Arts-based Community Development: Mapping the Terrain
The modern-day arts-based community development movement is founded on the belief that the arts can be a powerful agent of personal, institutional, and community change. Since its beginnings in the 1970s, the movement has grown from a very small and contained universe of intent and definition to become a widespread approach to both art making and community building. Many of the ideas considered radical in 1977 can now be found in the guidelines and policies of agencies and funders that serve communities. To effectively assess the current impact of these ideas, it is useful to look at the movement’s components, its shared assumptions, and the vocabulary used to describe the work. This essay is a refreshed version of “Mapping the Field: Arts-based Community Development,” originally published in 2002 by the Community Arts Network. Included here, the essay holds up well in today’s context. It can be read in relation to another essay in this series titled, “Community Arts at Work across the U.S., 2010,” by Linda Frye Burnham, which offers current examples of exciting community arts projects, programs, and organizations.