Judith Marcuse's Creative Catalyst Keynote

Judith Marcuse, ASC! Project Director, gave a keynote titled "Art for Social Change: A Call for Candour and Connection"  at this year's Creative Catalyst symposium. The event brings together Canadian artists, designers, researchers, industry, and community members in discussion on how arts and culture catalyzes social innovation. Read an excerpt below that shares Judith's thoughts on the intersections between art for social change and social enterprise.

“Creative innovation” has become a catchphrase, a trope used in many settings. But fresh, alternative, ways to do business – think of share economies, B corporations, community-driven economic development and the revival of the Commons – have all developed because of outside-the-box thinking. These approaches often include an acceptance of experiment and exploration. As with Art for Social Change, much work in the alternative business sector is grounded in a commitment to social and environmental concerns and involves new patterns of collaboration across professional silos.

Last year, I attended a high-end, large international social enterprise conference. Among hundreds of scheduled events, not one focused on arts and culture. When I started asking delegates if they were involved with arts and culture, I discovered that quite a few were…and many expressed a strong desire to connect more deeply with artists and their organizations. And this is not an isolated situation.

This takes me closer to my argument: That a panoply of opportunities for knowledge-exchange and collaboration between our two sectors are available to us, but, at present, are largely unrealized.

Indeed, uncomplimentary labelling still occurs: “selling your soul to the devil” if artists get involved with business and categorizing artists as difficult, impractical and frivolous. Of course, for people outside of the world of business, some terms and concepts can seem impermeable: hybrid structures and value chains, cost benefit analysis and ROI, shared value concepts, triple bottom line, social profit... But very often the underlying principles of our work are the same.

In addition to a high tolerance for risk and the use of collective processes to nurture creative ideas in the two fields, what are some other parallels?

Both sectors create new forums for expression, discussion and collaborative inquiry, as well as space for alternative visions. We provide tools and settings for both personal and public expression, and for participation. We create networks and enable cross-sector knowledge-exchange and collaboration. We build social capital and encourage enlightened public policy. Innovators in both sectors build community capacity and suggest new visions of what the world might be. "

Read the full keynote here.