Why art for social change?

“Art bridges the silos that separate us as we confront today’s pressing issues. Art creates new visions and engagement, connecting the head and the heart.”
Judith Marcuse

A growing number of artists, working with diverse communities around the world, are creating positive and profound social change through the process of art-making, helping to create insight, social cohesion, political engagement…and hope.

Employing a multitude of innovative strategies and methodologies, the field is growing rapidly as the members of local communities, non-governmental organizations, universities, governments and other institutions recognize its potential for deep and resonant effects. Whether the work explores issues of racism, facilitates conflict-resolution, educates about HIV/AIDS, supports human rights, builds resiliency in youth, empowers marginalized communities, celebrates local histories, addresses addiction or environmental issues, or simply provides new opportunities for expression and dialogue, art processes expand and deepen our capacity for change.

Art is central in helping people to find new ways to see the world and in developing models that integrate and celebrate imaginative thinking, leading to mobilization and effective action.

Art for Social Change

The role of ICASC

ICASC was conceived by Judith Marcuse Projects to support art for social change communities around the world. Practitioners and scholars, both in Canada and beyond, express a strongly-felt need for focused training, national and international networking, professional development and for research and archival work.

Emerging and experienced artists/practitioners have few opportunities to access concentrated, integrated learning and capacity-building in the field. Scholars speak of the need to ground their work in practice and community. There are innovative and transformative art and social change initiatives around the globe, but little infrastructure to support discipline-wide collaboration and knowledge-building.

ICASC is the first centre in North America that integrates community engagement in art and social change, academic research and training, as well as professional development and global networking.

ICASC has three main areas of operation:

1. Professional development and public outreach: workshops, networking sessions, conferences, lectures and dialogues, including knowledge-exchange for people already working in the field and those interested in it.

2. Diploma program (in development phase): A three-semester program, with a core curriculum that includes dialogue and facilitation techniques, community outreach practices, project management and interning with arts for social change organizations in Canada and abroad, as well as discipline-specific training (theatre, dance, music, writing, visual, digital and media arts).

3. Research and resources: ICASC develops and maintains a library and database of resources including short descriptions of international art for social change organizations, listings of funding sources, analyses of specific projects and calendars of international meetings and symposia. The Centre will facilitate a wide range of research projects.

The partners

Judith Marcuse Projects has more than 30 years of Canadian and international experience in arts for social change. In the last several years, through a concentrated process of research and dialogue, JMP organized an international symposium in 2004; an international activist arts festival (attended by 20,000 people) under the auspices of UNESCO during the Vancouver World Urban Forum in 2006; and the completion of a rigorous in-depth survey of 46 art-in-community organizations around the world (see the Resources section for details). JMP toured its live theatre multi-media production, EARTH=home, to theatres across Canada in the Spring of 2009.
Simon Fraser University (SFU) is ideally placed to house the International Centre of Art for Social Change. Since its founding, SFU has been committed to research and education relevant to practical ways to promote social justice in Canada and around the world. For more information about SFU, please visit www.sfu.ca.

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