Arts as Dialogic Practice: Deriving Lessons for Change from Community-based Art-making for International Development
2. Theoretical Debates in Community Arts
- Cultural diversity—preserving and promoting cultural activities from the array of traditions present in any community;
- Freedom of participation—ensuring that all people enjoy unfettered rights to access a full range of means of expression, from paper and pencils and pens to stages and musical instruments and social media;
- Democratic control—residents must enjoy broad opportunities to participate in determining the direction(s) and trajectory of cultural development initiatives .
3. Community Arts: Theater, Murals, and Music
- A British theater group exploring democracy with former child soldiers in Eritrea;
- A Yemeni poet and army officer using poetry to combat gangsters and terrorism in rural villages;
- Modern dance giving voice to forgotten refugees in Gaza and the West Bank  (pp. 4–5).
Recently we’ve had discussions about why theatre… why it’s more impactful. One reason is that, speaking of the multiplier effect, everybody has cell phones. They may not have electricity in their homes, but they have a cell phone. They might not be able to get television but they’re going to video [record] the show. And if they actually get a chance to go up on the stage and speak their piece and act out their part (in the post-show dialogue), they are really going to show that to friends and neighbors. ‘Look, I was part of this event! I got up there and I was doing this! Look at this!’ They are all going to video [record] the show. And then the local TV stations, small local TV stations… will come and video [record] it and put it on television, so it will actually end up on television. It is interesting to see how the information spreads. Because we start the dialog already in the marketplace, it goes home. It goes home with them because it is definitely something to discuss and it is out of the ordinary. But I think that is the other thing about live theatre, it is out of the ordinary. It is really an exciting thing that comes to town, not your everyday occurrence. You go to the marketplace, you buy fruit and vegetables and go home. This is something special. So, it has that super impact. (her emphasis)
3.2. Community Murals
The resulting mural was framed by the silhouette of a white dove; inside the figure of the bird, the daily activities of people living in the municipality as well as symbols of resistance were portrayed. It was entitled The Dove of Land and Freedom. (p. 105)
- On a micro level via the relational interaction between individuals (music facilitator and participants) within workshop environments, and
- On a macro level by means of offering challenges and raising questions for those who arbitrate funding for music, music organizations, and institutions that engage people in music-making, teaching, and learning  (p. 168).
4. The Value of Community Arts for International Development
4.1. Community Building
The group that we formed in Kandahar went from door to door, knocking on doors and gathering the women in the neighborhood, just to go to one woman’s house and do the performance in the courtyard or the living room, for maybe just 20–25 women. These are women that really never leave home and would not be able to have access to this particular information about domestic violence or about some of the traditions about how in-laws treat their new young brides. They start breaking them [traditions] down. A woman playing an abusive husband is a scary sight to see because they really know what it’s like. Afterward, the women in the audience get a chance to come up and act out the scene with them, with the character of their choice, and say how they would treat the situation. It is some interesting dialogue, as you can imagine .
5. Lessons for Community-Based Artists and Practitioners
- The power relations evident in the communities they seek to serve,
- Ensuring they are aware of the conceptions of “community” at play among those with whom they wish to collaborate,
- The broader picture of development in the jurisdictions they target,
- Ways to be aware of and demonstrate respect for, while also fostering self-conscious awareness among residents of, traditional ways of knowing, knowledge and skills in the populations they choose to serve, and
- Finding ways to foster and nurture hope for the future among those with whom they work.
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Kirakosyan, L.; Stephenson, M., Jr. Arts as Dialogic Practice: Deriving Lessons for Change from Community-based Art-making for International Development. Psych 2019, 1, 375-390. https://doi.org/10.3390/psych1010027
Kirakosyan L, Stephenson M Jr. Arts as Dialogic Practice: Deriving Lessons for Change from Community-based Art-making for International Development. Psych. 2019; 1(1):375-390. https://doi.org/10.3390/psych1010027Chicago/Turabian Style
Kirakosyan, Lyusyena, and Max Stephenson, Jr. 2019. "Arts as Dialogic Practice: Deriving Lessons for Change from Community-based Art-making for International Development" Psych 1, no. 1: 375-390. https://doi.org/10.3390/psych1010027