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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Community-based art practices within a public school setting : a case study Chwelos, Cyndy


Through this research, I examined community-based art practices and community engagement associated with a public elementary school artist-in-residency. As the artist, I secondarily included deliberation on my own practices as an artist, teacher, parent and researcher working with cultural production in educational settings. Narrative inquiry and ethnography were used to collect multiple perspectives that included interviews, photographic images, and written texts from myself, the students who created a large ceramic tile mural, parents, school staff, and the community-at-large. Through inquiry into their cultural heritages, 125 students created a permanent community-based art space in the main foyer of their public school. Upon completion of the project I interviewed the students, parents, teachers, support staff and some members of the school's broader community. Our semi-structured conversations focused on notions of meaning-making and relevancy through community-based art practices. The historical context of community-based art practices was examined to help analyze the relational threads specific to encouraging community engagement. From this review I selected characteristics of community-based art practices such as voice, identity, empowerment, accessibility and social change. I refer to these throughout the research and come to understand in my own way, how they coexist as multiple access points of community-based art practices. The study indicated that the students' art practices created meaning and relevancy for themselves, their parents, teachers, and the community-at-large through community engagement. In conclusion, this study indicated that, for art educators and others working within cultural production community-based art practices can enable students to participate in community engagement by forming a stronger connection between each other and by building a sense of belonging to their own community.

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