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The Value of Community-based Art Projects

The Value of Community-based Art Projects

PhD project title and outline, including interdisciplinary dimension:
The Value of Community-based Art Projects

The research focuses on case studies and comparisons of community-based art projects involving immigrants to Northern Ireland and other countries (at least one of which is outside Europe) which aim to create more cohesive communities and an environment of understanding through the artistic promotion of tolerance and diversity. The researcher will investigate the concrete ways in which their selected projects advance learning and community development, are means of collaboration and intercultural communication, promote individual and collective well-being, and challenge the binary of ‘them and us’.

Undergirding the PhD is the intention to ‘connect humanities research […] with projects to advance democracy, social justice, and the public good’ (Jay, 2010: 51). As such, it will evaluate whether pockets of social change have arisen, interrogate the possibility of ‘a new citizenship’ and ‘a new politics of the common good’ (Sandel, 2009), and contribute to discussions about immigration and integration policies in the countries under study. It will thus seek to influence policy makers in the field of diversity and inclusion.

Furthermore, the research will contribute to current efforts to break down ‘the equivalence between cultural value and economic value that is too often postulated in policy circles’ (Belfiore, 2014: 13) by putting forward models showing the (social, educational, personal, collective) gains to be made in cross-cultural, artistic initiatives. In this way, it will build on Gulbrandsen’s and Aanstad’s view that the concept of innovation in research has changed ‘from something creating economic value to something that can be valuable in other ways’ (2014: 12).

The platforms by which the art projects are disseminated to the public, whether workshops, discussion fora, exhibitions, outreach activities in community centres, libraries and schools, for example, will also be examined since they are important sites where societal conversations about deeply-held prejudices and fears are confronted. They provide the bridging space between academia and ‘the real world’ allowing research to have actual impact; they are the places where ‘knowledge circulates, interacts and upscales, creating wider benefits’ (Benneworth, 2014: 4).

Primary supervisor: Dr Rosalind Silvester (School of Arts, English and Languages)
Secondary supervisor: Dr Tess Maginess (Social Sciences Education and Social Work)
External Partner/Organisation: The Community Arts Partnership