A good friend of mine recently shared with me a distinction to be made between “civic practice” and “social practice” as an artist.
Civic practice (to my understanding) is a situation in which my identity, experiences, and skill sets as an artist contribute to a community engagement—where my being an artist matters but not my art. Examples from my own life range from my serving as project coordinator for Marian House’s 30 Women, 30 Stories project to my role as co-investigator of Strong Art, Strong Youth in Baltimore. In each of these instances, I use a process I think of as artistic, but I do not consider what I end up with to be my art.
Social practice is when in some way, shape, or form a given outcome is my art. For me, that means drawings or paintings I have made are involved (be it centrally or peripherally) in an activity or experience in which I play a guiding role. Examples range from a long-term project I am currently developing called Autumn Leaves to the various events I host in my studio that incorporate paintings or drawings of mine as elements.
I see these two kinds of practice—social and civic—as distinct, but also existing along a single spectrum, where aspects of each blend into the other.
Up to now, I have viewed Bruun Studios as a forum primarily for my social practice, with civic practice playing out at most in the margins of visibility. But I am reconsidering that way of framing things. I am not sure how this will play out, but as I reflect on the interplay between my civic and social practice, I am keen to recalibrate what and how I represent under Bruun Studios.
This is a work in progress, but my gut tells me sharing a fuller spectrum of my activities within a single frame (i.e. Bruun Studios) will be good for me, and illuminating for those who follow my activities. Both kinds of practice have value, so why privilege one over the other?
Indeed, I am at a crossroads.
In coming weeks, I will be sharing new information and opportunities for others to become involved in and support what I do. In some ways, this path… the path of re-animating Bruun Studios and what that means… is an example of civic practice in motion: I am tinkering, reflecting, revising, and reconsidering as I go—an artistic process if ever there were one, but one without my actually making any art.
Bear with me, and let’s see where this goes…