Arts as Dialogic Practice: Deriving Lessons for Change from Community-based Art-making for International Development
Stephenson, Max O. Jr.
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Communities around the world struggle with weakening social bonds and political, racial, ethnic, economic, and cultural divides. This article argues the arts can be a means of raising public consciousness regarding such concerns by catalyzing conscious, thoughtful dialogue among individuals and groups possessing diverse values and beliefs. Change can only occur when people become aware of and actively reflect on the ontological and epistemic-scale norms and values that so often underpin their divisions, and the arts can help them do precisely that. We examine the dynamics of participatory performing arts and mural-making in diverse contexts to contend that the dialogic character of community art-making can be valuable for practitioners and scholars in a variety of efforts in international community development. We conclude by sharing lessons that we believe will aid artists and practitioners in devising more inclusive and participatory approaches to their international community change or development projects.