Beauty and the "We"

Posted by Mr. Roberto Bedoya, Nov 21, 2014 0 comments

Roberto Bedoya Roberto Bedoya

“Our experience of the beautiful in the recognition of models that make world and community is restricted to the moment when these worlds and communities present themselves explicitly as the plural” - Gianni Vattimo

“We is not the plural of I” - Emmanuel Levinas

Beauty and the We. Beauty as an articulation of the plural, announced in engagement practices, is the experience I know and have been lucky to support in my career. Most recently, as the Director of the Tucson Pima Arts Council. Our team has supported 66 projects since 2010 that advance civic well-being, civic engagement, and community building of the We through the arts. Most prominently, this happens through the PLACE (People, Land, Arts, Culture and Engagement) Initiative, our placemaking/civic engagement platform. These projects create art experiences that shape the identity of place, present visions and manifestations of social cohesion, and activate democracy so as to build and animate the commons. And where is Beauty in PLACE?

When I ask this question to our PLACE artists there is wonderful and lively conversation about craft—the practice of painting; gesture and movement; narrative on stage or on the page; the handy trouble of fragments and the mix; lyricism, dramaturgy; the sublime. How these vocabularies in the artists’ tool-box intersect with the We prompted another set of questions. Questions about political and social agency: Who has it? Who doesn’t? How to assert it? How to confront it? These insightful conversations are rich and complex and are about the weave of ethics and aesthetics in the articulations of the We, made real in the art produced.

The push back on engagement art practices for some happens because of the link to the disciplining behavior of the academy, art critics, and the markets desire for objects that are easy to buy, sell, and categorize.

I’ve witnessed how the engagement projects we have supported are linked to a sense of belonging by developing and implementing arts experiences that form the identity of a place, operate in the social spaces of dialogue and deliberation, present visions and manifestations of social cohesion, and activate democracy so as to build the commons.

The aesthetics of belonging happens in a variety of spaces—parks, schools, church, cultural venues, the city block—that animate the We. A pluralistic We, not the privatized we of me and my friends, but a We that includes people you don’t know.

I’ve written previously that “the expressive life of Southern Arizona is woven together through interplay of people, land, arts, culture, and engagement,” and how PLACE projects “illuminate a social movement of belonging that is alive and active. It is a movement that shapes the ethical and aesthetic experiences of belonging to a community where concern, care, and imagination animate and make more meaningful our lives together.”

Concern, care, and imagination make up the foundation of aesthetics of belonging, that which I feel is necessary in supporting Beauty and the We.


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