From becoming better informed to participating in public dialogue on issues, from volunteering to voting, from community organizing to political advocacy, the defining characteristic of active civic engagement is the commitment to participate and contribute to the improvement of one's community, neighborhood, and nation. Local arts agencies (LAAs) are well positioned to advance arts-based civic engagement because of their community relationships and connections. LAAs can support arts-based civic engagement efforts in a number of ways through programming, funding services and advocacy.
To assist LAAs and communities, Americans for the Arts developed Animating Democracy, a program of Americans for the Arts, to foster arts and cultural activity that encourages and enhances civic engagement and dialogue. It is based on the premise that democracy is animated when an informed public is engaged in the issues affecting people’s daily lives. The arts and humanities can contribute unique programs, settings, and creative approaches that reach new and diverse participants, stimulate public dialogue about civic issues, and inspire action to make change.
Technical assistance is available for LAAs, museums, historic sites, and community groups, arts presenters, and arts and humanities organizations seeking to develop arts- and humanities-based civic engagement activities. Animating Democracy can make referrals or design consultations and training tailored for your organization’s needs. Contact Animating Democracy if you need assistance to:
- Plan or evaluate arts- or humanities-based civic engagement initiatives.
- Provide workshops and training for cultural and community organization staff, boards, or volunteers.
- Build effective community partnerships for arts- or humanities-based civic engagement.
- Locate artists and dialogue professionals for your programs.
Animating Democracy's Project Profile Database, part of the Americans for the Arts National Arts Policy Database, summarizes success stories and best practices of arts and humanities organizations that have completed projects that engaged people concerning contemporary civic issues. Featuring case studies from the Animating Democracy Lab, as well as profiles of a wide range of projects that demonstrate the capacity of the arts and humanities to stimulate public dialogue about contemporary civic issues, this resource serves as a reference tool for professionals who are incorporating civic engagement and dialogue into practice.
Animating Democracy has developed several arts and civic engagement research reports, professional papers, and white papers including:
- Documenting Civic Engagement: A Plan for the Tucson/Pima Arts Council [PDF]
- Two-Way Mirror: Ethnography as a Way to Assess Civic Impact of Arts-Based Engagement in Tucson, AZ [PDF]
- Making the Case for Skid Row Culture: Findings from a Collaborative Inquiry by the Los Angeles Poverty Department and the Urban Institute [PDF]
- Moments of Transformation: Rha Goddess’s LOW and Understanding Social Change [PDF]
- Shifting Expectations: An Urban Planner’s Reflections on Evaluating Community-Based Arts [PDF]
- Civic Engagement and the Arts: Issues of Conceptualization and Measurement [PDF]
- Arts and Civic Engagement: Briefing Paper for the Working Group of the Arts & Civic Engagement Impact Initiative [PDF]