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Community arts, also sometimes known as "dialogical art", "community-engaged" or "community-based art," refers to artistic activity based in a community setting. Works from this genre can be of any media and is characterized by interaction or dialogue with the community. Often professional artists collaborate with people who may not otherwise normally actively engage in the arts. The term was defined in the late-1960s and spawned a movement which grew in the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Australia. In Scandinavia, the term "community art" means more often contemporary art project.
Often community art is based in economically deprived areas, with a community-oriented, grassroots approach. Members of a local community will come together to express concerns or issues through an artistic process, sometimes this may involve professional artists or actors. These communal artistic processes act as a catalyst to trigger events or changes within a community or even at a national or international level.
In English-speaking countries, community art is often seen as the work of community arts centre. Visual arts (fine art, video, new media art), music, and theater are common mediums in community art centers. Many arts companies in the UK do some community-based work, which typically involves developing participation by non-professional members of local communities.
The term "community art" refers also to the field of community, neighbourhood and public art practice with roots in social justice and popular and informal education methods. In the art world, community art signifies a particular art making practice, emphasizing community involvement and collaboration. Community art is most often art for social change and involves some empowerment of the community members who come together to create artwork/s with artists. This is a growing national, international, regional and local field. Recently community arts and sustainability work or environmental action have begun to interface, including urban revitalization projects creating artwork at a neighbourhood level.
Models of community-engaged arts can vary with three forms of collaborative practices emerging from among the sets of common practices. In the artist-driven model, artists are seen as the catalysts for social change through the social commentary addressed in their works. A muralist whose work elicits and sustains political dialogue would be a practitioner of this model. In the second model, artists engage with community groups to facilitate specialized forms of art creation, often with the goal of presenting the work in a public forum to promote awareness and to further discourse within a larger community. In the process-driven or dialogic model, artists may engage with a group in order to facilitate an artistic process that addresses particular concerns specific to the group. The use of an artistic process (such as dance or social circus) for problem-solving, therapeutic, group-empowerment or strategic planning purposes may result in artistic works that are not intended for public presentation. In the second and third models, the individuals who collaborate on the artistic creation may not define themselves as artists but are considered practitioners of an art-making process that produces social change.
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