Blog Posts for November 2014 Blog Salon

The Beauty in Change: Considering Aesthetics in Creative Social Change Work

Posted by Alicia Gregory, Nov 17, 2014 3 comments

Alicia Gregory Alicia Gregory

“This feels a bit like falling down Alice’s rabbit hole,” said one contributor to this week’s blog salon on the role of aesthetics in arts for social change work. Indeed, it is no light matter. Despite this, we are pleased bring you 17 thought pieces from a diverse lineup of artists, cultural leaders, funders, and activists who have weighed in on why and how aesthetics are important in understanding, valuing, and advancing arts and social change work.

The questions we posed catalyzed some interesting critique and debate. In the weeks since we set them down on the page and said “Go!” to our generous bloggers, I’ve been thinking about these questions. I’ve thought about the time, in my days as an editor in graduate school, I went to bat for a piece on the 2011 Egyptian Revolution because it was urgent and moved me, despite falling short technically and in clarity.

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Pop Quiz: Socially Engaged Art and Aesthetics

Posted by Jen Delos Reyes, Nov 21, 2014 0 comments

Jen Delos Reyes Jen Delos Reyes

I received an invitation to participate in this blog salon on the relationship between aesthetics and arts in community development and social change work by way of my work as an artist and organizer around socially engaged art, however my response is most informed by my work as an educator.

From 2007-2014 I served as the co-director of an MFA program focused on art and social practice. The mantra of the program could have easily been that art and social practice starts and ends not in rarefied spaces, but out in the world. The students did not receive studio spaces and instead created their work out in the world through collaborations and partnerships, embedded in communities. The program sought to educate and activate students to develop and utilize their artistic skills to engage in society. It is the kind of education that created engaged citizens. But perhaps the most important aspect of the curriculum was that it asked artists to consider their relationship to and placement in society. So the core questions of this invitation, “But what happens when we assess art not just for art’s sake, but also for its civic purpose?” was a familiar one.

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Living Into The Questions

Posted by Arlene Goldbard, Nov 17, 2014 1 comment

Arlene Goldbard Arlene Goldbard

The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions which have been hidden by the answers. - James Baldwin

Baldwin’s epigram reminds us that to thrive, we must be able to see through imposed realities and prefab solutions. We may be tempted to seek definitive answers, but what we really need now is to live into the questions.

To inhabit questions means to first unpack their assumptions and implications.

What’s the context for an inquiry into aesthetics and social justice? When I speak on this topic, someone from the “establishment” arts world always asks me this: “What about standards? What about excellence? A lot of this work isn’t very good.”

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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?

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A Tending

Posted by Aracelis Girmay, Nov 18, 2014 0 comments

Aracelis Girmay Aracelis Girmay

I begin with that which is languageless. Gesture, wordless calls of grief or joy, exclamation, a dancer’s body moving in time. What John Edgar Wideman calls, in his essay “In Praise of Silence,” “the entire body’s expressive repertoire, subversive, liberating, freighted with laughter, song and sigh, burdened and energized by opposition.” Which means: not words alone, but every mark we make in the landscape, in the air. I begin here because when I think about the art and resistance work I am most enlivened and taught by this moment, I think about the Turf Feinz and Yak Films.

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