"Learning About Where You Are": Pedagogies of Place and Placemaking in an Urban Community Art Studio
CitationFei, Jessica. 2018. "Learning About Where You Are": Pedagogies of Place and Placemaking in an Urban Community Art Studio. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard Graduate School of Education.
AbstractIn recent decades, the concepts of place and placemaking have become influential for practitioners in numerous fields, including the arts, community development, and education. While pedagogies of place and placemaking are not dominant in contemporary American public schools, they are increasingly popular in community-based organizations and youth arts programs. In these settings, place-based initiatives often seek to improve the well-being of local communities through creative, collaborative responses to local issues. Such engagement with place can support the aims of youth development and liberatory education. Critical pedagogies of place and placemaking can be especially transformative for youth from historically marginalized groups. Yet few studies have examined what these pedagogies look like in practice, and little is known about the perspectives and experiences of youth and adults involved in place-based work.
Responding to these gaps in the literature, I conducted an in-depth qualitative study of an urban community art studio that offers youth programs oriented around place and placemaking. Guided by portraiture, my dissertation draws from participant observation, document analysis, and interviews (n=30) to construct a holistic view of the place-based practices at this research site. I find that place-based work was occurring in deliberate and organic forms, and in multiple arenas at once: young people practiced placemaking through shaping the structures and values of the organization, through dialogue and reflection upon their communities during their classes, and through physically exploring local neighborhoods outside of the art studio. Teaching artists used pedagogies of place to foster a culturally responsive space in which students could discuss their lived experiences, recognize difference, connect with others, and become more observant of their surroundings. My findings also reveal challenges related to power, positionality, and purpose that can arise with place-based work in urban settings that are deeply shaped by inequality and segregation. Ultimately, this research highlights the need for critical pedagogies of place and placemaking to be guided by values of inclusion and respect, and to be centered on equitable power-sharing and authentic relationships—both between youth and adults, and between artists and local communities.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:37679888