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  • For the last few weeks in this class, I’ve been wondering about why the arts have been historically undervalued in terms of community-building.  I wasn’t sure if that was just the impression I was getting, or if that was actually the case.  The introduction of the “Artists in the Community” handbook cleared up that confusion; the arts really have not been valued as a means of building, restoring, and maintaining communities.  I find that to be a frustrating proposition, but I am also at a loss as to how to correct the problem.  It seems to me that the amount of available scholarship demonstrating how beneficial community arts engagement can be is more than sufficient (Swamp Gravy cases study, for example); what else is it going to take to put community arts at the forefront of community development?  I’m also not sure about which avenue is most appropriate in addressing popular conceptions about community arts.  Is it best to focus on the general public (fliers, public lectures, websites, etc.), or would it be more effective to focus on policy (seeking funding, policy change, etc.)?  In another way, what is the best possible environment for encouraging community arts?
  • The “Artists in the Community” handbook suggests setting clear limits on how long a program will last (Public Housing Authority section, page 15), but doesn’t discuss how to keep those practices alive in the program’s absence.   How can we encourage individuals to develop community arts practices in their daily lives?  In the case of juvenile-justice arts programs, how can we encourage individuals to continue to spread arts practices in other communities they belong to/throughout their lives when they are no longer affiliated with the juvenile-justice system?
  • There seems to be a large focus on institutional/official community organizations as a vehicle for community arts.  While I certainly appreciate the efficacy of a formal organizational structure, the folklorist in me is curious about non-official forms of community art.When I think about non-official community arts practices, the first example that comes to mind is graffiti.  It’s hard to imagine getting a community arts organization to support graffiti in area because of the stigma attached, but street art is a rising form of expression that is already appreciated in art worlds (I highly recommend the documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop).  Street art can be an excellent diagnostic of community attitudes and relevant issues; why shouldn’t it be encouraged?  How can we change common conceptions about what constitutes valuable community arts?*
  • In “A Journey of Discouragement and Hope”, Grady Hillman describes one of the problems facing arts in corrections as the diminishing arts programs in public schools.  “The schools appear to be retreating to the “basics” and testing for competency rather than heeding current pedagogical studies on multiple intelligences and the delineation of different learning styles in students, methodologies routinely manifest in arts programs” (Hillman).  This mirrors my own experiences working with ‘at-risk’ youth.  Often the real issue is that the interests and skills sets of the student are simply not valued in the mainstream education system.  To me, this is the real value of arts-in-corrections: young people are praised for abilities that are frequently ignored in all other settings that that group experiences, allowing them to build a greater sense of identity and self-worth.  How can community arts organizations work with local schools to supplement AIE programs?  Is it the place of community arts organizations to lobby on behalf of and/or raise funds for local schools?

 

*This is really just a random thought I had in thinking about these issues, but I think a potential solution in the case of graffiti would be a mobile app that allowed people to post photos of local graffiti to a website.  The images could be ‘upvoted’ or ‘downvoted’ by the public (one vote per person per post, like many ‘karma’ based wesbites).  Images of graffiti that received a certain percentage of negative feedback (downvotes) would be submitted for removal (a petition process could be organized to prevent artists being unfairly targeted), while others would remain.  In this way, street art that was deemed valuable by the community would be encouraged, street artists could gain recognition/appreciation (at whatever level of anonymity they would prefer), and offensive graffiti could be monitored in a way that reflects the community’s values.  Ever wonder why you don’t see those “~*!tHiS vIdeO iz SoOoOoO fuuunnYYYYYY!!!!!11111onety-one*~~” comments on YouTube anymore?  Upvotes and downvotes, my friend.

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