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.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Term Itself

As I began my foray into the actual theory and thought of the existing community art world, I encountered a discrepancy at the very entrance: no one knows exactly what to call this field. Arlene Goldbard sticks with Community Cultural Development while Tom Borrup chooses Creative Community Building. These are just two examples of the rampant terms that exist within the field.

At first, deep in the sway of the incredible writing done by each of these practiced community artists, I was simply agreeing with whoever's pages I was devouring at the moment. At the very beginning of her book, New Creative Community: The Art of Cultural Development, Goldbard addresses this issue in a section titled "Naming the Practice." She identifies five current terms: community arts, community animation, community-based arts, cultural work, and participatory arts projects. (Her term, Community Cultural Development, she files under this last heading.)

Goldbard chooses not to use Community Art as her key term because it can be, and has been, also "used to describe conventional arts activity based in a municipality" pg 21. Personally, although unlike Goldbard I have barely dipped a toe into this fantastic arena, this association doesn't bother me. This may be because I am approaching the field from the background of visual art and willingly associate myself with "conventional arts activity," or it could just be because I am unseasoned. I'd prefer to think that my conclusions are based on the former, but only time will tell.

Whatever the reason, despite my early infatuation with these authors terms, the more I read the more I feel that sticking with Community Art is most appropriate for me. There's something to be said about simplicity. Even though it may not be as encompassing or accurate, Community Art is a more accessible term than something like creative community building. While the term still needs to be explained, its more immediate. What is community Art? It's art that takes place within and around the community.

For overly intellectual, abstract and theoretical thinkers (or for people pursuing graduate studies) this definition isn't enough - that premise indeed is the base of this blog. Defining a term with its components? That's not deep thinking! But for work within a community, its the right amount of thinking. (Not to say that general community members aren't or wouldn't be interested in the wonderful thinking put into the other terms). Anyone interested can delve into the more specific terms, but Community Art allows the people to take the term, field, and all that goes along with it at face value.

This is all, of course, personal opinion and interpretation coming from someone who considers herself an artist. Going from an artist to a community artist seems much more manageable than becoming a creative community builder or a community cultural developer. It also keeps the person more accepting, accessible and approachable. I'd be much more interested in talking to a Community Artist than a Community Cultural Developer, wouldn't you?

No comments:

Post a Comment