Transforming dialogues through ecologies of practice in art, education and the cultural sphere

Donna Mathewson Mitchell, Kim Snepvangers

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This chapter prefaces some of the key ideas and emergent practices in contemporary community engagement with a focus on ‘lived experience’ and practice. Kemmis, Edwards-Groves, Wilkinson and Jardy (2012) explore the idea that practices are living things that are interdependent on other practices and connected in ‘ecologies of practice.’ Kemmis further draws on Schatzki, to show that practices can be seen as orchestrated arrangements that are evident in the projects people pursue. Researching ecologies of practice anticipates the theoretical framework for the chapter by privileging events, networks and relationships. A discussion of how these ideas engage with contemporary art, design and media is illuminated by exemplar projects, research and field-work from the perspective of ‘insider-practitioners’, as presented within the following chapters in this book. Building on these ideas, we consider how practices, or clusters of transdisciplinary arrangements focused on community engagement prefigure the social world that those involved in projects related to art,
education and the cultural sphere engage in. We further examine the implications of this practice framework in terms of participatory practice and research creation methodologies. In this sense we trace the visual terrain, and identify spaces for a reimagining and a re-orientation of approaches to research and ecologies of practice in community engagement. Case studies of community and educational initiatives, research projects and partnerships that explore the role and place of individual identity within collective social exchange are the focus of this chapter. Re-considering community connectivity is explored using concepts relevant to participation as copresence with a focus on ecologies of practice. Contingency, chance elements coupled with well-designed ‘encounters’ conceived as the beginning of new experiences have particular educational and transformative value. Accepting the unforeseen and improbability of outcomes and innovation provides a counterpoint to socially static ways of working with communities. Emergent practices structure the discussion and focus on how interventions and a decentering agenda can act against neoliberal agendas and institutional practices in the visual and performative domain. Exemplars of working “with” rather than “for” a range of diverse communities are disclosed.
Localised and contextual practices, highly valued in arts based research co-creation are juxtaposed with international methodologies to reveal new possibilities in transformative pedagogy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBeyond community engagement
Subtitle of host publicationTransforming dialogues in art, education and the cultural sphere
EditorsDonna Mathewson Mitchell, Kim Snepvangers
Place of PublicationChampaigne, ILL
PublisherCommon Ground
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9781863350037
ISBN (Print)9781863350020 , 9781863350013
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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