Aesthetic Perspectives: Attributes of Excellence in Arts for Change

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Resource Details
Publication Date: 
May 2017
John Borstel and Pam Korza with Andrea Assaf, Chris Dwyer, Mark Valdez, and Denise Brown
Pam Korza and Barbara Schaffer Bacon
Number of Pages: 
Animating Democracy resource

Aesthetic Perspectives is a framework developed by Animating Democracy to enhance understanding and evaluation of Arts for Change—creative work at the intersection of arts and community/civic engagement, community development, and justice.  Arts for Change projects often challenge the conventional terms by which creative work is described and assessed.  In the U.S., evaluative practices—from academia to art criticism to funding panels—have historically been dominated by Euro-American values. The term “aesthetic excellence” is often used to privilege white Eurocentric standards of beauty, while dismissing or ignoring standards relevant to different artistic and cultural practices. Moreover, an understanding of Arts for Change sometimes suffers from the assumptions that artistic quality is compromised by social intent or that the art is incidental rather than integral to the project’s intent. 

Driven by the conviction that artists can and should play a role in shaping the criteria by which their work is evaluated, the Aesthetics Perspectives framework was developed by artists with ally evaluators and funders.  It offers 11 artistic attributes that elevate aesthetics in civically and socially engaged art, expand the criteria for considering aesthetics, and promote appreciation of the rigor required for effective work.

The framework includes an introduction that explores rationale and context and the terms aesthetics and Arts for Change.  For each of the 11 aesthetic attributes, the framework includes:

  • pointed description relating the attribute to Arts for Change
  • reflective questions to guide consideration of the attribute in Arts for Change work
  • illuminating examples of creative projects that exhibit the attribute

Aesthetic Perspectives has a variety of applications by artists, funders, evaluators, students, educators, curators, presenters and producers, and arts writers and critics.

Companion Guides written by respected peers, offer ideas and insights to help these users apply the framework to address their needs and interests:  Funders, Evaluators, Performing Artists, Curators, and Educators.

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