“Mapping the Landscape of Socially Engaged Artistic Practice” by Alexis Frasz & Holly Sidford could be accurately described as the necessary how-to guide for creating ethical, purposeful, socially engaged art (SEA). This report and its accompanying website are based on a comprehensive defintion of socially engaged art that describes its characteristics and how it differs from traditional studio art in intentions and aesthetics. This definition is followed by insight about the artworld structures that make the pursuit of socially engaged art challenging. The authors do not shy away from addressing how traditional grants, residencies, and arts education programs fail to foster constructive and ethical social engagement, and fail to financially support social practice artists.
Beyond offering an analysis of social engagement place in the art world, this document provides perhaps the most comprehensive guide yet to positioning one’s art in terms of social engagement, as well as guiding its readers through the ethical challenges of such work. In order to situate an artist’s practice or an individual piece within the scope of socially engaged and studio art, Frasz and Sidford provide 9 variations/scales upon which each piece of SEA can be placed. The variations are as follows:
Aesthetics: Social → Fine
Role / function of the artist: Facilitator → Creative agent
Origin of the artist: Rooted in → From outside
Definition of the “work”: Process → Product
Direction of influence: Inward → Outward
Origination of the work: Community generated → Outside generated
Place: Place specific → Non-place specific
Issue: Single issue → Multi-issue
Duration: Short term → Long term
These variations and their descriptions have the potential to assist those interested in craft for social justice to consider the intentions of their work, and whether or not those intentions are being portrayed. Importantly, the authors stress that no one position on each scale is necessarily the “better” one, but that each project will require different positioning in order to be effective and ethical. The ethics of creating responsible socially engaged work are explored in the latter half of the document, and should be required reading for anyone wishing to insert their work into the social landscape beyond themselves and artistic institutions.
For anyone wishing to start creating craft for social justice, or for experienced social practice artists looking for more clarity in their work, this document provides vital information and experiences from artists throughout the field, all working to create progressive, ethical work.
This resource can be found in our "Writings/Documents" database or #artmakingchange.org
The free pdf can be viewed and downloaded here.