Women Creating Space for Healthy Communities

I am standing here before you
I don't know what I bring
If you can hear the music
Why don't you help me sing.

Lenard Cohen

Cultural theorist Theodor Adorno once wrote that while art could not completely solve many social dilemmas, it could solve one problem: the loneliness of spirit. After all, art is derived from the Latin ars or artis meaning a joining together.

Carol Berker, Dean of Faculty at the Art Institute of Chicago, writes that "among the new generation of artists I encounter everyday, they know they want to find a way to root themselves in community settings, to align themselves with groups outside of the art world and find ways to make serious contributions to society; they no longer want to comment without actively engaging the collective in the process. In the past ten years increasing numbers of artists have worked in community based contexts, joining well known and socially engaged artists like Suzanne Lacy, Helen Mayer, and Judy Boca." 1 Is it mere coincidence that it is women who are at the vanguard of this community-based movement?

A fundamental cornerstone of community is the concept that the health of the community is also dependent on the health and thriving expression of its individuals. It is in the act of creation that art can best support the building of healthy communities. It seems that women artists in particular, are actively committed to projects that engage in and celebrate the creative and healing forces of 'the collective'. Their use of technology, materials, and even their definitions of 'collective' vary widely. Yet, like those described below, they all express an element of interactivity, and creative expression while actively building a collective experience. Central to all of these artists work is the creative exploration of space and place, either in the virtual or real dimension. This conversation is not new to art, yet the women bring to it a sense of connection and healing. Their act of reconstructing perceptions of space provides a building block for the growth of a healthy community.

Words: Suzanne Farkas
Artists: Aviva Rahmani, Michelle Teran, Various Artists (Women Beyond Borders)
This article appeared in print in the current issue of W&E(Women and Environments) International Magazine Fall 2000. For subscriptions,editorial contributions or more information please contact [email protected] or visit the home page: W&E