The Role Museums Play in Social Activism
The choice of museums to take a stand is unique to each institution, and it’s complicated, layered, and specific to the geographical location and political climate of the region. In the meantime, artists will continue to create works that question our existence and boundaries; be responsive to the emotional, social, political, and religious world around them; and ask the important questions that move us all forward as aware global citizens. Museums and cultural institutions that support contemporary artists will continue to support them, whether through curatorial or educational programming.
Expanding the Arts Ecosystem in Malawi
Malawi has no shortage of artists. What’s needed is a more robust arts ecosystem in which artists can grow and thrive. There is no question that the arts are critical to fostering human development, establishing identity through shared cultural heritage, bolstering democracy, and protecting human rights. It is high time that international donors and the Malawian government realized that one of the country’s greatest resources—arts and culture—remains largely untapped.
Loving the Question of Beauty
Why is beauty, a word often included in definitions of aesthetics, missing from the list of 11 attributes of excellence in the Aesthetic Perspectives framework? It is a question that prompted many conversations during the making of the framework as we wrestled with exclusive connotations of “taste” and what is “beautiful.” I posit that the sum total of the 11 aesthetic attributes complexifies beauty and provides a framework for reconsidering what is beauty in Arts for Change.
Social Transformation Under the Sheltering Sky of Aesthetics
The integrity and transparency with which we conduct ourselves at the National Public Housing Museum is extremely important to everyone involved. This is work where the process is as vital as the result itself. And we intend to evaluate the so-called “excellence” of our efforts in how much justice we help to create in the world. The Aesthetic Perspectives framework emerges at a key moment for our work, as both a blessing and offering. It opens up a utopian and expansive new terrain for how to reflect on work that is meant to be socially engaged and transformative.
The Case for Complexity
Change requires doing things differently, in new, creative, and risk-taking ways. Public Matters wants to see the arts recognized as a critical element of civic life and of a healthy community. Doing so requires pushing beyond standardized conceptions of who or what an artist is and does. The Aesthetic Framework can play a role in this conversation by expanding the appreciation of what this work entails and what it can achieve. Openly embracing risk-taking is essential, within the arts and in partnerships with historically risk-averse disciplines and agencies seeking better outcomes.
Complex Movements: Artists Put the Framework to Use
For the past seven years, we have been developing super-hybrid work that pushes us to seek new ways to define quality, integrity, and success. After many years of development and touring, we wanted to understand and be able to talk about this work among ourselves and with others who are working similarly. Throughout the project, we tried developing surveys ourselves and with support from other people in the field. We got some useful feedback but most of it didn’t get to the heart of both the social justice and artistic goals of the work. Aesthetic Perspectives helped us do that.
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.