Beginner's Guide to Community-based Arts

Ten Graphic Stories about Artists, Educators & Activists across the U.S.

Published in: GIA Reader, Vol 17, No 1 (Spring 2006)

Keith Knight and Mat Schwarzman

October 2005, 200 pages, $19.95. New Village Press, Oakland, CA, 510-420-1361, www.newvillagepress.net

A Beginner's Guide to Community-based Arts is a wonderfully designed and accessible training guidebook for teachers, artists, and activists wanting to use art as a vehicle for social change. Lead writer Mat Schwarzman and cartoonist Keith Knight create graphic profiles of ten exemplary practitioners followed by activities, exercises, discussion questions, and resources on how to connect with and develop art emanating out of a particular community.

Featured artists include Chris Edaakie teaching traditional Zuni dancing, singing, and storytelling in New Mexico; Rhodessa Jones' work with incarcerated women in the Bay Area; and Lily Yeh's Village of Arts and Humanities in Philadelphia. Documentarian Tom Hansell's work in Appalachia, photographer Tory Read's organizing in low-income communities in Denver, and graphic artist Ricardo Levins Morales agitprop designs in Minneapolis show the power of media in illuminating political and social issues. Four art collaboratives deeply rooted in community issues are also profiled: Mujer Artes pottery collective in San Antonio, Isangmahal Arts Kollective in Seattle, Picture Projects cyberspace projects out of New York, and Young Aspirations/Young Artists in New Orleans. With its hip and inviting writing and graphics, this manual is a vital tool for youth (and those interested in working with youth) to learn effective ways art can animate transformational social and political change.

John R. Killacky, program officer
The San Francisco Foundation