JudithMarcuseJudith Marcuse, LL.D (Hon), Project Director

Over her 30 years of creation, directing, producing, research and managing, Marcuse has led local, national and international initiatives ranging from symposia and festivals to $5 million, multiyear, multi-partner Art for Social Change (ASC) projects. She is Co-Director of the International Centre of Art for Social Change (ICASC), a partnership between SFU and Judith Marcuse Projects, and is an Adjunct Prof at SFU. As Project Director, she oversees fiscal and logistical coordination and supervision, and leads the arts-based facilitation field study.

Dr.Katherine BoydellDr. Katherine Boydell, (Black Dog Institute, University of New South Wales), Co-Investigator, Co-Coordinator of Knowledge Mobilization

Dr. Boydell has developed innovative methodological approaches for knowledge creation and translation using photography, documentary film, theatre and dance. Her strong links to the international knowledge translation and exchange community will enable her to disseminate our project processes and findings broadly. Extensive experience of large scale research collaborations as a sociologist and qualitative methodologist, she has published over 120 peer-reviewed articles and presents her work internationally. Involved in examining the ‘science’ of knowledge mobilization, she focuses on the translational activities of the project in partnership with other co-investigators. Katherine oversees the production and evaluation of all project deliverables.

Lisa DoolittleDr. Lisa Doolittle, (University of Lethbridge), Co-Investigator, Teaching & Learning Coordinator

Professor of Theatre & Dramatic Arts, Dr. Doolittle’s research and performance creations connect students with off-campus communities, locally and internationally (Malawi) focusing on issues of racism, global health, social justice and immigration. Her arts-based pedagogy has brought effective learning into sociology, management and health sciences classrooms. She has co-edited a book on dance, history and identities, and is completing research linking dance with Canadian multiculturalism policy, indigenous communities, immigrants and human rights. Professor Doolittle oversees the implementation, data-collection, analysis, and reporting on the Teaching & Learning component; supervises post-doc and graduate students, and implements a mobile ASC learning hub.

Lynn FelsDr. Lynn Fels, (SFU), Co-Investigator, Co-Coordinator of Knowledge Mobilization.

Drawing on 18 years of expertise in arts-based research, online publishing, and curriculum development, an Associate Professor in Arts Education, and Co-Director of ICASC, Lynn has written about the importance of learning through the arts, performative inquiry, has advised on pedagogical tools, worked with incarcerated women and co-edited a book written by them. Lynn is responsible for documentation and dissemination of research processes and facilitates knowledge integration between partners, co-investigators, field study leaders and collaborators throughout the life of the project. She will collaborate on the production and evaluation of all project outputs and deliverables.

Anne Flynn

Anne Flynn,B.A. M.A. (University of Calgary), Co-Investigator, Leader, Urban Dance Connect Field Study

Professor of Dance, Faculty of Kinesiology & School of Creative and Performing Arts, Flynn has been involved in the Calgary dance community as a performer, artistic director, teacher, writer, administrator and dance education advocate. Her research has been funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and she has served on the board of directors of numerous national and international dance organizations. Professor Flynn is responsible for implementation and coordination of the Urban Dance Connect field study, including research data collection and analysis, and liaison with community partners in Calgary.

Rachael Van FossenRachael Van Fossen, Co-Investigator, Leader, Research Creation Field Study

A theatre and performance director, writer, teacher, arts consultant and researcher in the Theatre Department at Concordia, Founding Artistic Director of Common Weal Community Arts and former Artistic Director of Black Theatre Workshop, Rachael is an early innovator in community art practices in Canada. She contributed to curriculum design for the Theatre and Development specialization at Concordia; produced, wrote and directed some 36 community art projects. She leads the Research Creation field study, including data collection and analysis, and liaises with partners in Montreal.

Dr. Annalee YassiDr. Annalee Yassi, (UBC), Co-Investigator, Co-ordinator, Partnership Capacity-Building

Dr. Yassi brings expertise in research methodology, particularly quantitative and mixed-methods evaluation research. A Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Global Health and Capacity-Building, Dr. Yassi has led multi-million dollar community-based research and development projects worldwide, addressing a wide range of challenges, from environmental degradation and serious health challenges to social upheavals. Her team has designed, implemented and evaluated arts-infused projects employing puppet shows, drawings and painting, social drama, role-play and image theatre involving partners from numerous disciplines and organizations. Annalee focuses on how different methods and techniques can be used to assess impacts and effectiveness of ASC projects, depending on the context, mechanisms and outcomes of interest.


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Reflections on Bridging the Gaps: A Chataqua Dialogue on Art for Social Change Practices (Thursday, June 23, 2016)

On Thursday evening of June 23, 2016, I attended “Bridging the Gaps,” a Chataqua dialogue hosted by the Art for Social Change (ASC!) research project and facilitated by Judith Marcuse. The Chataqua participants were Art for Social Change (ASC) practitioners who represented a diverse range of experience and community-engaged arts work. These practitioners had worked closely with their communities throughout Metro Vancouver and BC. As someone who has only recently learnt about ASC, the event was, without any doubt, a great learning experience.

In this reflection, I want to highlight ideas about the importance of language, including in dialogue and in issues of accessibility. In the course I took in Spring 2016 with Professor Shayna Plaut, “Ethics and Qualitative Methods in Human Rights Work”, we discussed how important language can be to frame and understand an issue, as well as in defining one’s personal and professional identity.

Upon reflection, I realise that I would not have understood much of the conversation without having taken this Ethics course at SFU. Even though the class did not specifically teach me the ‘languages’ of ASC, there are overlaps between the fields of human rights work and ASC. These language overlaps stems from how both fields question the relationships between the different spheres of research, activism, community and the arts. More specifically, the ethics class I took taught me about the languages and frameworks in research and activism used by funders, stakeholders and institutions. This includes the challenges of gaining access to a community, working with them, and the ensuing responsibility to ethical and reciprocal practice. These overlapping themes echoed back and forth in the Chataqua dialogue. As an outsider stepping in to ASC, I can see that there are many access points into these languages – and that it is crucial that we work to make these accessible to others. The conversation was all in English, but I would not have really understood the references, the nuances and the particular definitions had I not been fortunate enough to be equipped with the basics of this language. I am also aware that I probably did not understand all of the nuances in the discussion. I very much look forward to learning more.

ASC practitioners, although in many ways speaking the same language, do not always agree on the meanings of certain words. They are in constant negotiation with each other, even as they appear to be discussing the same thing in the same room. The awareness of this underlying tension really helped me understand this dialogue as part of a dynamic process of shaping the languages of ASC.

For example, during this Chataqua dialogue, participants discussed the idea of “doing good”. Judith asked the group, “Are we here to “do good”?” Discussion opened up. Is this a primary motivation for making art for social change? Where do aesthetics fall into this? And what are the ethics and responsibilities behind the notion of trying to “do good” in a community? Interestingly, the participants agreed to disagree: “No, we are not here to “do good”” As a person just coming into this field (many of us seeking to “do good”), this question is perplexing. Could it be that “doing good” has a specific meaning I am not aware of? Perhaps it connotes a white savior complex or some kind of colonial perspective? – a common criticism of “doing good” initiatives. Admittedly, I do not know the answers, and the answer will probably vary from person to person, practitioner to practitioner. And as a newcomer, discussing the question of “Why are we here?” – is probably a good starting point.

Participants passionately raised and discussed their concern that art for social change has been struggling to find its own language. There was a lot of focus on the growing trendiness of “socially-engaged” art in all its forms. As soon as the language of socially-engaged art starts to catch on, shallow interpretations of the words like “engaged”, “social practice” and “community” are likely to become token buzzwords featured in guidelines created by funders.

We asked many questions, some of which were: “How can this language not be co-opted by medium-to-large institutions trying to do ‘quickie’ projects?” Where do we stand? What do we advocate for? Do we, in this room, share a language that we agree on? Answers weren’t developed in this dialogue, but it was clear that this concern is something artists and practitioners in this field are grappling with.

Judith raised a point about collaboration that I thought was very important. She said that for a long time there has been a disconnect between artists and researchers. There is a growing need for academics and artists to work together more. This is especially pertinent because research can do a great job to theorize, analyst and enrich the work that artists and activists do.

In a time where many funding cuts hit hard, addressing this issue, Judith proposed two scenarios: “crabs in a barrel” or collaboration. Not surprisingly, we are starting to see more an more “crabs in a barrel” situation as artists and organizations struggle from day to day just to survive financially. What we need is more collaboration between organizations – especially with those in other sectors who value the qualitative and quantitative impacts of ASC work that is also useful for them.

Another impression I got from the Chataqua discussion is that funders and juries want to see results that are quantifiable, numbers to measure how much art has impacted or benefited lives of human beings. They want quick, tangible results.

The group also agree that funders often ask them, “Why does it take so long to gain access and trust with some communities?” Do funders have the same level of expertise, experience and understanding of ASC? Why do funder not understand that community-engaged work takes time? Collaboration is not only important between academics and artists, or artists and other sectors – funders need to be part of the conversation. This may be naïve of me to think, seeing that the participants expressed that they have been met with tremendous resistance on many fronts. But what are the options?

In retrospect and conclusion, this dialogue has made me realize that most people haven’t learned or had an experience that will help them understand this field’s language or framework (for example, by reading relevant pieces, joining various ASC programs, participating in dialogues such as this one). How can future policy makers or the public make and advocate for better decisions when it is not easy to understand what ASC is? Reflecting on the importance of language and the challenges of finding a shared one, it is also not easy to explain the nuances of ASC. As challenging as it may be, current artist-practitioners and researchers must reach out and invite more people to join the conversation, as well as mentor younger people to continue the work in this important field.

Some final questions:

How do we invite more people to join this conversation, make it accessible and inclusive rather than “exclusive”? How do we make this conversation more accessible to the general public? How do we encourage people to start talking about art for social change and help make it a more widely accessible form of art and activism?

Special thanks to SFU Professor, Shayna Plaut, for giving me the foundations and the language to explore this realm which I find so fascinating. A lot of gratitude and respect to Judith marcuse, for including me in this Chataqua dialogue and taking time to guide me in the process. I have learnt a lot from everyone gathered there. Thank you to the most wonderful Kim Gilker and Nicole Armos for all your guidance and company – I cannot ask for better! Last, but not least, thank you to all the participants for coming and sharing your knowledge. I am very humbled to have attended this eye-opening dialogue.

Prodpran is a student at Simon Fraser University, entering her last year of undergraduate studies in International Studies with a concentration in International Development, Economics and Environmental Issues. Her areas of interest are human rights, food, arts and research. She has recently joined the ASC! Project’s communications team for the summer.