The Self-Fulfillment of Socially Engaged Art

By Blair Schulman

Alongside the recent press about a new Gilded Age of art economics (replace Carnegie and Frick with Arnault and Walton) there is a movement of socially engaged art that is gathering momentum. While some art works reach sales in the nine figures, Kansas City artist Sean Starowitz asks us to, “re-think the offering between commodity and experience.”

Starowitz is a 2014 recipient of the Charlotte Street Foundation award for his work as an activist and artist. A wide range of projects includes BREAD! KC, a microfunding concept based on the Sunday Soup Network. Offering a communal meal for a small donation, participants are introduced to artists from the community who discuss their projects. Diners then choose which project they wish to fund with donations received at the door; a successful concept that has generated over $15,000 in three years.

Byproduct: The Laundromat, includes storytelling, performances, and discussions in a Midtown Kansas City Laundromat and Fresh Bread, a pop-up bakery which travels to food deserts in Kansas City. Another project is The Dialogue Lab: Impossible Madison, a collaboration of students from the Madison Art Academy, among others, “creating a responsive exhibition investigating the reimagining of the city of Madison, Indiana, through design, public engagement, and interactive installations.” One student called Starowitz’ work a “non-transactional experience.”

He and a growing number of artists are looking to socially engaged art practices, questioning the idea that a fulfilling life and career based upon economics and collectability as their sole rubric demands re-examination.

Julia Cole, KC-based artist, educator and community activist who manages a socially engaged grants program with the Charlotte Street Foundation remarked, “I think that defining artistic success in the more traditional sense – gallery exhibits, museum shows, art fairs, collections… – clearly impacts the kinds of artists who will be drawn into a socially engaged practice…Most work in the SoPra (social practice) genre does not fit this ‘success’ profile.” It is a case of committing to communal impact that accompanies artistic fulfillment.

Starowitz’ ideas are borne of food, including how we source, fund, grow, buy and eat it.

People will do almost anything to alleviate their anxieties, accept any distraction (the internet on which you read this, television, pharmaceuticals). And food sourcing plays a major role in these anxieties. Socially engaged art, acting as both a truth-teller and a keyhole help cushion the impact towards what is becoming a moment of great decision-making affecting future generations. Environmental, political, population control and healthcare are some of the issues that all have a basis in food growth, consumption and distribution. Words like social engagement, sustainability and community are frequently bandied about as buzz words, and their inclusion in the lexicon of corporate ideology may dilute their importance, but are still words with validity nonetheless. Artists like Starowtiz challenges these paradoxes, putting ideas into actions, tasking his community to becoming equally involved.

“He’s the type of person …read more

Source: More Celeb News1

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