How do we understand the idea of art? How do we understand the concept of social justice? What does Art Education do?
These were some of the questions explored by school administrators, arts educators, teachers, parents, youth, and community organizers gathered on March 24th at the Brooklyn Museum’s Arts as Social Justice Roundtable. Through group discussion, image reflection, and sharing personal stories, participants investigated the intersection of the Arts and Social Justice and the pedagogical implications of this relationship.After sharing some of the issues most impacting their communities, participants broke into smaller groups where they raised a host of other questions including, “How can art redefine social concepts and dynamics?” “What is the relationship between art-making and learning in general? How can art bring communities together?” and “How can art help us imagine new social possibilities?”
Some key findings from the gathering included:
- We often assume a shared understanding of Social Justice and this is often counter-productive.
- Social Justice should be approached as a commitment to PROCESS. An understanding of pedagogy and the ability to facilitate groups around difficult conversations is essential to this process.
- At its core Art can also be understood as a process/approach towards learning and doing. There is an intimate relationship between all authentic learning and Art.
- Within the context of Art, a Social Justice perspective requires us to expand and questions traditional notions of “Fine Arts” and artistic “Canons”.
- Art Education is essential to Social Justice because Social Justice requires Social Imagination.
- There is power in collective thinking and group learning. There is a need and yearning for more spaces that bring together diverse cross-section of people to engage and to wrestle with these questions.
Over the next two years, the Education Division will continue asking these questions as we begin a new partnership with local community organizations and middle schools in Central Brooklyn (Districts 16 & 17) with the support from the Kenan Foundation. The partnership will result in a student-driven community arts project highlighting the transformative power of the arts. The Arts as Social Justice Roundtable was the first step in learning from colleagues across the field and sharing inspirational approaches as we begin this new endeavor.
In reflecting on art education, imagination, and social justice, Director of Education, Adjoa Jones de Almeida recently wrote, “Now more than ever, we must look at those realms in our collective consciousness that privilege the imagination and the human capacity to create. Continuous engagement with artistic practices strengthens our imagination muscle. Arts education is essential, because it builds our ability to dream and imagine beyond our present condition.” As we work to strengthen our Arts as Social Justice Pedagogy, Education staff will continue investigating the intersection between Arts and Social Justice in our teaching as well as in conversations with visitors, staff, and community members.
Posted by Adjoa Jones de Almeida and Katherine Kusiak Carey