This first-of-its-kind compendium unites perspectives from artists, scholars, arts educators, policymakers, and activists to investigate the complex system of values surrounding artistic-educational endeavors. Addressing a range of artistic domains-including music, dance, theater, visual arts, film, and poetry-contributors explore and critique the conventions that govern our interactions with these practices. Artistic Citizenship focuses on the social responsibilities and functions of amateur and professional artists and examines ethical issues that are conventionally dismissed in discourses on these topics. The questions this book addresses include:

  • How does the concept of citizenship relate to the arts?
  • What sociocultural, political, environmental, and gendered "goods" can artistic engagements create for people worldwide?
  • Do particular artistic endeavors have distinctive potentials for nurturing artistic citizenship?
  • What are the most effective strategies in the arts to institute change and/or resist local, national, and world problems?
  • What obligations do artists and consumers of art have to facilitate relationships between the arts and citizenship?
  • How can artistic activities contribute to the eradication of adverse 'ism's?

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Designing Activism

Typically, architecture may be viewed as the business of creating functional and “aesthetically” interesting structures for others. Stated this way, how can architecture align with notions of artistic citizenship? Stephen Klimek states that architects need to move beyond form and function to become “citizen architects.” Doing so, architects would ask the following ethical questions. And these questions, according to Klimek, lend themselves towards civic leadership, or what we’d call artistic citizenship:

  • What is the role of architecture?
  • What do we need architecture to be?
  • What does the world need today?

There are many examples of architects who ask the above questions. One such architectural group is TYIN tegnestue. Established in 2008 by Yashar Hanstad and Andreas G Gjertsen and based out of Trondheim, Norway, the firm works towards social sustainability and pragmatic creativity, or, what they call their projects, “architecture of necessity.” The young architects have been involved in diverse projects, from attempts at improving poor areas in Bangkok, to a Sumatran training center and original projects in Norway.

(C) PASI AALTO 2007
(C) PASI AALTO 2007

The architectural firm travelled to the Thai-Burmese border to create dormitories for Karen refugee children.

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As stated by the architects:

The main driving force behind the Soe Ker Tie House was to provide the children with their own private space, a place that they could call home and a space for interaction and play.

The Soe Ker Tie House is a blend between local skills and TYIN’s architectural knowledge. Because of their appearance the buildings were named Soe Ker Tie Haus by the Karen workers; The Butterfly Houses. The most prominent feature is the bamboo weaving technique, which was used on the side and back facades of the houses. The same technique can be found within the construction of the local houses and crafts. All of the bamboo was harvested within a few kilometres of the site.

The specially shaped roof of the Soe Ker Tie Houses promotes natural ventilation within the sleeping units and at the same time rainwater can be collected and stored for the dry season. The iron wood construction is assembled on-site using bolts ensuring precision and strength.

To prevent problems with moisture and rot, the sleeping units are raised off the ground on four concrete foundations, casted in old tires.

After a six month long mutual learning process with the locals in Noh Bo, the Soe Ker Tie House was completed in 2009 consisting of 6 sleeping units, housing 24 children. Important principles like bracing, material economisation and moisture prevention, may possibly lead to a more sustainable building tradition for the Karen people in the future.

What follows is an example of their humanitarian architecture in progress:

 

Hello world!

The arts are hubs of social, emotional, personal, and worldly interactions. Any values we derive from or experience through the arts occur because we engage in and feel the results/benefits of art making and art experiencing. So, “we make it true” that one or more values happen in/to us when we participate with the arts.

What values are possible? The chapters within this book yield a multitude of possibilities. And artistic citizenship is the concept we employ that connects and extends such possibilities. From illuminating public places to visionary activism through art-making to creating art that examines a world that isn’t but could be, artistic citizenship shows itself in a variety of ways.

What worlds are possible? Can art take us there? What gets in our way to create such worlds? Hear from one of our authors, Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre: