University of Lethbridge professor Lisa Doolittle will be the Teaching and Learning Research Coordinator for the Art for Social Change (ASC) project, a five-year national research program that will examine the effectiveness of using the arts as a means of community engagement and to encourage positive social change.
Doolittle, a professor of theatre in the Faculty of Fine Arts, will oversee the implementation, data-collection, analysis and reporting on the Teaching and Learning component of the project.
With $2.5 million dollars in funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) through its Partnership Program, Art for Social Change: A Research Partnership in Teaching, Evaluation and Capacity-Building, the research project is considered the first large-scale, systemic project of its kind in Canada.
“To be involved in this is an amazing opportunity for myself, my colleagues, research assistants and the University of Lethbridge, as well as community service organizations, and artists,” says Doolittle.
“We will have the opportunity to bring in at least two master’s students and one PhD candidate to assist with the research and because of the University’s emphasis on liberal education, and a commitment to community engagement in its strategic plan, we are in an ideal position to develop a hub for ASC Teaching and Learning.”
A total of 20 individual collaborators from six partnering universities, along with multiple community agencies and arts organizations are taking part in the five-year research program.
Art for social change is the application of arts-based processes to address issues of social concern and to encourage social innovation.
The current partnership is based on a long-standing relationship, formalized in 2007, when Judith Marcuse Projects (JMP), an arts organization with over 30 years of ASC experience, entered into a unique agreement with Simon Fraser University (SFU) to create the International Centre of Art for Social Change.
That partnership has now been extended to include students and community members from across the country, creating a breadth of data on ASC practice never before realized.
“We’ve known for years that the arts are an effective form of initiating change. There are countless examples throughout the country where arts programs are used as a way to connect and engage communities but there has been very little evaluation of why and how these programs are effective,” says Doolittle.
“With this project we want to first evaluate these successes and develop best practices for the implementation of art for social change programs, we want to build national capacity between educational institutions, community-based artists and arts organizations and non-arts organizations in the development and delivery of ASC and finally, we want to create and provide a range of accessible online resources for those working in ASC as well as others interested in learning about the field.”
Doolittle will oversee the research and the eventual implementation of new teaching and learning practices, with considerable campus support by Dr. Cynthia Chambers, Dr. Erika Hasebe-Ludt and Ramona Big Head of the Faculty of Education, Dr. Jean Harrowing of the Faculty of Health Sciences, Dr. Rachel Crowder who teaches at the U of L for the Faculty of Social Work, University of Calgary, and the on-campus Teaching Centre. U of L alumna (BFA, MEd) Candace Lewko contributes an additional perspective from the context of her position as curriculum consultant, Educational Enhancement Team, The Centre for Teaching, Learning & Innovation at Lethbridge College.
“It’s vitally important that once we do the research and collect the data, that we ensure this project is sustainable by properly teaching a new generation of educators, artists and community members about how to best administer ASC programs,” says Doolittle. “Only then will we see an ongoing benefit from this research and these programs.”