Developing Artist-Driven Spaces in Marginalized Communities

Reflections and Implications for the Field

Maria Rosario Jackson


   Developing Artist-Driven Spaces in Marginalized Communities (3.9 Mb)

Spaces in which arts and cultural activity happen are often the pulse points of communities. At their best, they are places in which artists, tradition-bearers and cultural workers are in charge. They are places in which people gather; curiosity is piqued; world views are challenged or affirmed; preservation and innovation are fostered; creativity and imagination are stoked; intellect, critical thinking, and compassion are expanded; and people find inspiration that leads to a more generative society. These places can also help to create a community’s identity and promote stewardship among residents and stakeholders. Art spaces can stimulate civic engagement, and affect economic conditions directly and indirectly. While art spaces are important in all communities, they can be especially significant in low- and moderate-income communities that are striving to improve the quality of life of and opportunities for residents.

This essay distills important issues to consider in the creation of artist-driven spaces, primarily those in marginalized communities. It begins with a brief background discussion of the space development process and why artists work in marginalized communities. This is followed by a discussion of considerations related to

  1. organizational structures and resources,
  2. purpose and leadership,
  3. site selection
  4. relationships with residents and other stakeholders, and
  5. sustainability and implications for the field.

Does Size Matter?

This new report is really excellent! It provides new language and concepts to name the power of community-based arts in under-resourced places. I cite the report in my Animating Democracy blog "Does Size Matter?"

My only issue is that I would really like to get away from the "marganized" word. That concept seems predicated on a view from "the center." Some of us prefer to live and work outside the "center" and do not consider ourselves "marginalized" although we are definitely under-resourced. Some of us are disenfranchised, too, but let's call that for what it is. I am not arguing for "under resourced" to replace marginalized just more thought about language that doesn't further "marginalize" low income, rural, people of color, native people, new immigrants and those not at "the center"

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