The Transformative Nature of Community Engagement in the Arts

The Transformative Nature of Community Engagement in the Arts

Robert D. Quinn (East Carolina University, USA), Alice Arnold (East Carolina University, USA) and Kerry Anne Littlewood (University of South Florida, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2208-0.ch019
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Art educators have engaged in various community-engagement experiences with undergraduate classes for many years. In addition to the curricular reward, the authors have found that students are experiencing community in new ways through these opportunities. In this study, researchers used a mixed methods approach to carefully examine several key aspects of community work in afterschool programs in two community centers. First, the context was explored, and ethnography was used to describe experiences with art, community, and engagement in an area facing severe socioeconomic challenges. Outcome data from one site helped to link community work to at-risk student achievement on end of grade testing. Outcome data from the second research site suggests that resilience increased in students engaged in afterschool programming, perhaps through the incorporation of visual art. Last, university students' response papers were content analyzed to illustrate gains achieved through these opportunities.
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Literature Review

The concepts of community engagement and service-learning are integral to the programming described in this chapter, which was a result of our partnership with two community centers in our city. Art educators have successfully engaged their students in service-learning endeavors for both the betterment of their communities and the instruction of their students (Russell & Hutzel, 2007; Taylor, 2002). Taylor and Ballengee-Morris (2004) describe these dual aims of service-learning as mutually beneficial, communally agreed, and collaboratively completed. The effectiveness of any service-learning endeavor is equally dependent on the quality of the services being rendered and the learning that is taking place.

Similarly, the concept of community engagement is defined by the Carnegie Foundation (n.d.) as “collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities (local, regional/state, national, global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity” (“Classification Description”, para. 3). Others (Weerts & Sandmann, 2008) describe this concept as a “two-way street”, emphasizing the collaborative model wherein the community partner is an equal player in creating and sharing knowledge. We believed that the kind of knowledge generated by our community partners would be crucial in helping our university students develop greater sensitivity to the populations we would serve with them. Engaging with our community partners in this model would provide our undergraduate students with opportunities to use culturally responsive teaching approaches in alternative learning venues.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Culturally Responsive Teaching: A pedagogical approach that connects students’ cultural understanding and references with the classroom in an effort to validate students’ culture and invigorate learning experiences for the students.

Community engagement: A form of research practice in which the aims of the research endeavor are mutually defined and completed by a researcher and a community partner.

Resilience: The measure of one’s ability to function successfully in response to challenging circumstances.

Service-Learning: An educational setting wherein students meet the need of a community partner while fulfilling a curricular requirement.

Self-Efficacy: An individual’s belief in his or her abilities to successfully complete a task.

Muraling: A form of artwork made directly on a wall.

Cultural Enrichment: An activity that enriches one’s view of cultural differences with an eye toward replacing bad ideas about others’ culture with well-informed ones.

Symbolic Curriculum: A component of curriculum delivery that conveys implicit information about the subject through representation of the content of that subject.

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