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

Abstract:

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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