Assessing the Impact of Artistic Activism

Stephen Duncombe, George Perlov, Steve Lambert, and Sarah J. Halford

At the heart of this exploration are three sets of concerns. The first is a Theory of Change. Upon what theory, or theories, of change is artistic activism based? The second set of concerns have to do with Intention and Expectation. How do practitioners think their practice works? And what do artistic activists hope to have happen once they’ve done their intervention? The final concern has to do with Assessment, that is, what actually does happen as the result of an artistic activist intervention, how do we know, and can it be measured?

We will be approaching these questions from two perspectives: top-down and bottom-up. From “the top” we will be surveying several sets of literature: critical theories on the relationship between arts and social change, studies on assessment from other fields concerned with creative impact such as social marketing and documentary film, and reports produced by or for arts and activist organizations. Yet as important as such theories and studies are, we believe strongly that critical knowledge is also generated from the bottom up. Artistic activists, themselves, act upon implicit and explicit ideas of what works and what doesn’t. In this way they are constantly creating, and reflecting upon, theories of change and methodologies of assessment.

Source: Article Introduction