June 03, 2013

New initiative to advance art for social change


A partnership between Simon Fraser University and Vancouver’s Judith Marcuse Projects created five years ago to support art for social change (ASC) has received a $2.5 million project grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

Judith Marcuse, a creative force in Canada’s dance and cultural communities for more than four decades, will lead the new five-year initiative titled Art for Social Change: A Research Partnership in Teaching, Evaluation and Capacity-Building.

“It’s very difficult for young people wanting to get involved in ASC today as there are very few training and professional development programs in Canada,” says Marcuse, an SFU education adjunct professor.

“This SSHRC grant will help us change that.”

She says the project is the first large-scale systemic project of its kind in Canada.

“The resources we create will benefit not only artist-researchers but also individuals and organizations in diverse sectors who are already using arts-based practices as well as those who are interested in integrating these approaches in their work for positive change.”

 She says Canadian scholars, practitioners, funders and policymakers have virtually no nationally focused, integrated resources to inform them about effective practices and strategies for teaching and learning, models for evaluation or the creation of inclusive, sustainable partnerships in the ASC field.

Marcuse says there is a newly developed six-course program in Arts for Social Change, involving four SFU faculties, that is waiting in the wings.

“Our hope is that the program will be delivered at SFU but accessible as well to other institutions.”

 “Judith and her team are creating a space for inquiry, dialogue, reflection and action on arts for social change that will further develop and promote sustainable, active and creative communities, both at home and abroad,” says SFU VP Research Mario Pinto.

Marcuse’s career as a celebrated dancer, choreographer and producer includes hundreds of original dance, theatre, opera, film, television and other works. She had been recognized for her contribution with two leading national awards for choreography, and an SFU honorary degree in 2000. In 2011 she was elected a Senior Fellow of Ashoka International.

Today her focus includes education and social activism.

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