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Aesthetic Perspectives: Attributes of Excellence in Arts for Change

June 21, 201721 June 2017

Social benefits of the arts

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This report, “developed by artists with ally evaluators and funders”, identifies and examines 11 characteristics of excellence in artistic work that aims to achieve social goals. “Arts for Change” projects exist “at the intersection of artistic creation and civic engagement, community development, and justice”. The report was prepared to help counter the “assumption that artistic quality is compromised by social intent”.

In alphabetical order, the 11 attributes of excellence in Arts for Change work are:

  1. Coherence, i.e., “strong ideas expressed with clarity”, thereby advancing “both artistic and social purposes”.
  2. Commitment, i.e., “conviction to the cause espoused through the work”.
  3. Communal meaning, i.e., facilitating “collective meaning that transcends individual perspective and experience”.
  4. Cultural integrity, i.e., demonstrating “integrity and ethical use of material with specific cultural origins and context”.
  5. Disruption, i.e., challenging “what is by exposing what has been hidden, posing new ways of being, and modeling new forms of action”.
  6. Emotional experience, i.e., facilitating “a productive movement between ‘heart space’ – the emotional experience that art evokes – and the ‘head space’ of civic or social issues”.
  7. Openness, i.e., work that is “open, fluid, transparent, subject to influence, and able to hold contradiction”, thereby deepening the work’s impact.
  8. Resourcefulness, i.e., “imaginative use of available resources [that] drives artistic innovation and demonstrates responsible social and environmental practice”.
  9. Risk-taking, which might involve “subverting dominant norms, values, narratives, standards, or aesthetics”.
  10. Sensory experience, i.e., vivid sensations that “deepen the experience of the creative work and heighten the power of its messages and the potential for change”.
  11. Stickiness, i.e., “sustained resonance, impact, or value”.

Companion guides that could assist in the development of high-quality Arts for Change work have been prepared for use by performing artists, curators, educators, funders, and researchers or program evaluators.

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