This week’s highlighted resource is Pablo Helguera’s “Education for Socially Engaged Art: A Materials and Techniques Handbook”, a comprehensive guide to building a strong socially engaged art practice. Going far beyond platitudes about community building or art as a political statement, Helguera discerns between purely symbolic social/political work and what he defines as “socially engaged art” (SEA). Unlike symbolic work that seeks merely to represent social issues and serve as a stand in for social action, Helguera defines SEA as work that engages with a particular community in a concrete, non-hypothetical, non-imagined way.
Building upon this differentiation, Helguera provides guidelines for how SEA projects can be achieved through community involvement, navigating difficult social situations, effective communication, conversational skills, the use of pedagogical structures, and differentiating the goals of social work and SEA. While Helguera focuses primarily on methods of socially engaged art outside of craft disciplines and questions craft’s place within SEA, this is a must read book for any artist, educator, or student who is interested in achieving concrete social engagement through artistic means. If you find yourself frustrated by symbolic political statements in “activist art”, or have found yourself questioning whether a career in social work would be more effective at achieving social change, this is the handbook for you.
This resource can be found in our "Writings/Documents" database
A free pdf of the book is available here
A hardcopy of the book can be purchased here