The fixed notion of Community Art is elusive, and yet, community art has been around for centuries. Artists are intrinsically drawn to the world they live in, and for many that means not only viewing but participating in it. As I start my personal journey with Community Art, I intend to find out what exactly it means, how exactly it can be defined, so I can help spread this creative fervor and transform the general public into the creatively passionate.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Step One: Wikipedia

Although perhaps not the greatest end in and of itself, I find Wikipedia a perfect means. Where better to start looking for something than on a massive, free, internet data-base? Especially if you consider that what I am researching is about community involvement, and Wikipedia is based on community involvement.

Yet I found the Wikipedia article on community art sadly, if not unexpectedly, lacking. In fact, it was headed by the claim that the "article needs attention from an expert on the subject." (Who knows, maybe after working on this for a while I could be that expert). But for now, it seems that both me and Wikipedia are stumped by this emerging field.

The article starts by saying that "community art could be loosely defined as a way of creating art in which professional artists collaborate more or less intensively with people who don't normally actively engage in the arts." A sound proposal and yet still, as the article itself says, only a loose definition. What way of creating art? What is a professional artist? What about groups of professional artists working together?

The article goes on to say that "community arts... refers to artistic activity based in a community." This too seems helpful until you realize that what the article just did was use the term in its own definition, an extremely tempting road to take I can assure you.

Random Bystander: "What is community art?"
Community artist: "Well, it's art that takes places in a community."

The real problem is that actually is the definition. Community Art is art that takes place in a community. But what really needs to be done is a breakdown of what type of art, how it takes place, and in what community. Now we face the fact that there are many answers to each of those questions, that Community Art is as varied as any other field of study. Just like the difference between a botanist and a molecular biologist, the difference between a muralist and a video artist is huge.

The Wiki article deals with this by discussing different types of community art, categorized by the headings of community art and public art, online community art, and community theater. However, the most useful information that I gleaned from this article was a list of key artists and a list of references. Already I have begun to look into Judith F. Baca, Josef Beuys, Harrel Fletcher, Adrian Piper, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Helen Crummy, and Ruth Howards as well as into the list of community art books that mostly seem to stem from New Village Press.

But those I leave to further inquiries in further posts. As I said, Wikipedia is a wonderful place to start. Already I have more to research than I will be able to manage, but that's the problem with researching: you always find more than you have time to see. Thankfully, that is also the fun of it.

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