Summer 2015 Newsletter: Judith Marcuse / ICASC / ASC!
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Greetings from Judith Marcuse

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

It’s easy — and some would say completely reasonable — to become cynical, pessimistic and even paralysed as our planet is pillaged, as democracies, including our own, are dismantled at lightning speed and we drown in a sea of consumerism.
But we also know that a groundswell of innovative strategies, including arts-infused change-making, is providing ways to move from bemoaning the state of the world to imagining how it could be and taking action to achieve it. I have been thinking about the complicated relationships between individuals, communities (however we define them) and larger systems change. How important is it that we consider the impact of our activities (all of them!) in these different frames, both the close-up and the wide shot?
As I write a keynote talk for an audience of artists and social entrepreneurs, the power of coalitions and collaboration surfaces for me as a central theme. Who needs to be in the room if we are to challenge systems of power and control that serve the few? How to create dialogue with people with whom we fundamentally disagree? Do we even try? Where does art for social change fit into this larger picture?
Just a few questions to ponder during our so-welcome summer months!

I send best wishes to you for a summer of pleasures and some time for quiet reflection.

Dr. Judith Marcuse, LL.D(Hons.)
ASC! Project Director

Read her ASC! Project biography.


Upcoming Events


Art for Social Change Summer Intensive Workshop with Judith Marcuse
Vancouver, BC
August 22-26, 2015

Register early to ensure your participation.
For more information and to register go to

Art for Social Change Summer Intensive Workshop

Spark Creative Interventions for the Federal Election with Creative Publics!

Creative PublicsCreative Publics brings together artists, students and community members to participate in art-making inspired by social and political issues leading up to the federal election in October 2015. By facilitating four public art-making workshops, Creative Publics opens up new spaces for political expression where ideas and perspectives can be explored through creative, tactile activity. The workshops will culminate in a public art installation that will showcase what was created in the workshops and will be on display in the lobby of the SFU Harbour Centre Campus from October 12-16, 2015.
For more info visit:


Are community-based arts approaches really all that different from other participatory community-based projects?

by Dr. Annalee Yassi

Community-based arts have been promoted in many sectors of society to integrate and celebrate imaginative thinking — to help people find new ways to see and be in the world — and to promote social change. But many are asking: how and/or to what extent are such community-based arts initiatives bringing about social benefits?  What are these benefits?  And how can these be documented?  While the influence of arts as a catalyst to social change is widely known in general terms, arts practitioners are increasingly asked to substantiate, beyond anecdotal evidence, how investments in their particular arts-based community project lead to positive change.

Artists involved in community-based arts are often resistant to the “funder’s way of evaluating”. Many art for social change (ASC) practitioners passionately articulate the need to resist the dominant reductionist process of evaluation. Many express concern that the beauty and complexity of the arts would be lost if put through a traditional evaluation lens — and some argue that ASC projects should be valued based on the art itself, and not as an instrument for changing social outcomes.

But how do we know whether what we are doing has a positive social impact? How do we know that we are not unintentionally hurting someone? Or just wasting public funds that could be better spent elsewhere? Most people would agree that making grand presumptions about the positive impacts of one’s work without the tools of accountability is arrogant and irresponsible. 

There are many existing tools and frameworks for evaluating community-based projects, as well as for evaluating the quality of art-based research. There are many different methods. At one end of the spectrum, there are longitudinal quantitative evaluations — in other words, the same large groups of participants are followed over a period of time to “measure” changes in any of a variety of pre-defined attributes (personal growth, social inclusion, social engagement or a long list of other outcomes), sometimes using questionnaires that have been previously validated or tested in practice. At the other end of the spectrum, there are a myriad of innovative methods for analyzing change based on various theories of how social change is achieved — and even a larger variety of techniques that can be used depending on the theory that drives the ASC project — many using the arts themselves in the gathering of information. Our ASC! Project evaluation pod is attempting to develop tools and approaches to help ASC groups sensitively, yet rigorously, assess the particular impact of their initiative — recognizing that every context and every project is different.

Fundamentally, the starting point is being clear about for whom, of what, and for what purpose the evaluation is being conducted. Artists have historically been agents of transformative social change. Working collaboratively, sharing our experience and insights, artists today can take up this challenge, as long as we dare to think critically. Let’s do this — together! 

*** Please send any examples you have, or know about, of evaluations of ASC projects that you think have been done well, or in a particularly creative and interesting way. Please send them to Stephanie Parent, The ASC! research project is creating a web-resource with tools and examples of evaluations of ASC projects. Full credit will be provided. Much appreciated!

Dr. Annalee Yassi Dr. Annalee Yassi, University of British Columbia
ASC! Project Co-Investigator

Dr. Yassi leads the Evaluation "Pod" in the ASC! Project.
Read her ASC! Project biography.

News from the Field: ASC! Project Co-Investigator Anne Flynn Makes Leaps and Bounds with Dance and Parkinson Disease

Anne Flynn has been working to develop the Dancing Parkinson program in Calgary since 2013 when she conducted a six-week pilot program with a group of 25 participants. Collaborating with Decidedly Jazz Danceworks Founder-in-Residence, Vicki Adams Willis, the two created class content to reflect their respective backgrounds in improvisation/kinesiology and jazz. The success of the pilot program attracted support from the Rozsa Foundation and Parkinson Alberta for the 2013-14 season (as well as the ASC! Project supporting a pilot research study), and continuing support from the Rozsa Foundation allowed for an expanded season in 2014-15. Planning is now underway for the 2015-16 season of classes.

In the Fall of 2014, the Movement Disorder Clinic in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Calgary appointed Dr. Oury Monchi as Director and Tourmaline Chair for Parkinson Research. Dr. Monchi was aware of other dance and Parkinson programs, and immediately made a connection to the Calgary program by attending class and speaking with participants. Impressed with the program, Monchi began conversations about developing further research, and making a more formal connection to the Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI). In February 2015, Anne Flynn was appointed a Research Associate in the Hotchkiss Brain Institute allowing for a formal connection between the Dancing Parkinson program, the HBI and the Movement Disorder Clinic. On May 28, Flynn gave a presentation to members of the Movement Disorder Clinic, along with Dr. Afra Foroud, a neuroscience researcher working on the pilot research study conducted in 2013-14. More meetings are scheduled to talk about ways that the Dancing Parkinson program can further develop the exciting ASC! partnership that has come together with the University of Calgary, Decidedly Jazz Danceworks and the Rozsa Foundation.

Anne Flynn

Anne Flynn, University of Calgary
ASC! Project Co-Investigator
Leader, Urban Dance Connect Field Study

Read her ASC! Project biography.


Against the Wall: Women, Politics, and Graffiti in Egypt

By Stephanie Perrin

Egyptian Women Graffiti Artists: Art and Social ChangeHistory often forgets revolutionary women, but Arab Spring Egypt features their involvement front and centre, building on the nation’s long history of women’s activism. Despite their enormous contributions to what has been contentiously called a “revolution,” scholars and activists have found that in post-Mubarak Egypt, women’s rights have declined (Olimat, 2014). While 99% of Egyptian women report having experienced some form of sexual harassment in their lives, since January 2011, new and brutal forms of violence, including strip searches, gang rapes, and virginity tests, have been used to deter protesting women (Abaza, 2013Al Jazeera, 2015).

Some of the women and men who have fought for change since January 25, 2011 are using spray cans to mark their place in public memory and to protest ongoing gender inequality. Graffiti is particularly effective in challenging the status quo, as it facilitates public dialogue while revealing individual and community attitudes that are silenced elsewhere (Rodriguez, 2003). In Egypt, murals, paste ups, and stencils feature historic women leaders and artists, mourning mothers, young women’s bodies, and calls for recognition of women’s political agency.

Creating street art is exceptionally powerful for women, and more dangerous, as it serves as a triple threat to three “masculine” spheres: graffiti, activism, and public space. Individual artists and collectives are producing graffiti that question gender politics and imagine a better future for Egyptian women. By taking control of their representation on Egypt’s walls, women have inserted themselves into street-level conversations, making “women’s issues” problematic, and unforgettable, for all Egyptians.

Stephanie Perrin, Simon Fraser University
ASC! Project Research Assistant

Read her ASC! Project biography.


Latest from Judith Marcuse

In addition to heading up the ASC! Research Project, Judith Marcuse has been busy with many other activities.

In Montreal, she consulted for and taught ASC facilitation methods with the staff and managers of an organization that provides clean water for communities in the global south. She also consulted on a five-month process for the creation of a new arts and culture plan for Vancouver’s West End. Judith was, again, a guest tutor at Quest University and continues as part of the research team working in Ecuador with Circo Social. Her most recent presentations are as a keynote for Ryerson University’s Creative Catalyst conference in Toronto and at the upcoming Arts Summit 2015 in Vancouver. In collaboration with Ashoka Canada, an ASC! Project Partner, she co-convened a dialogue that brought together people working in the fields of ASC and social innovation/social enterprise in Toronto, the first of four such events across Canada. Lastly, digitization of Judith Marcuse Projects' (JMP) extensive, decades-worth of archives is well underway, a project that will eventually make these materials available to the public through the Special Collections Library at Simon Fraser University. A busy time, indeed!   

Copyright © 2015 Judith Marcuse Projects / Int'l Centre of Art for Social Change (ICASC), All rights reserved.

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