Art creates hope
How could we create hope in seemingly hopeless situations? The book Critical Articulations of Hope from the Margins of Arts Education (Routledge) offers some answers to this question.
In the introduction of the book, the editors list problems that the human race is struggling with at the moment: natural disasters, political crises, prolonged violent conflicts, global corporate greed, continuing disrespect for foundational human rights, environmental and economic impoverishment, and increase in hostile attitudes.
The scale of these problems sets the reader's expectations. In this context, it feels natural to ask if it's possible that art could actually save the world.
"Art can have a crucial role in saving the world. There's a lot of potential there that has not yet been utilised", says Eeva Anttila, Professor of Dance Pedagogy at the University of the Arts Helsinki and one of the two editors of the book.
Anttila uses climate change as an example. Why not raise the next generation to become creators and reformers of art and culture instead of turning them into consumers of mass culture and non-renewable resources?
"We can use art to express ourselves, explore our identity and gain a sense of meaning without resorting to material consumerism. Art can act as a counterforce against the temptation to consume more and more as part of a market economy."
According to Anttila, aesthetic sensitivity and perception skills are connected to the ability to care about the environment, other people and oneself. This kind of heightened sensitivity is one element that constitutes the power of art.
The book brings up also another super power connected to art, namely its healing power.
"Art can do a lot of good in communities that have experienced traumas, and not just in the form of actual art therapy. When people have a possibility to do something that gives them hope and a sense of meaning, that might make a difference for them", Anttila emphasises.
Critical Articulations of Hope from the Margins of Arts Education presents perspectives on arts education from marginalised contexts and communities around the world. The inspiration for the book came when the editors noticed that a large portion of literature on arts education is in some way linked to the Anglo-American academic context.
"We wanted to do things differently than in most books and give a voice to people whose work has been invisible beyond their community. We also wanted to shed light on the kinds of conditions art projects are situated in so that those of us who live in prosperous conditions could understand how privileged our own position is and how enormous the differences between different circumstances are."
The contributors of the collection are educators, researchers and artists who have devoted their research and practice to exploring how to utilise arts education to work toward justice, equity, sustainability and hope when communities or groups of people are faced with most challenging and arduous situations.