Community-Based Art Can Be a Significant Force for Social Change

great-wall-of-los-angelesThe Great Wall of Los Angeles depicts the history of LA, with special emphasis on Native Americans and minorities.

Written by Tim Takechi 

from The official blog of Global Visionaries

The arts are supposed to be a vehicle for social change. So why doesn’t it seem like it?

As school districts and universities across the country face massive budget cuts from federal and state governments, funding for the arts (including both performance-based and visual) is expected to be threatened.

After all, doesn’t it make sense to cut programs that don’t help our students improve math and science test scores? How does your skill with a paint brush or violin help you make advances in environmental engineering? Or compete with China? Or India? You get the idea.

So before we delve into an obvious rant about how the arts are essential to a healthy society, it is important to note that critics have a strong argument for wanting to focus more attention on math and science.

American students are our future. As the Baby Boomer generation starts to approach retirement age, there will soon be a large talent gap in important areas of social infrastructure such as education and engineering.

It is important that we have plenty of fresh young minds take over these jobs when the present generation decides to leave. Now you can see why certain government officials have little problem cutting music, theatre and visual arts funding.

So what can be done to preserve our nation’s artistic output given these shrinking budgets?

That’s where community-based art comes into play.

What is community-based art, you may ask? Let us explain:

Community-based art is any art created with the purpose of engaging a particular community (defined by any geographical or demographic boundaries you see fit) into a larger dialogue with the purpose of generating positive change.

A great example of a community-based arts organization is The Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC), an organization serving the larger Los Angeles area. SPARC strives to give a voice to and celebrate LA’s ethnically and economically diverse population. They focus especially on “women, the working poor, youth, the elderly and newly arrived immigrant communities.”

One of SPARC’s most famous projects is The Great Wall of Los Angeles, a half a mile long wall featuring artwork encouraging interracial harmony.

Also check out Jumblies Theatre located in Toronto, Canada. Jumblies is dedicated to building relationships between multicultural artists and their larger community through partnerships, arts ventures, education and workshops.

Consider Jumblies’ most recent venture, The Scarborough Project. It is a community arts training program based in one of Toronto’s most ethnically diverse municipalities. Reaching out to Scarborough’s large immigrant population, Jumblies works to empower the community through artistic expression.

Closer to home, Barbara Luecke is the Sound Transit Art Program Manager and parent of a former Global Visionaries participant. Since 2006, Barbara has overseen and coordinated more than 50 arts projects integrated in light rail, commuter rail and bus express facilities all over Seattle.

One striking piece of art that can be found at a Light Rail station is a sculpture entitled “Rainier Beach Haiku” designed by Japanese-American artist and retired university professor Roger Shimomura. Located at the Othello Station in Rainier Valley, Shimomura’s humorous sculpture explores the difficulty of living in two different cultures at the same time.

rainier-beach-haiku“Rainier Beach Haiku” by Japanese-American artist Roger Shimomura sits at the Othello Station.

4Culture, a cultural service agency serving the King County area, kicked off their 2010 Site-Specific series by hosting the Red Eagle Soaring Native Youth Theatre’s musical re-enactment of the 1970 historical take-over of Fort Lawton.

Red Eagle Soaring Native Youth Theatre engages “Native Indian and Alaskan Native youth to express themselves with confidence and clarity through traditional and contemporary performing arts.” RES has staged more than 130 productions with youth ages 11-19.

All these organizations will agree that it’s better for people to express themselves through art than violence. Too often marginalized folks feel the only way they can empower themselves is by committing crimes against society. The people of SPARC and Jumblies Theatre want to reverse that by creating public art in a spirit of inclusiveness.

Organizations such as Arts Corps and 4Culture do not in any way represent an alternative to public school arts programs. Instead, they illustrate that there are other venues for empowering young people to artistically express themselves that go beyond the four walls of a school building.

wing-luke-asian-museumWing Luke Asian Museum features art created by Asian-American artists.

These organizations, like all nonprofits, are funded through a combination of public and private money. None of these folks are out to get rich. That is not why they do what they do. People like Barbara Luecke and Roger Shimomura are motivated by a desire to improve communities through arts engagement.  Too often communities are forced to come together after tragedies like natural disasters and violent acts.

Community-based art is a fantastic way for people from diverse backgrounds to come together in a healthy, constructive and vibrant manner.

If your local school is planning to cut funding for the arts, don’t be afraid that our artistic legacy is lost. There is reason to have hope. In times of need, sometimes all it takes are a dedicated group of people, a dream and the will to make magic happen.

Obviously, it is preferable that funding for the arts continues in public schools. But if that doesn’t seem possible, don’t feel like it’s a lost cause.

Just research all the projects mentioned above. Most of them started on a shoe-string budget and continue to exist today. Unfortunately, we cannot change cuts to education spending. That is left to politicians. What we can do is take heart that there are other venues for cultivating tomorrow’s artists.

They might not be found in a classroom. You might have to take a peak outside your window.

Fall Workshops

Pumpkin Painting, Carving & Designing

Have fun creating a pumpkin face or design on your very own pumpkin with paint or by carving with various tools!

All materials provided unless you wish to bring your own pumpkin to carve

Cost $ 10.00  Date: Saturday, October 20, 2012

10:00 a.m. – 12 noon  All Ages

Must sign up by 10/13/12 to participate!

 Clay Bead Workshop

Learn to create your own clay beads with polymer based clays with various colors and designs.

Create a necklace or bracelet for yourself or as a gift for the holidays!

All materials provided!

Cost $15.00 Date: Saturday, November 3, 2012  10:00 a.m. – 12 noon Ages 8 to 88

Must sign up by 10/20/12.   Class size is limited to 12.

  Fun with Paint Workshop

This workshop is all about having fun with paint!

Explore splatter painting and learn how to turn drips into art.

This workshop is all about investigating many new ways to create with paint.

This will be a fun and messy experience!

All materials provided!

Cost $10.00  Date: Saturday, November 17, 2012

Must sign up by 11/3/12. Class size is limited to 10.

Sign up today space is limited!

call 419-935-3404 or email us

email us for a pdf of this brochure.

Fall Home-school Art Class at The Art Junction

Home-school Art Classes at the Art Junction

Classes will cover art history, visual & motor skills, principals of art & design, creative thinking, basic drawing, painting and 3D art concepts as well as integrate with basic educational concepts of math, science, language and history.



Cost: $10.00 a student for 6 sessions Students are responsible for all their art materials!


Cost $25 a student for 6 sessions Instructor supplies all materials!

Date: Beginning Wednesday, September 26 – November 7, 2012

No Class on 10/17/12


3:50-4:30 pm 1st-5th grade students

4:30-5:10 pm 6th -12th grade students

Classes are limited to 12 students per session!

Home-school Art Class Materials


Glue or glue stick

Crayons box of 16

Colored pencils box of 10-12

Markers box of 8, 10, or 12

Eraser (magic rub) preferred

#2 pencil

Ebony design drawing pencil

Watercolor set

box or container to hold materials

drawing paper -either a sketchbook or a pack of copy paper




Drawing with triangles!

The home-school art class explored drawing and creating with a triangle this week.

With this week’s drawing lesson I broke the drawing down to it’s simplest components—squares, circles and triangles.

Today we focused on the triangle and how to add other shapes to the triangle.

Every young artists can draw a circle, a square or a triangle. And that’s all they need to know to be able to draw…anything!

Beginning with a simple shape the kids added shapes step by step to create several lively drawings.

I think the kids were amazed at what they could draw.

One moment you have a triangle—something anyone can draw—and the next, look what happened! It’s turned into a fantastic piece of art.

As you can see, the kids did an outstanding job in their drawing using a basic shape like the triangle. Where can they go from there? Wherever their artistic imagination will take them!