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

April 2018

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? The Four Publics Project was founded to explore questions emerging at the intersection of four publics—public spaces, public art, public learning, and public life. Established out of work at Project Zero (PZ) and the Arts in Education (AIE) program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE), the project aims to understand and support the role of pedagogy in socially-engaged, public participatory, and civic arts forms. This workshop will bring together leading artists, designers, educators and cultivators of civic agency to explore the state of our collective understanding of learning with and through works of contemporary art in shared experiences and public spaces. Our primary focus will be on micro moments of initial engagement with these art works, how those moments might lead to deeper learning, and what it takes to increase the likelihood that both initial engagement and subsequent learning will take place.

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