The Arts in “Art and Culture in/with Community”

Nov 19, 2019

by Jean-Marie MAUCLET

ART & CULTURE IN/WITH COMMUNITY is an outgrowth of the place where it exists. 

The conNECKtedTOO team of artists, activists, youth and educators looks like the communities it works with: inter-generational, inter-disciplinary and interracial. The “Collective” model, where members are autonomous, reflects both the identity of causes and the free choice of the means to attain them, as found in any livable social group.

Grassroots is the metaphor of choice in this context, referring to the cultivation of a garden. If you want a rich crop, you have to know the ground, prepare the ground, constantly care for the ground. Any food that will grow in the ground will carry the characteristics of that ground. And it will be shared. Isn’t this a plea for the local?

The Art part, in the “Art and Culture in/with Community” phrase, brings other dimensions to the work. Art is said to be the sum of the imagination of an artist, a set of skills, and a vision for what the world could/would look like when they meld into a single work. Not always pretty!  

– Art IN community? An artist who takes a community as model? As audience? A community which invites an artist to represent it, reveal it? With more or less involvement between artist and model? Cold? Warm? Loving? Intimate? Exploitative? This model is not always clear. 

– Art WITH community? The low end of art, according to snobs and some art critics. Art by children, painting by number, the ten minute drumming workshop, a sorry mural? Art as therapy? 

However … it can be the art of asking how a group projects its future; of marching on the Capitol; of reclaiming a neighborhood’s history; of tracing an immigrant’s journey …

– Art IN/WITH community? An explosive conjunction of people with people! Art to challenge established taboos and clichés; to tame an artist’s ego; to boost a beginner’s talent; to let a silenced voice sing; to reveal what was hidden; to share what was guarded; to open wide the gates of collective imaginations; to contest the appropriation of ideas and history.   

The short of it is that conNECKtedTOO does not consider the people willing to work with us, the community, as a labor pool. But the resource of choice