Curator Companion - Aesthetic Perspectives: Attributes of Excellence in Arts for Change
The Curator Companion to Animating Democracy’s framework, Aesthetic Perspectives: Attributes of Excellence in Arts for Change, offers ideas and insights to help curators working in/with visual arts and time- and performance-based projects to enhance understanding, description, and evaluation of such work at the intersection of artistic creation and civic engagement, community development, and social justice. The framework offers 11 artistic attributes that elevate aesthetics in civically and socially engaged art, expand the criteria for considering aesthetics, and promote appreciation of the rigor required for effective work. These attributes are relevant to Arts for Change work happening in exhibition and pedagogical spaces, including nonprofit galleries and alternative spaces, museums, university art galleries, curatorial training programs, and art in public spaces.
Author and curator, Sara Reisman, outlines how the framework offers curators vocabulary to stimulate thinking about or to describe the unique characteristics of socially engaged art and a tool for communicating with media and critics in developing press materials, story pitches, and messaging around projects. She points to the framework’s value in providing relevant attributes and related questions that can be used in the beginning stages of conceptualizing an exhibition or program’s curatorial premise and how that supports social or civic intents, as well as to develop questions for assessing audience or participant experience of the creative work, and help in program evaluation and reporting. Reisman illuminates several of the aesthetic attributes such as communal meaning, disruption, emotional experience, and cultural integrity and how curators would find value in them.
Aesthetic Perspectives was developed by artists and allied funders and evaluators who participated in the 2014-15 Evaluation Learning Lab (ELL) led by Animating Democracy, a program of Americans for the Arts, in partnership with the Nathan Cummings Foundation and the Arts x Culture x Social Justice Network. Framework dissemination and activation is supported by Hemera Foundation.