Author(s): Korza, Pam; Assaf, Andrea; Bacon, Barbara Schaffer
Date of Publication: Nov 15, 2021

Drawing significantly on the experience of projects within Animating Democracy, as well as a broader sphere of community-based cultural work, this essay considers what value art and humanities can uniquely bring to discourse on important civic issues. It shares some of what the Animating Democracy Initiative learned in its initial phase about the opportunities and challenges of this arena of work, and how Animating Democracy's thinking was evolving regarding the role of the arts in civic dialogue.  First published on the 

Author(s): Jackson, Maria Rosario and Malpede, John
Date of Publication: 2009

Los Angeles Poverty Department (LAPD) is a Skid Row-based theater organization, founded and directed by artist John Malpede. LAPD has distinguished itself by its longstanding commitment to making change in L.A.’s Skid Row community, particularly regarding the homeless, through theater-based civic engagement work. Many have observed LAPD’s apparent potent effects on individuals and on social relations in Skid Row, and acknowledge its contributions to influencing structures, systems, and even policy.   As part of Animating Democracy’s Arts & Civic Engagement Impact

Author(s): Bebelle, Carol
Date of Publication: May 2013

In the context of chronic issues such as poverty and prisons and in the aftermath of the “Katrina-related federal flood,” Carol Bebelle attributes New Orleans’ distinctive creative impulse as essential to the city’s recovery and resurrection. Bebelle traces a continuity of theater practice in New Orleans that is conscious and intentional in its storytelling and gives agency to promote personal redemption and social justice—from Junebug Productions’ work on issues of race and class, to the work of ArtSpot Productions in Louisiana prisons. She also notes a

Author(s): Peterson, Betsy
Date of Publication: December 2010

Folk arts include a constellation of artistic activities and cultural expressions in community life that are informal, often popular in orientation, amateur, voluntary, and occurring in myriad social contexts. As expressions of deep cultural knowledge, creative expression, activism, cultural durability, and community values, folk and traditional arts can be tools for community empowerment and social change. In this paper, author Betsy Peterson captures a range of cultural activity beyond familiar forms such as protest songs that use cultural tradition to explicitly address or mobilize

Author(s): Kahn, Polly
Date of Publication: February 2014

The role that American orchestras play in community life has been steadily expanding over the last several decades. Fresh approaches to community involvement both in the musical offerings of in- and after-school programs as well as engaging traditionally underserved populations have paved the way as orchestras grow in their civic and social roles. This paper by Polly Kahn of the League of American Orchestras illuminates how orchestras are responding to changing demographics, helping people come together in ways that cut across their differences. Innovative participatory models show how

Author(s): Coryat, Diana
Date of Publication: January 2011

Youth media is a diverse array of practices in which young people collaborate with artists and educators to express themselves creatively, communicate with peers across borders, and participate in community dialogue and problem solving. Social justice-focused youth media facilitates a root-cause analysis of “why things are the way they are,” has a vision of a more just and equitable society, and uses media to contest dominant narratives and to support systemic change. The process of creating and presenting media can be transformative for youth, educators, communities, and

Author(s): McQueen, Ann
Date of Publication: May 2013

The Compton Foundation supports the arts, including individual artists and filmmakers, with the explicit intention of amplifying critical issues in a way that blends the personal, political, emotional, and intellectual. It makes these grants based on a recently updated mission statement that recognizes “courageous storytelling” as a powerful strategy for “inspiring action toward a peaceful, just, sustainable future.” The family foundation, launched in 1949 and long focused on issues of peace, the environment, and women’s reproductive rights and justice, awards

Author(s): Korza, Pam; Bacon, Barbara Schaffer; Assaf, Andrea
Date of Publication: 2005

Civic Dialogue, Arts & Culture explores the power of the arts and humanities to foster civic engagement while advancing possibilities for arts and humanities organizations to be vital civic as well as cultural institutions. From 2000 to 2004, Americans for the Arts, with support from the Ford Foundation, implemented Animating Democracy, an initiative to foster artistic activities encouraging civic dialogue on important contemporary issues. This book examines the experiences of 37 arts and humanities projects, realized by a wide range of cultural organizations. These