How can social impact be measured in creative practice? What does it mean to build power? How do I know I am building power? These are the questions I carried with me throughout my Artist Residency at the McColl Center. From these questions emerged a project I call "Stamps of Impactful."
Animating Democracy, a program of Americans for the Arts, has created a helpful resource that articulates measurable attributes of arts for social change:
Aesthetic Perspectives: Attributes of Excellence in Art Change is a framework to enhance understanding and evaluation of creative work at the intersection of arts and civic engagement, community development, and justice.
11 artistic attributes that address the potency of creative expression to embody and motivate change. Aesthetic Perspectives aims to inform and inspire reflection, dialogue, and rich description in use by artists, funders, evaluators, educators, critics, presenters, programmers, curators, and audiences.
elevates aesthetics in civically and socially engaged art
helps describe and assess the work
expands criteria for considering aesthetics in Arts for Change
addresses historical domination of Euro-American aesthetic standards
promotes deeper appreciation of the rigor required for effective creative work
Using the Aesthetic Perspectives framework, I created a series of stamps for each of the attributes. In brainstorming what images might be useful, I thought of a series of animals, gardening imagery, and even considered a series of Muppets. While the Muppets were my favorite, I decided to use imagery that might relate to more people. So, I settled on garden imagery. Here is a picture of the very quickly made stamp prototypes.
Resourcefulness- Scarecrow made of found items
Risk Taking- Bee
Coherence- Picket fence
Disruption- Weeding Tool
Communal Meaning- Companion Planting (tomato, squash, beans)
Openness- Bird Bath
Emotional Experience- Bleeding Heart
Sensory Experience- Nose and a Rose
Stickiness- Briar on a shoe
Cultural Integrity- Recycle symbol
I discovered through this process that what I needed to put into practice was not necessarily perfecting graphic arts but instead to cultivate a culture and language around the attributes. My first experiment was to use the stamps of impactful in Thank You cards.
QC Family Tree went on fall retreat and the artists at BeLoved Community facilitated our programming. At the end of the day, I wrote each facilitator a Thank You Card and inside the card, I gave them a stamp of impactful. Thinking about which attribute that particular facilitator embodied, I chose stamps that matched their impact on our group.
My second experiment with the Stamps of Impactful was at my own Artist Facilitation workshop on Increasing Rental Equity. At the end of the workshop, I asked participants to choose a stamp that best represented the impact the workshop had on them.
My hope is to continue to grow the use of these attributes and measurables in my work as a social practice artist.