ArtsUSA.org Blog

  • Not Just Pretty: Aesthetics in Social Impact Design
    Though the practice of design encompasses both form and function, conversation about it often circles around aesthetics—the graphics of the next iOS operating system, for instance, or the sleek lines of the newest Tesla model. In these instances, we assume that the objects are going to work; no one doubts whether or not the iPhone […]
  • The Aesthetics of Politics, Art, and Communications
    When we begin to wrap our heads around the fact that culture-making surrounds us on a daily basis, and that everyday people are now both consumers and producers of symbolic production, we can then more accurately approach the question of aesthetics and politics, and begin to see how it operates around us daily. The question […]
  • Flash Back/Flash Forward: Considering Aesthetics in Arts & Social Change Work
    Flashback: 2002. Aesthetics and related questions of criticism, evaluation, and meaning in community-based arts are grist for a session at Alternate ROOTS’s 25th anniversary Focus on Community Arts South gathering. Participants applauded the assertion that “theory and thinking are not just academic concerns.” They advocated notions of “critical generosity” and “critical intimacy” that fostered more […]
  • A Tending
    I begin with that which is languageless. Gesture, wordless calls of grief or joy, exclamation, a dancer’s body moving in time. What John Edgar Wideman calls, in his essay “In Praise of Silence,” “the entire body’s expressive repertoire, subversive, liberating, freighted with laughter, song and sigh, burdened and energized by opposition.” Which means: not words […]
  • Finding Beauty In Another Reality
    A decade ago, when the Leeway Foundation decided to support artists and cultural producers interested in community transformation and working at the intersection of art, culture and social change, there were a lot of questions raised about the aesthetics of such work. The general presumption of the majority of our critics was that our interest […]
  • Living Into The Questions
    The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions which have been hidden by the answers. – James Baldwin Baldwin’s epigram reminds us that to thrive, we must be able to see through imposed realities and prefab solutions. We may be tempted to seek definitive answers, but what we really need now is to […]
  • The Beauty in Change: Considering Aesthetics in Creative Social Change Work
    “This feels a bit like falling down Alice’s rabbit hole,” said one contributor to this week’s blog salon on the role of aesthetics in arts for social change work. Indeed, it is no light matter. Despite this, we are pleased bring you 17 thought pieces from a diverse lineup of artists, cultural leaders, funders, and […]

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