ASC! Art for Social Change

We seek to enable communities to collaboratively address pressing social issues by engaging in creative, arts-based processes.  By the end of this project, we envision that Canada will have a vibrant & sustainable national network of artists, academic institutions, community organizations, & individual community members to provide local & international leadership in the field.  (

Principal Investigator: Dr. Judith Marcuse
Co-Investigators: Dr. Lynn Fels (SFU), Dr. Katherine Boydell (SickKids/UofT/Black Dog Institute), Dr. Lisa Doolittle (UofL), Dr. Anne Flynn (UofC), Rachael Van Fossen (Concordia), Dr. Annalee Yassi (UBC)
Funding Agency: SHRC Partnership Grant; plus 16 official partner organizations providing cash and in-kind support

Additional Team Members: SFU: Dr. Jen Spiegel, Dr. Tracey Leacock, Dr. Patti Fraser, Kim Gilker, Tara Mahoney, Nicole Armos, Stephanie Perrin
Nationally: Additional research pesonnel are working with the Co-investigators at our Partner Universities
Advisory Committee: Dr. Ted Little (Concordia), Dr. Arlene Goldbard (consultant), Bruce Clayman (Judith Marcuse Projects)  

What's Proposed

Through a series of community-artist-university field studies, we will bring together people who would otherwise be unlikely to meet & provide opportunities for them to engage in collaborative creative processes that are inclusive of and responsive to community concerns. The SFU component will focus on Chataqua-style dialogues & 1-1 interviews with artists, representatives of community organizations, and others to develop a shared understanding of arts-based practice in effecting social change.

How This Project is Carried Out

A SSHRC Partnership Grant research project, inspired by Dr. Judith Marcuse, ASC! involves the participation of researchers from six universities, multiple community arts organizations, and community engaged artists across Canada to investigate arts for social change in Canada. The focus of the research is on teaching and learning, evaluation and partnership capacity building. Five Field study projects involving arts-based dialogue, performing arts, and social circus are being conducted along with extensive interviews with long established artists who have practiced community-engaged arts in Canada and with those who have supported their work.

ASC! is a pedagogical research project that will lead to the creation of an online Canadian textbook, teaching videos, the creation of learning institute model for the practice of arts for social change at the grassroots. Our research will enrich the resources created, and inform what matters in the field of arts for social change.

Why This Project Matters

Around the world, as part of a rapidly expanding movement, artists are creating dynamic, effective projects that embody a new understanding of civic and community engagement, providing new tools for insight and positive change. Using methods developed for art-making, painting, sculpture and photography, drama and dance, music and literature, computer-based multimedia, artists are engaging diverse communities in arts projects to imagine and pursue the changes they wish to see in their own lives and in the world around them.

This research project seeks to understand the key components of arts for social change, issues and ethical responsibilities in leading an arts for social change project, how community-engaged arts projects may be evaluated, and what factors are required in partnerships to support and enrich artists who are called to action within their communities. The pioneers of arts for social change learned through experience, wisdom that will be lost, unless they have an opportunity to share what they have learned, what matters, and best to guide a generation of artists concerned and eager to engage in arts for social change within their own communities. 

How This Project is Put into Action

We are in the early stages of this work, but already, hundreds of people across Canada have had the opportunity to engage in arts-based practices to address social issues as diverse as voter engagement, living with Parkinson’s disease, ageing well, and equity for people with developmental disabilities.   

Where to Learn More

For additional information, please visit