community arts education, arts-based digital storytelling, community-based research

From Theory to Action: Dr. Ching-Chiu Lin's Visionary Approach to Community Arts Education

September 08, 2023
by Quincy Wang

Dr. Ching-Chiu Lin is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University. Her research interests encompass community art education, digital media and learning through art, and art teacher education. Ching has been actively engaged in scholarship since 2011, much of her research funded by SSHRC. She highlights visual methods such as photovoice, graphic novels, participatory videos, video case studies, and digital story-telling—all within the framework of arts-based educational research.

As principal investigator for Re-storying Community: Arts-Based Digital Storytelling for Community Inquiry (awarded $493,608 by the Tri-agency Institutional Programs Secretariat (TIPS)—New Frontiers in Research Fund – Special Call: Research for Post-Pandemic Recovery), Dr. Lin is positioned as a high-ranking researcher, recognized for her scholarly work of connecting art education knowledge into community practices. In collaboration with Dr. Kristiina Kumpulainen, Dr. Cher Hill, Dr. Suzanne Smythe and other researchers outside of SFU, this project investigates youth engagement and community participation through arts-based digital storytelling. Drawing on Dr. Lin’s research into community as a space of knowledge production, this project explores how arts-based digital storytelling in community spaces can be an integral part of global post-pandemic recovery.

What makes this research unique is its empirical method of unique community sites of learning in Bhutan, Canada, and Nepal to address global challenges, particularly in underrepresented communities. With Dr. Lin’s research leadership and vision, the “Re-storying Community” project has established a Canadian-led international network of researchers and practitioners on digital storytelling as an act of inquiry into sustainable living and pedagogy. This project also seeks to develop insights into how youth, educators, researchers, and community members can contribute to post-pandemic recovery through local-global connectedness. The act of re-storying meaningfully fosters knowledge exchanges and resource co-creation for community resilience, development, and transformation through artistic creation and digital narratives. Most importantly, this research responds to the UN socio-economic recovery framework and offers a collaborative model that explicitly links academic research and community practices.

In keeping with her focus on community-based research, Dr. Lin has also partnered with MOSAIC, one of the largest non-profit settlement organizations in Canada, servicing immigrant, refugee, migrant, and non-mainstream communities in Greater Vancouver and throughout British Columbia, for a SSHRC Partnership Engage Grant research project entitled Storied Lives: An Impact Study of COVID-19 on Seniors and Their Community Support Services. This study, centred on arts-based knowledge co-creation and dissemination, aims to capture the complex views and experiences of immigrant seniors during the pandemic by insightfully documenting the perspectives and encounters of these seniors’ social connectedness. The unique research method considers narrative inquiry as an expanded genre of arts-based research that values stories both as data and outputs. Dr. Lin’s approach highlights how social interaction plays a pivotal role in facilitating, fostering, promoting, and enhancing seniors' well-being during the pandemic. The findings not only suggest ways of enhancing seniors’ digital literacy but also provide valuable strategies for community service agencies to design and implement programs tailored to seniors’ needs. “We hope,” Dr. Lin says, “that these stories will raise social awareness of the inequalities the pandemic has revealed and invite the public to rethink perceptions and strategies of social inclusion and support for seniors.”

Supported by Simon Fraser University’s David Lam Centre (DLC), Dr. Lin curated an exhibit in March 2023 showcasing senior immigrants’ story portraits. This augmented reality infused exhibit presented how the pandemic amplified a range of social inequalities through seniors’ stories and inviteed us to rethink our preconceptions surrounding social inclusion and support mechanisms for seniors. This research-creation endeavor received attention from FairChild TV, further attesting to its meaningful social impact.

Strongly underscoring Dr. Lin’s dedication to community-based arts education are her publications. One of her most significant, released this September, is the co-edited book Community Arts Education: Transversal Global Perspectives (Intellect), which offers a worldwide view of the transverse, boundary-crossing possibilities of community arts education. This collection, featuring 55 authors from 16 countries, embraces the concept of “transversality” as both a comprehensive theoretical framework and a guiding methodological structure. The authors include community professionals, scholars, artists, educators, and activists, coming together to present rich studies and practical cases that delve into the complexities of community arts education.

Seen through a transversal lens, this collection—shepherded by Dr. Lin—deepens our understanding of knowledge from a passive construct to an active catalyst within social dynamics and advocates arts education as a distinct practice arising from the intricate bonds that shape communities. Addressing the challenges raised by globalization, this book underscores how arts education functions as an indispensable societal force, fostering collaborative artistic research, contemplation, and action.

According to Dr. Carl-Peter Buschkühl, professor of Art Education at Justus-Liebig-University Giessen in Germany, this book offers insights into ways in which arts education is irreplaceable as a driving social influence. Dr. Glen Coutts, professor at the University of Lapland and President of the International Society for Education through Art, praises the book as a remarkable accomplishment. He highlights its focus on the intricate connections, practices, and relationships that define effective community and community-based arts education across diverse global contexts.

One of the most significant impacts of Dr. Lin's research is that it highlights the importance of embracing community engagement in arts education. Her scholarship enhances our comprehension of the critical role social interaction plays in arts education, amplifies awareness of inequalities in global challenges, and offers arts-based solutions based on innovative research theories and outcomes. That her research has been showcased by media such as FairChild TV and Vancouver Sun not only testifies to her contributions but illuminates the profound impact of community-based art education, transforming theoretical ideals into tangible impacts that reverberate across global landscapes.