Arts-based Methods in Socially Engaged Research Practice
Arts-based research has recently gained an increasing popularity within qualitative inquiry. It is applied in various disciplines, including health, psychology, education, and anthropology.
Arts-based research uses artistic forms and expressions to explore, understand, represent, and even challenge human experiences. In this paper we aim to create order in the messy field of artistically inspired methods of socially engaged research. We review literature to establish study and distinguished three major categories for classifying arts-based research: research about art, art as research, and art in research.
We further identify five main forms of arts-based research:
visual art, sound art, literary art, performing art, and new media.
Relevant examples of socially engaged research are provided to illustrate how different artistic methods are used within the forms identified.
This classification framework provides artists and researchers a general introduction to arts-based research and helps them to better position themselves and their projects in a field in full development.
Arts-Based Research Approaches to Studying Mechanisms of Change in the Creative Arts Therapies
The purpose of this preliminary qualitative research study is to explore the role and function of multiple dynamic interactive aesthetic and intersubjective phenomena in the creative arts therapies process relative to transformation in perception, behavior, relationship, and well-being. A group of doctoral students and faculty studied these phenomena in an analogous creative arts therapies laboratory context using a method called Intrinsic Arts-Based Research.
Intrinsic Arts-Based Research is a systematic study of psychological, emotional, relational, and arts-based phenomena, parallel to those emergent in the creative arts therapies, using individual and collective intrinsic immersive and reflective experience in combination with qualitative and arts-based research methods. Our primary goal was to simulate the creative arts therapies experience in order to identify, document, and describe the complex transformative phenomena that occur at the nexus of arts-based expression, reflection, and relationships in the arts therapies.
For the purposes of this paper
transformation is defined as “…. a significant reconfiguration of perception and thought resulting in the lessening of psychic restraint and pain, allowing for the emergence of new psychological perspectives that contribute to living a more creative life” (Gerber et al., 2012, p. 45). Through a deductive thematic analysis of written accounts of these simulated creative arts therapies experiences by participant/researchers in the laboratory we identified three primary dynamic and interactive broad constructs that together, with more specific modifying themes, might account for and describe change within the creative arts therapies.
These broad dynamic interactive themes are: ruptures, resolutions, and transformation; relationship and intersubjectivity; and, arts-based expressive processes. The more specific modifying themes include: dialectical rupture and resolution, relational attunements and ruptures, imaginational flow, transcendence and ruptures, sensory/kinesthetic/embodied ways of knowing, and intersubjective transcendence.
We propose that change in the creative arts therapies is driven more by a dynamic system of interactive phenomena the varying combinations of which create conditions for relational attunement, imagination, dialectical tensions and creative resolutions, and the ultimately creative transformation.
Arts-Based Methods in Education Around the World
Global trends are outlined in Wagner (2015), who considers the UNESCO research (Bamford 2006) and the OECD research (Winner & Vincent-Lancrin 2013) and Akuno et al. (2015) in this area to be the most recent and relevant landmarks in this field.
Summarising the empirical contributions of these studies, Wagner (2015) emphasises a possible taxonomy, founded on “five basic approaches, paradigms, or objectives” to arts education:
(1) the art-specific approach (artistic skills for their own sake); (2) the economic approach (economic output of creative industries); (3) the social approach (community projects with the arts); (4) the educational approach (integration of the arts in education); and finally (5) the political approach (building citizenship through the arts).
To the above categories, Chemi adds the health/therapy approach, which overlaps with several of the above-mentioned categories, but which she believes is an autonomous and independent perspective: “the application of the arts to health and therapy is a long-standing tradition and it has been made especially relevant to education through the self-regulation thinking. For instance, Sefton-Green et al. (2011) emphasise that the so-called soft skills of emotions regulation and of monitoring of cognition (metacognitive skills) are a fundamental part of the students’ mental health and resilience” (Chemi).
We believe that global and cross-cultural perspectives are needed in order to fully understand what is really occurring in arts education and what the perspectives are for future practices, studies, and policies. In order to introduce the cultural and educational contexts in the current special issue, we wish to touch upon the changes in the theoretical conceptualisations that have characterised this field through the years.