Defining the Practice

The set of artistic practices that form the basis of inquiry within The Art for Social Change Research Project has been described as a spectrum of work. This spectrum contains arts practices that have been defined as participatory, socially engaged, community-engaged, collaborative, and relational (Finkelpearle, 2013). This spectrum includes interventions by the artists who frame their work as a critical inquiry fuelled by notions of social change to those who claim their practice is expressed dialogically and its value is relational. Other artists maintain their work is primarily an aesthetic engagement with people with no predetermined frame of inquiry of social justice or social change, and its value resides in its aesthetic outcomes or in the re-invigoration of continuity of tradition, or ritual. Others see their art practice as creating avenues for provoking engaged witnessing, others for creating collective expressions of beauty and fostering sustainability. Some regard the work of making in place of consuming as critical, some talk about ‘giving’ voice, and emphasizing the critical and skilful development of story.  This work has also been described as instrumentalist and its primary import as a useful tool for the development of social relations or education.

In this series of conversations it may be the artists’ love their work and within it a unique commitment to the renewal of the commons or the community through the ‘newness’ of creative practice that could most aptly characterize the work of these individuals.

Whether it is through what choir master Vanessa Richards describes as ‘sonic gifting’ of the voices in her Vancouver Downtown Eastside choir or Paula Jardine’s respect for grief and those made most vulnerable by it, in her work in the creation of the Mountain View Cemetery’s Night for All Souls; it is a love of the world and the promise of creative renewal with and for other people that makes these conversations, in my opinion, worthy of careful listening.


Finklepearle, T. (2013). What we made: Conversations on Art and Social Cooperation. London, England. Duke University Press.