Building vibrant communities is high on social and civic agendas. Models of programs and projects are increasingly becoming recognized through literature, media and internet. A leading voice is New Village Press, a publishing house dedicated to producing books dealing with community building, community development, and community-based art. Lynne Elizabeth is current director of the press and one of the editors of Works of Heart. In the preface she praises the late Jane Jacobs for having the courage to include the emotion "love" as the vibrant glue for what really makes community work successful and the inspiration for the book's title.
In this small, power-packed, inspirational book there are nine case studies which demonstrate the potential and possibilities in community-based arts projects. Easily accessible and informative, it is a benefit for students, artists, educators, designers, planners, civic leaders, non-profit professionals, and volunteers interested or involved in community endeavors. This compendium illustrates initiatives for grassroots community building through the arts. It comes from community membership infused with passion and caring to make their corner of the world a little better. It speaks of the interactions, the struggles, the joys, and the ultimate sense of satisfaction in making a difference in a community.
Tom Borrup, a New Village Press author cited below, in the book's introduction, entitled "Creating Community with What's Underfoot" credits the artists profiled in the book for their propensity for attention to their surroundings.
...They notice the sights, sounds, and experiences of everyday life and use them as source materials. They find value in what others overlook....The artists in this book all share a common quality: They bring together generosity of the heart with the ability to dig deep to find the vision, the wherewithal and the raw materials to improve life in the communities and world in which they live (Elizabeth 2006, 11).
Individuals interested in sustainability will find creative impulses sparked by the resourcefulness of material usage and adaptability in the projects.
Works of Heart is a tribute not only to the communities with the courage to engage in forward-thinking approaches for community change but to the artists who participated in the projects. The artists, as agents of social change, become stewards of their community. Passion drives the artists to discover unusual resources. Their organizational skills (including engaging the community at large and coordinating the project) and perseverance are paramount for the success of the project. Evidence of their commitment, dedication and ingenuity are common to all the projects. The community-based artist moves from the "me" in individual creative endeavors to the "we" in community collaborations. Through their vision, problems and issues become awe-inspiring artistic statements. The brilliant examples of their community projects in this book serve to encourage project managers to include artists in initial design and planning, and to provide inspiration for future community projects.
The table of contents organizes the nine exemplary projects under three different categories: Creating Place, Celebrating Culture, and Artist as Activist. For easy reference, each project has a brief description of its scope. This brief synopsis provides quick identification of cases for readers with similar interests.
In Works of Heart, each project description includes salient information such as location, organization, artist(s), process, financing, materials, and anecdotal information, as well as outstanding color photographs and resource information. The included projects demonstrate a broad spectrum of scope, complexity, scale, diversity, and geographic location: A beehive collective in Maine tackling global economic issues; Fairplay Middle School in Oregon getting a facelift with mud murals; an expressive garden refuge for a cancer center in San Francisco; an international art and poetry contest based in Berkeley to bring understanding of the natural landscape; an artist's journey into the Bronx, celebrating its rich Italian cultural heritage; a faith-based quilting project in Boston; the salvaging of an abandoned soap factory in Minneapolis for an emerging artist art gallery; the transformation of abandoned lot in Philadelphia into the Village of Arts and Humanities (winner if the 2001 Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence), and the Vancouver-based Public Dreams Society creating community "magical events, traditions, and rituals."
Works of Heart is a feel-good book and a valuable reference, especially for practicum work. Its strengths include the fact that it is a beautifully illustrated documentary of outstanding community projects, and that it is indexed and has a community-based arts resources directory. Borrup's and Goldbard's books noted below provide more theoretical information on community building and development.
Goldbard, Arlene (2006). New Creative Community: The Art of Cultural Development. Oakland, California: New Village Press.
Borrup, Tom (2006). The Creative Community Builder's Handbook: How to Transform Communities Using Local Assets, Arts, and Culture. Minnesota: Fieldstone Alliance.
Knight, Keith and Mat Schwarzman (2005). Beginner's Guide to Community-Based Arts. Oakland, California: New Village Press.
Evidence of Humanity web site includes Works of Heart in the Arts category.
Elsie Wood received her Masters of Education in the field of Creative Arts in Learning from Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She is currently Executive Director of the non-profit organization Society for Creative Aging in Boulder, Colorado and coordinator of the Intergenerational Mural Project for the Children, Youth, and Environments Center at the University of Colorado Environmental Design Department. She has over 30 years' experience in the creative arts as a sculptor, including participating in international sculpture symposia, producing, exhibiting, lecturing on, writing about, and teaching art; and has experience in organizational management in various capacities, including founding several art organizations, strategic planning, facilitating meetings, conferences, and symposia. Her interests include developing and facilitating community-based creative arts programming; promoting creativity in aging; research and training in the creative process and public art projects, specifically sculpture.
--Elsie Wood "Chidren, Youth and Environment "show more