Artfully Learning Audio Series, Episode 17: Social Sculpture

Inside and outside of the classroom, art serves as a framework for understanding and expressing our lived experiences. Art and education are both labors of love. Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to understand and manage our own emotions, as well as being able recognize, understand and respond to other people’s emotions.  The arts and education are well matched because they each strengthen and support emotional intelligence. 

Because arts are both individual and collective expressions of culture and the human condition, studying art can lead to a more comprehensive observation of our surroundings, as well as a more empathetic understanding of one another. In the 1960s, a conceptual artist and educator named Joseph Bueys, put forward a philosophical concept and method of teaching and making art that he called “social sculpture.” A social sculptor is anyone who creates an artistic experience within their community through social interactions, collaboration and physical objects or environments. Bueys elaborated on this theory by asserting that “every human being is an artist, a freedom being, called to participate in transforming and reshaping the conditions, thinking and structures that shape and inform our lives.”

The concept of Social Sculpture has progressed into a full fledged movement called Social Practice Art, which seeks to make contemporary artistic processes accessible to everyone as well as promoting mass participation in creative projects. Social Practice is a collaborative, often participatory mode of art making and involves people as the medium or material of the work. Because of this, Social Practice art often deals with elements that affect everyday life, and is extensive in the ways it combines education, art and activism. At its core, Social Practice art works towards a shared socially engaged goal; and through collaborations between artists and members of a community or specific populations, it raises awareness and encourages conversations about specific sociocultural issues. In many cases, these kinds of artistic endeavors also seek to improve physical or psychological conditions.

Artistic immersion offers us the agency and ability to become active learners, expressive communicators and determined problem solvers. This is why including art as a core subject in schools is an obvious choice. Not everyone will or should become professional artists, however they can employ elements of artfulness in their daily lives in order to succeed in many circumstances beyond art making. The phrase “everyone is an artist” is a great mantra to prompt us to become mindfully intuitive and responsive to the world around us.

My guest on the latest Artfully Learning Audio Series episode is Jeff Kasper who is a social practice artist, educator and cultural program director. Jeff creates pedagogical tools, text-based projects, social spaces, publications, exhibitions, community education and workshops. Oftentimes, these artistic and educational initiatives are in direct and democratic partnership with community-based and non-profit organizations. As a skilled graphic designer, Jeff combines the tools and techniques of graphic design with participatory learning and contemplative practices, to examine the dynamics of social support, proximity and safety. His practice has consistently engaged questions around how people build community and practice care and collaboration, especially through trauma, conflict and crisis.

This episode is now available on the Artfully Learning YouTube channel (please be sure to subscribe so you get notified about future episodes!).

You can also listen to it below:

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