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Evaluation Memo #1 Spotlight: Socially Engaged Art

One of the early associations the Core Team made has been between socially engaged art, or SEA, and these residencies.  SEA has become a useful framework for inspiring how these residencies may unfold.  They hold many similar characterisitcs, including:

  • Projects are dependent on social interaction as part of the work (artist to public, public to public etc.)
  • Artist creates an experience and audience are participants
  • Emphasis on process over product
  • Creative is someone who focuses on modes of interaction
  • Projects create an equalizing platform

The Core Team recognizes the many differences between socially engaged art and the residencies as well, including the DAM's own goals in these projects.  However by examining socially engaged art projects, we are able to glimpse ideas on best practices that may be helpful for our residents.

It has also brought up several interesting questions, identified by Daryl Fischer and Mary Ellen Munley in Evaluation Memo #1.  They called out three areas for future attention and reflection.

Reimagining the public

Most planning in museums works from the premise that visitors come as individuals or in self-defined groups (i.e., friends, family, school, or tour group) and that they intend to experience the museum as an individual or as part of the group with whom they come.

Is there value – and is there interest among visitors – in opportunities to move outside of the group they came to the museum with?  Is the museum more than a place for interacting with art? What does it mean to activate an art museum as a public gathering place?  A gathering place for what purpose(s)?

Reimagining the relationship between the museum and its visitors

The DAM is a leader in recognizing and valuing the knowledge and perspectives that visitors bring with them, offering visitors opportunities to design their own experiences and to derive their own meaning. The relationship to visitors is not one-way: we know what you need, and you are here to receive it. The relationship is far more reciprocal.

What, however, is the Museum’s role in bringing visitors into interaction with each other? What is its role in encouraging people to be in conversation with and to learn from each other?

Reimagining the meaning and use of space

One feature of socially engaged art is that it often takes place in unexpected, public spaces. Many questions begin to emerge about the importance of bringing art to spaces that are accessible to a wide audience and about how to activate non-art spaces with artistic expression.

- Are traditional galleries amenable to socially engaged art practices?

- Is space best treated as the surround for presentation of tangible works of art?

- How can spaces in the Museum be activated in new ways?

Is there value in designing spaces that may not provide opportunities for interacting with tangible works of art, but which are filled with opportunities to engage in interactions and communication designed by and with artists? (pg.11-12)