Creating Community Through the Arts: Cultural Engagement, Democracy, and the Role of Civil Society


Cultural participation is seen, and has been shown to be, something of a proxy measurement for civic engagement. Participation in the arts reinforces aspects of social cohesion and the building of community and cooperation. In an ideal world, intercultural understanding and diversity are not far behind. Due to the interdisciplinary focus of both terms, defining cultural participation and civil society is no easy matter. Cultural participation is key to the “good life” that civil society strives to achieve, while the twin freedoms of speech and expression are intimately tied to the foundations of a participatory democracy. The author of this paper specifically engages with the following questions: (1) What implications does cultural participation – in terms of citizens’ active engagement in the arts in their communities – have for democracy?, and (2) How do recent and current national multimedia projects engage cultural participation, and what can we learn from them?

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Tatyana Varshavsky

Tatyana Varshavsky earned her BA in Sociology, with a minor in Communications and Media Studies from Tufts University in 2003. She is a former Master’s candidate at Georgetown University’s Communication, Culture, and Technology Program. After several years of soul searching, she has come to realize that she belongs in the civil society/nonprofit world. She is interested in the complex interdependent connections between media, culture, and education, and hopes to use her continuously developing professional and academic experiences in facilitating as well as documenting change and progressive reform in those areas. She is currently a research intern with Center for Inspired Teaching, a DC nonprofit dedicated to social change and improving education by investing in teachers.