Socially engaged art practice – a responsibility towards care

What responsibilities to the audience do artists have when presenting complex socially engaged work in a public space?

There is a well-documented social turn happening within the arts. This can be seen in festival programming, creative recovery, arts/health and funding models that increasingly require artistic and community outcomes to align. As we see terms such as “socially engaged practice” and “social change” being used more frequently within global art contexts, let’s take a moment to consider the rigour with which we interrogate these claims of social engagement and social change.

As a regionally-based organisation, the Cad Factory has spent many years delivering work in local, national and global contexts with the aim of developing ways for diverse voices to be part of our national story. We’re not a regional arts organisation trying to generate alternative pathways for inclusion in mainstream (capital city) art establishments. Instead, we are attempting to rethink the role of the arts within our contemporary world.

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Vic McEwan is an Artist and Artistic Director of The Cad Factory, a regionally-based arts organisation currently running a multi-year program called The CASE Incubator, which nurtures a community of practice for socially engaged artists. He is also a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney under the supervision of Dr Susan Coulson PhD (Health Sciences), Dr Claire Hooker PhD (Sydney Health Ethics) and Dr Paul Dwyer PhD (Performance Studies). He currently has a solo show 'Haunting' on exhibition at the National Museum of Australia.