Methodologies of socially engaged art: process, politics and practice

  • McNally, Danny (PI)

Project: Research

Project Details


The project answers a wider call for a more rigorous and nuanced account of ‘relational aesthetics’ and ‘participatory arts’ through the use of research methods such as ethnography (Kester 2011; McNally 2015). Socially engaged art practice, which places a distinct emphasis on the process of creative collaboration between an artist and service user group, has all too often been thought of in broad terms (e.g. Bourriaud 1998), with the precise methods and techniques of socially engaged artists overlooked. In fact, the approaches that artists take are varied, complex and specific, the intricacies of which affect the type of artwork produced (Bishop 2012). The project aims to rectify this generalised understanding of socially engaged artists and highlight how a richer understanding of such work can enable more successful collaborations to occur between art institutions, artists and service user groups.

The project seeks to add detail and nuance through an investigation into the unique methodologies of two prominent socially engaged artists, Sarah Cole and Barby Asante. Combining in-depth interviews and archival research on the artists’ past work, the project will produce a report to highlight the individual specificity of their approaches, pull out common methodological thematics, and show how a deeper understanding of artistic methods can enhance the social impact of cultural institutions.
Effective start/end date1/01/1630/06/16


  • Socially engaged art, methods, Geography