Art and Social Survival: Activist Art Education within an Urban Public School System
“Art and Social Survival: Activist Art Education within an Urban Public School System”
By Kimberley Campisano
This paper will present examples of student artworks and pedagogical practices that address personal identity, socio-political issues, and metaphors for survival among disadvantaged youth in late adolescence to early adulthood. It will also identify the need for and role of youth advocates and artist-mentors in America today who can provide strategies for challenging the assumptions of a consumer-based society.
In any settings, but particular to this writer’s experience among urban teens largely labeled “at-risk” (disadvantaged socially, economically, linguistically, physically, psychologically), art can function as empowerment, escape, vandalism, emancipation and more. This can be the praxis of liberation and transformation or a source of frustration. Often though, the ability to leave one’s mark – on a wall, a skateboard, a ‘zine or a website – is an opportunity to become (and become recognized) as participant or operator of culture, a chance to turn from being a demographic object and consumer into an agent and producer.
Contemporary artists must understand how their position in society affects the work they do and vice-versa. Such is true of educators. Art and creative communication are primary means of cultural sustenance, examples of a ceaseless struggle to find or create meaning.
The practice of and reflection on art and creative communication is essential to meaningful participation in society. The problem-solving strategies as well as deep observational and perceptual modes engaged in during the art process parallel those of other life experiences. These practices incorporate higher order thinking skills, which are often crucial to the physical and cultural survival of the youth with which urban educators work. All constructions are acts of salvation – all the more necessary where survival itself is threatened.
Keywords: Activist Art Education, Art and Social Survival, Urban Youth, Cultural Sustenance, Art As Empowerment
Ms. Kimberley Campisano
Instructor and Art Department Chair, Art Department, Mission High School San Francisco