Social and Collaborative Art


Read this text which describes the role art can play in society and how artists often collaborate to amplify and extend the reach of their message.

Art contributes to many social functions too. Parades feature colorful banners, extravagant floats and plastic inflatable characters from pop culture. Many ceremonies and rituals rely on works of art to act as vessels for the spirit world. Totem poles tell elaborate stories, using real and mythic animals to illustrate them. The Haida totem poles pictured below have a hierarchical structure to them so that the most important character in the story is at the top of the pole.

'Haida Totems', wood and paint, no date. Collection of the Burke Museum of Natural History, Seattle

Haida Totems, wood, and paint, no date. Collection of the Burke Museum of Natural History, Seattle

In another example, one of the functions of the calabashes mentioned above is to distribute beer at social festivals and sacred rituals.

The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt pictured below combines thousands of individually created quilts, each bearing the name of a victim of AIDS, into a collective image of loss and remembrance for family members and friends. Exhibiting the quilt around the United States has brought awareness about the disease to the general public.

Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt

NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, Washington, DC

Artists sometimes work in collaboration with others that have special technical training or knowledge in a particular medium to create something they could not do on their own.

The Chicago Public Art Group is a collaborative organization creating murals, mosaics, and other artworks for public spaces. Each project carries a theme significant to its specific location: from a colorful mural seen by commuters at a rapid transit stop to Hopes and Dreams, a large mosaic panel in downtown Chicago welcoming the new millennium. Each project is unique and involves the work of many artists, planners, and volunteers.

As a final example, the Burning Man celebration at Black Rock City in Nevada draws thousands of people – artists and non-artists, during a week-long festival of art installations, performances, and elaborate costumes surrounding the construction and ultimate immolation of a massive effigy known as Burning Man. The festival's creativity and expression serve a communal social function. In the photo below, you can see the concentric layout of Black Rock City – constructed and taken down each year – with the Burning Man sculpture isolated in the middle.

'Ariel view of the Burning Man Celebration', Black Rock City, Nevada

Arial view of the Burning Man Celebration, Black Rock City, Nevada

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Source: Christopher Gildow,
Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Last modified: Wednesday, February 14, 2024, 4:13 PM