Blog Posts for November 2014 Blog Salon

Seeing Power and Possibility in Socially Engaged Art

Posted by Deborah Fisher, Nov 19, 2014 1 comment

Deborah Fisher Deborah Fisher

There is a productive conflict at the root of any discussion about aesthetics and social practice that I would like to focus on.

On one hand, attempting to articulate anything about the aesthetics of socially engaged art entails confronting a frustrating lack of structure. Anything can be art, and aesthetics can be so broadly defined as judgments of sentiment and taste. Who doesn’t have those, about anything and everything? We don’t quite have a formal analysis of social practice that we all agree upon—no singular framework for seeing and locating the aesthetics in a socially engaged art project.

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Re-Imagining Beauty, Embracing Complexity

Posted by Andrew Horwitz, Nov 20, 2014 0 comments

Andy Horwitz Andy Horwitz

The question of aesthetics in socially engaged art is as fraught and enduring as our varied understandings of what constitutes critical discourse.

In a society so fully enveloped by the market-driven logic of Late Capitalism it is nearly impossible to relate to any work of art in a non-transactional context. We are told we are consumers purchasing experiences at a premium. “Cultural Authorities” tell us we are incapable of assessing the value of “art product” ourselves and so are provided with “reviews” that are little more than consumer advocacy, in newspapers such as the New York Times that are little more than lifestyle guides for the privileged.

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Ae$thetics and Social ¢hange

Posted by Anitra Budd, Nov 20, 2014 0 comments

Anitra Budd Anitra Budd

When I was asked to write an entry for this blog salon, I was excited. When I noted the topic, aesthetics and social change, I was alarmed. In trying to analyze this instinctual sense of danger, I realized that the root of my feeling was my conflation of aesthetics with judgment.

The term aesthetics, like Walt Whitman, contains multitudes (take a look at this chapter by art history and education scholar Terry Barrett for a great discussion of the concept’s many dimensions). To consider aesthetics largely in terms of assessment and discernment is limiting, but not unusual.

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But What About Quality?

Posted by Nina Simon, Nov 20, 2014 0 comments

Nina Simon Nina Simon

Scene: a regional workshop on arts engagement. A funder is speaking with conviction about the fact that her foundation is focusing their arts grantmaking strategy on engagement. Engaging new people. Engaging more diverse people. Engaging people actively in the arts. Any questions?

One, from a museum director. The question that comes up every time, the question so big it deserves the impropriety of all caps: BUT WHAT ABOUT QUALITY?

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The Beauty of Change: Re-imagining Small Town America

Posted by John Davis, Nov 20, 2014 6 comments

John Davis John Davis

I am the Executive Director of Lanesboro Arts, a multidisciplinary arts organization founded in 1980. Lanesboro Arts fulfills its mission to serve as a regional catalyst for artistic excellence and educational development in providing diverse art experiences for people of all ages through visual art galleries, the performing arts, an artist residency program, public art, and educational outreach. Last year, Lanesboro Arts programming involved more than 180 volunteers, 300 artists, and 30,000 audience members. In 2013, Lanesboro (pop 754) was named one of the Top 12 Small Town ArtPlaces in America, a recognition determined by the number of arts opportunities per capita.

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It’s time to Replace the “Broken Window” with a “Scaffold Up.”

Posted by Amy Sananman, Nov 21, 2014 0 comments

Amy Sanamman Amy Sanamman

A year ago, New York City voted in its first new mayor in 12 years. The city council election resulted in new members in almost half of the 51 seat council. It was an exciting time for the progressive communities—for all those that have fought for social change through the fields of education, immigration reform, fair wages, affordable housing or, of course, the arts. While the Mayor’s new platform addressed many of these items, it did not include an arts agenda or integrate a strategy to use arts and culture to support a more just and equitable city for all. Over the past few months, I have seen NYC—its new administration and city council—struggle with finding new frameworks. I have been thinking about how the aesthetics of language and framing influence how we understand our communities, their challenges, opportunities, the role of arts, and how policies may be considered. One example of this is how NYC is grappling with the broken windows theory and its legacy.

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