The more I do guest lectures for colleges and universities, the more inspired I become by the next generation of artists. Many young artists aspire to do good and are already active in the world in those pursuits. Increasingly so. Lacking, though, is an awareness of what’s already at play. What options currently exist and how are different arenas of this work differentiated?
What would seem most beneficial would be an overview of the field. So here is my interpretation, integrating elements of AFTA’s Arts + Social Impact Explorer tool. Hope it’s helpful.
Commitment: Institutional mission, giving back, often focused on one group or geography
Common issues: Economic, workforce and community development; affordable housing, food equity, transportation, community safety, city planning; passed-down history, tradition and culture; shared identity; health and wellness; aging; public welfare; prisons and rehabilitation
Duration: Years and years, Decades and decades, One generation to another
Success: Sustainability and Leadership Succession
A gardener is experienced in keeping a garden healthy and productive. They are often planting and maintaining a good environment by watering, fertilizing, and even weeding the area.
Social Practice Artists
Commitment: Intervention, project-based, often intergroup or crossing borders
Common issues: Peace building, community cohesion, political activation, immigration, diplomacy, military; diversity, access, and inclusion
A chemist is a scientist who researches and experiments with the properties of chemical substances. A chemist will usually work as part of a larger research team, and create useful compounds for use in a wide variety of practical applications..
Duration: As long as it takes, as short as it takes
Success: Project is no longer needed, participants and collaborators are running their own programs, environment of entrepreneurialism and trust, relationships are strengthened between other parties, healthier ecosystem, priorities shifting, spurring enough social change for other things to happen
My 2018 List of Resources for Social Practice Artists
Currency: Student Learning
Commitment: Arts Integration/Academic standards with art-making and social emotional growth
A beekeeper is, in essence, a manager of bees. He or she maintains and monitors the hives. A beekeeper needs to maintain healthy bees and prepare colonies for production. Beekeepers also need to follow food safety guidelines when harvesting and processing the honey.
Currency: Student Learning
Commitment: Discipline-specific arts standards, training
Success: Employability, Students’ post-program achievements, where they go with it
The most well-known pilots are those who work for an airline company, flying passengers who are commuting or vacationing. Their primary responsibility is to operate the aircraft, but their day consists of many hours performing other tasks. Pilots check the weather and confirm flight plans before departing.
Other arenas are led by phenomenal Arts Therapists and Movement Analysts who round out this field. What’s most beautiful is when there is a referral process between these actors, or when there’s collaboration.
I’m excited to see how the next generation of socially engaged artists rework these distinctions and move this world. Thoughts?