The Four Publics Project: Possibilities for Learning in Socially-Engaged, Public Participatory, and Civic Art Forms

April 2018

Works of socially engaged and public participatory art can often be distinguished by a compelling, but also challenging, pedagogical dimension. In some cases, artists engage with pedagogical methods directly—facilitation, school-building, or even lectures, for example. In other cases, they may be catalyzing learning or practicing nuanced pedagogical approaches without necessarily knowing or naming it. And still other artists explore whether their works of art can—and actually do—affect a sort of social change in which learning often plays a significant role.

There is a compelling, promising, but also challenging, pedagogical dimension to works of socially engaged, public participatory, and civic art. In some cases, these artists ask if their projects can—and actually do—provoke significant learning. Others may catalyze learning or practice nuanced pedagogical approaches to civic engagement without knowing it. In any case, the intersections of art and learning can be rigorously examined and vividly revealed as people encounter these works of art. What is the possible trajectory of these learning experiences? And what can artists, if committed to the pedagogical dimension of their work, do to extend and enrich that engagement?

In each of these (often overlapping) situations, the intersections of art and learning are often  vividly revealed—and can be rigorously examined—as people encounter and engage with these works of art. This workshop will explore the possible trajectory of such learning experiences and what artists, when committed to the pedagogical dimension of their work, do to extend and enrich that engagement. Finally, we will consider the possibility that learning may be both a central goal and an essential human process engaged by these works of art. 

This two-day, intensive gathering will bring together socially engaged and public participatory artists, educators, and cultivators of civic life and agency to explore the state of our collective understanding of the role of pedagogy in and through works of contemporary art. These sessions will be framed by a series of questions and will be structured as a series of conversations, experiments, and explorations. We will look at issues related to the temporal, spatial, and social dimensions of learning, as well as issues related to the role engagement, curiosity, inquiry, imagination, and reflection in these art/learning experiences.