Educator Companion - Aesthetic Perspectives: Attributes of Excellence in Arts for Change

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Resource Details
Publication Date: 
May 2017
Bob Leonard
Number of Pages: 
Animating Democracy resource

The Educator Companion to Animating Democracy’s framework, Aesthetic Perspectives: Attributes of Excellence in Arts for Change, offers ideas and insights to help educators and students apply the framework in curriculum development, faculty/student critique and review, planning community-based projects, assessing Arts for Change work using criteria aligned with the values of community-engaged scholarship, and more.

Aesthetic Perspectives aims to enhance understanding and evaluation of creative work at the intersection of arts and community/civic engagement, community development, and justice. It 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.

Author, Bob Leonard, Professor of Theatre in the School of Performing Arts at Virginia Tech outlines interests and concerns the framework can help address in the context of higher education and other training programs for artists working in communities.  These include the need to: articulate standards of excellence that are too often assumed in community-based practice; renew and promulgate a dynamic critical paradigm that includes relevant attributes for evaluation of Arts for Change work that expand beyond the dominant Eurocentric standards of excellence and beauty; offer flexible models that change how artists understand, train for, and practice a rigorous aesthetic profession; provide vocabulary and concepts that help address challenges of communication and understanding that can jeopardize partnerships, proposals for resources, and case-making to university leadership for initiatives that could benefit from integration of arts; and surmount inadequacies in tenure review and program accreditation related to assessing public scholarship in arts, humanities, and design that is deeply rooted in community-based practices.

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.

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