Author(s): Bebelle, Carol
Date of Publication: May 2013

In the context of chronic issues such as poverty and prisons and in the aftermath of the “Katrina-related federal flood,” Carol Bebelle attributes New Orleans’ distinctive creative impulse as essential to the city’s recovery and resurrection. Bebelle traces a continuity of theater practice in New Orleans that is conscious and intentional in its storytelling and gives agency to promote personal redemption and social justice—from Junebug Productions’ work on issues of race and class, to the work of ArtSpot Productions in Louisiana prisons. She also notes a

Author(s): Peterson, Betsy
Date of Publication: December 2010

Folk arts include a constellation of artistic activities and cultural expressions in community life that are informal, often popular in orientation, amateur, voluntary, and occurring in myriad social contexts. As expressions of deep cultural knowledge, creative expression, activism, cultural durability, and community values, folk and traditional arts can be tools for community empowerment and social change. In this paper, author Betsy Peterson captures a range of cultural activity beyond familiar forms such as protest songs that use cultural tradition to explicitly address or mobilize

Author(s): McGregor, Paloma
Date of Publication: April 2013

Dance practitioners across the country are creating innovative opportunities for community, civic, and social engagement. Choreographer, organizer, and former Urban Bush Women company member Paloma McGregor highlights contemporary community-based dance practice; concert dance that is intentional in connecting to community members and issues; and programs where the next generation of socially engaged dance artists are incubated. Through a wealth of stories and examples of dance artists all across the country, McGregor describes how community-based dance—the work of both pioneering

Author(s): Benavente, Javiera and Richardson, Rebecca Lena
Date of Publication: July 2012

Cultural organizing exists at the intersection of art and activism This paper explores the power of cultural organizing with examples of groups and individuals placing art and culture at the center of organizing strategies: organizing from a particular cultural identity, community of place, or worldview. Third World Majority collaborates with grassroots organizations in communities of color and indigenous communities to provide new media training that enables people to create media that speaks to their lived experiences and reflects their visions for their world. Raices activates the power

Author(s): Goldman, Nancy
Date of Publication: November 2013

In this paper, Nancy Goldman explores what is humor, what is funny, and the power of using humor in areas of social justice. America’s most popular humorists, including Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain, have a long tradition of critiquing the dominant forces in society and ridiculing those in power. Since American society was built on the ideals of democracy but is awash in the realities of social and political imperfections, comedy can bring awareness to these discrepancies in a way that we can hear.

Author(s): Stropnicky, Gerard
Date of Publication: January 2013

This is the first of two essays by Gerard Stropnicky, director, writer, actor, and co-founder of the Network of Ensemble Theaters (NET). Stropnicky provides a through-line across all three MicroFests, taking a focused look at the role of theater and “ensemble” practice in creative placemaking. In this first essay, he reflects on MicroFest experiences in Detroit and Appalachia. He addresses the question: Why NET and social change? He underscores the growing number of ensembles, many part of the Network of Ensemble Theaters, that include social engagement as part of their practice

Author(s): McQueen, Ann
Date of Publication: January 2014

The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, based in Montreal and funding throughout Canada, supports what it calls socially engaged arts—arts organizations and activities that build bridges between culture and community—as a way to realize its vision of “a Canada where all people feel a sense of belonging and contribute as active citizens to improving the well-being of all.” The foundation’s most recent initiative focused on arts-based social inclusion owes much to what it learned from ArtsSmarts, an arts-infused learning program launched at

Author(s): McQueen, Ann
Date of Publication: March 2013

The East Bay Community Foundation (EBCF) makes grants to artists and artist-centered nonprofits to assure that East Bay’s multi-cultural, multi-racial artists have the resources they need to advance their community-based practices, tackle social issues, and give back to local audiences. The foundation’s arts grantmaking of close to $250,000 is drawn from three donor-supported funds that, despite separate awards processes, work synergistically to advance art that grows out of and impacts the East Bay community. The Macpherson Fund for Small Arts Organizations, an endowed fund,

Author(s): Atlas, Caron; Korza, Pam
Date of Publication: 2005

Critical Perspectives: Writings on Art and Civic Dialogue is a collection of essays that explore art, civic dialogue, and reflective critical writing. Twelve essays focus on three compelling and very different projects supported by Animating Democracy that employed the unique capacities of theater, visual art, and historic preservation to initiate crucial conversations within communities. 

Author(s): Korza, Pam; Bacon, Barbara Schaffer; Assaf, Andrea
Date of Publication: 2005

Civic Dialogue, Arts & Culture explores the power of the arts and humanities to foster civic engagement while advancing possibilities for arts and humanities organizations to be vital civic as well as cultural institutions. From 2000 to 2004, Americans for the Arts, with support from the Ford Foundation, implemented Animating Democracy, an initiative to foster artistic activities encouraging civic dialogue on important contemporary issues. This book examines the experiences of 37 arts and humanities projects, realized by a wide range of cultural organizations. These