Making a Difference: Social Art Practice and Higher Education

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventOrganising a conference


This event brought together students, artists, lecturers and researchers from the UK, Ireland, Cyprus and the USA. The Virtual Symposium broadly examined the subject of social art practice in art and higher education as a way to make a difference in society, sharing and discussing projects in progress by students and practitioners from diverse communities. Importantly it provided a forum for students in the field of socially engaged art to meet other students, practitioners and academics working within national and international contexts.

The Keynote Speaker, Grant Kester, is highly eminent in the field of social art practice. He is a Professor of Art History in the Visual Arts department at the University of California at San Diego and the founding editor of FIELD: A Journal of Socially Engaged Art Criticism. His publications include Art, Activism and Oppositionality: Essays from Afterimage (Duke University Press, 1998), Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art (University of California Press, 2004),The One and the Many: Contemporary Collaborative Art in a Global Context (Duke University Press, 2011) and Collective Situations: Readings in Contemporary Latin American Art 1995-2010, co-edited with Bill Kelley (Duke University Press, 2017). His current book project is Autonomy and Answerability: The Aesthetics of Socially Engaged Art.

Other speakers included Dr Perdita Phillips, a contemporary artist based in Australia, and Dr Evanthia Tselika, a visual arts researcher/writer, produce and educator, and Assistant Professor/Fine Art Programme Coordinator at the University of Nicosia Cyprus.

This event was hosted by the MA Art and Social Practice, located in the Centre for Rural Creativity, Shetland College University of the Highlands and Islands. It was the fourth Virtual Symposium organised by Shetland College UHI since 2014. In 2015 the School of Art and Design at Middlesex University took the lead and we co-organised the event with the aim of becoming an annual international event which will promote dialogue and exchange while instigating an ongoing network for emerging artists in this expanding field of practice.

The theme this year looked at socially engaged art in higher education as a means to make a difference. It links to the idea generated by the MA Programme Leaders who participated in the panel, Socially Engaged Art and Higher Education at the Social Art Summit, Sheffield, November 2018, to form a network for artists teaching socially engaged art in higher education. These are all artists who want to make a difference, and who have all created and developed these MA programmes by drawing on values and methods fundamental to their art practices. This Symposium marked the move to mobilise a global network for artists working in higher education in the field of social art practice.
Period14 Mar 2019
Event typeConference
LocationShetland, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational