live with the ambiguities and contradictions of our world; it can show us how each thing contains its opposite.”
Seeking a Common Language for Community Development and the Arts
The worlds of community development and art for social change are intersecting frequently these days, and this leads, at least, to a need for simultaneous translation and patience if not treatment for outright culture shock. How do we talk about and track these new types of interactions? How are the respective practitioners getting along? And what happens when a planner, researcher, and evaluator steeped in 35 years of relatively conventional assessment of community development issues and organizations—that would be me—needs to understand, appreciate, and gain insights about the radically different styles, motivations, and ways of seeing and interacting that are employed by artists engaged in social change?
Of Distinction: Community-engaged notions of value
Animating Democracy’s new Aesthetic Perspectives framework spawned multiple parallel scenarios in my head. In one, I was continuing my conversation from a few weeks ago with a foundation grant officer, who told me that their organization was “not so interested in social justice”; you simply had to “have artistic excellence.” I had presented my most cogent argument that artistic excellence is often conceptualized in dangerously narrow ways, to the detriment of appreciating arts and social justice work—only to be brushed aside. What would have happened if the framework, offering many different ways of reading “excellence” in socially engaged art, had been at my fingertips then?
A Humane Framework for Creative Practice
Aesthetic Perspectives is described as “a guide for description rather than a scorecard.” This is an apt explanation; it provides a framework for use by an evaluator rather than a rubric for evaluation itself. As such, there are aspects of Aesthetic Perspectives that are particularly useful or important and a few elements that raise some questions for me.
Wake Up to a New Day
Notions of excellence and equity are linked and increasingly demand that we attend to both the positive and negative ways they intersect in policies, practices, and decisions. Which artists get opportunities, who gains resources, how are arts and cultural practices understood and valued by critics, audiences, and gatekeepers? Our Excellence and Equity Blog Salon explores these questions and provides guidance in the form of Animating Democracy's new framework Aesthetic Perspectives: Attributes of Excellence in Arts for Change.
When It’s the Right Time to Leave Your Job (for the Right Reason)
Sometimes, of course, you feel like walking away because of the old challenges: a change in the political tide, a recession, difficult people, the endless paperwork, scrambling to do more with less. But none of these are reasons to bail. When I know I haven’t shied away from an uncomfortable situation or unfamiliar territory, then I can choose something new with a clear conscience.
Passion Project, Public Resource
There is always a gap to fill. I took my frustration with the job hunt and turned my personal solution into a public resource for my sector.
Finding One’s Path Through Music
At Carnegie Hall, we see our Social Impact programming as an integral part of our mission, to celebrate the artistry in all of us and explore the most inventive ways that music can play a role in people’s lives. We believe that music is a human right and an innate capacity, and we know that it’s part of our responsibility as cultural citizens to do as much as we can to acknowledge, nurture, and encourage musical discovery and expression, so that we can hear and learn from people’s perspectives and voices.
At the nexus of artists, mission, context, place, and communities
Making the case for an expanded definition of public art depends on working closely to a nexus of mission, context, place, and the communities most impacted by the project and/or most in need of the services. We do not have to be constrained by preconceived or limited notions of what public art is or can do—or can fund. We can confront inequities in our world, imagine new possibilities, and we can support artists’ interventions and actions that will lead to profound changes.
Recentering the Artist
Even within our own sector, artists are expected to forgo compensation for the greater good—building a system of support for social service agencies and nonprofits that excludes the arts, and specifically individual artists. We all know that artists, not organizations, make art—yet why is it so often like pulling teeth to solidify artist fees? And why are there so few funding opportunities for individual artists?