29 SES 12 B, Arts, Development and Communities
Promoting engagement in civic activity is a social priority for communities and states around the world. Community practitioners have viewed the visual, musical, and performing arts as a medium of communication and connection, and the use of the arts has been linked to increased enthusiasm and engagement. The arts have been integrated into community service and social justice in multiple creative ways. However, little work describes the meaning-making process for those involved in incorporating the arts in community action, particularly for adolescent participants. This paper explores the perceived benefits of arts integration in PeaceJam, an innovative and international community service program. Ethnographic observation and interpretive interviews provide access to the lived experience of adolescent participants, and their narratives describe how the use of the arts promotes awareness, personal transformation, and enables a greater perceived impact.
Hocey (2005) notes the reciprocal effects of personal and social transformation, connected through the “power of the image” (p. 7). Emerging work suggests that as people engage in activities related to social action there can be transformative experiences for the individual and the community (Ginwright & James, 2002; Lewis-Charp, Yu, & Soukamneuth, 2006). Indeed, there are voices that are re-scripting the social narrative of adolescents as adults-in-transition or as works-in-progress (Wyn & White, 1997), advancing a view of powerful agents of social change (Ginwright, Noguera, & Cammarota, 2006).
The integration of the arts in social action can inspire life-altering changes for participants. “Arts integration refers to the effort to build a set of relationships between learning in the arts and learning in the other skills and subjects of the curriculum” (AEP, 2003). Eisner (2002) asserts that “work in the arts is not only a way of creating performances and products; it is a way of creating our lives” (p. 3). Research suggests beneficial effects of arts integration on social and emotional development, critical thinking, and student learning in school (AEP, 2003). The arts can promote engagement in social actions, and affect the development of voice and agency (Griffiths, Berry, Holt, Naylor, Weekes, 2006). Creating and sharing artistic productions is especially motivating for students; experiencing change through personal and group effort promotes the development a sense of self-efficacy (Bransford, 1999).
The arts can further play an instrumental role in forwarding social causes. Visual culture can be a powerful facilitator of community change and has been employed in the pursuit of democratic principles and social justice (Darts, 2004). Aesthetic experiences force people to apply new lenses of interpretation to mundane hegemonic forces (Samson, 2005). Participation in the arts requires exploration of different perspectives, and involves collaboration as artistic expressions are leveraged in promoting social messages in community actions (Darts, 2004).
This paper engages the process whereby individuals develop a sense of purpose and agency in the context of the arts in social justice through the experience of those adolescents forging a new path in life. We are guided by the following framing questions: How does the PeaceJam organization integrate the arts to engage participants and forward social justice? What do PeaceJam participants discover about themselves through engagement with the arts during their service projects? What are the perceived benefits of using the arts as a medium for social justice?
Arts Education Partnership. (2003). Creating quality integrated and interdisciplinary arts programs: Integrating the arts throughout the curriculum. Washington, DC: Report of the Arts Education Partnership National Forum. Blumer, H. (1969). Symbolic interactionism: Perspective and method. Prentice Hall. Bransford, J., Brown, A.L., & Cocking, R.R. (Eds.). (1999). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school (Expanded Ed.). Washington, DC: National Academy Press. Charmaz, K. (2005). Grounded theory in the 21st century: Applications for advancing social justice studies. In N.K. Denzin, & Y.S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (3rd edition). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Darts, D. (2004). Visual culture jam: Art, pedagogy, and creative resistance. Studies in Art Education, 45(4), 313-327. Denzin, N.K. (1989). Interpretive interactionism. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Eisner, E.W. (2002). The arts and the creation of mind. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Ginwright, S., & James, T. (2002). From assets to agents of change: Social justice, organizing, and youth development. New Directions for Youth Development, 96. Ginwright, S., Noguera, P., & Cammarota, J. (2006). Beyond resistance!: Youth activism and community change. New York: Routledge. Griffiths, M., Berry, J., Holt, A., Naylor, J., & Weekes, P. (2006). Learning to be in public spaces: In from the margins with dancer, sculptors, painters, and musicians. British Journal of Educational Studies, 54(3), 352-371. Hocey, D. (2005). Art therapy and social action: A transpersonal framework. Art Therapy, 22(1), 7-16. Lewis-Charp, H., Yu, H.C., & Soukamneuth, S. (2006). Civic activist approaches for engaging youth in social justice. In S. Ginwright, P. Noguera, & J. Cammarota (Eds.), Beyond resistance!: Youth activism and community change. New York: Routledge. Reeve, J., Deci, E.L., Ryan, R.M. (2004). Self-determination theory: A dialectical framework for understanding sociocultural influences on student motivation. In D.M. McInerney, & S.V. Etten (Eds.), Big Theories Revisited. Information Age Publishing. Samson, F. (2005). Drama in aesthetic education: An invitation to imagine the world as if it could be otherwise. Journal of Aesthetic Education, 39(4). Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1997). Grounded theory methodology: An overview. In N.K. Denzin, & Y.S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Suvanjieff, I., & Engle, D. G. (2008). PeaceJam: A billion simple acts of peace. New York: Puffin Books. Wyn, J., & White, R. (1997). Rethinking youth. London: Sage.
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