Bachelor of Fine Arts in Socially Engaged Art
How can art engage communities to facilitate meaningful social change?
The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Socially Engaged Art (BFA-SEA) supports artists to create new work that engages with communities. Faculty and students from the performing arts, visual arts, craft practices, and narrative media come together to develop collaborative projects around real issues.
Based in participatory art, social practice, arts activism, and community-based art, the BFA in Socially Engaged Art supports artists in:
- developing an interdisciplinary and innovative studio practice,
- critically examining the theories and cultural contexts of their art,
- engaging communities ethically through their work, and
- catalyzing meaningful social change for communities.
BFA students are encouraged to experiment with a range of mediums. They are encouraged to conceive purposeful and relevant projects and then develop the necessary artistic techniques for realizing them over the course of the design process. In this way, the elements of composition, form, and material practice are always approached in relationship to a student’s intention, context, and concept.
Located within the Undergraduate Studies Program, this degree-track also incorporates a broad range of expertise in the Social Sciences and Humanities (e.g. Critical Race Theory, Gender Studies, Disability History, Alternative Economies, Environmental Justice, etc.). This supports students in ethical research design and practice.
The BFA in Socially Engaged Art faculty include practicing artists in theater, music, visual art, and media arts whose work has been performed, shown, and/or produced internationally and are recognized in their fields. Faculty members work one-on-one with students as faculty advisors throughout the semester, as well as facilitating group studies, teaching workshops at residency, and acting as second readers to students’ final projects. Our faculty is comprised of national and international scholar practitioners with extensive experience supporting students taking charge of their learning. Faculty members’ work with students is creative, responsive, and rigorous.
The BFA in Socially Engaged Art is open to students from a broad range of creative practices in the performing, visual, media, and interdisciplinary arts. Applicants submit an essay describing their creative practice and the audiences and issues that they engage through their work, as well as a portfolio with documentation of two or three examples of their art (images, audio, video, etc.).
At the start of the semester, students attend an intensive eight-day residency in Vermont, followed by 16 weeks of independent work and self-reflection in close collaboration with a faculty advisor and course mentor. Goddard pioneered this format nearly a half century ago to meet the needs of adult students with professional, family, and other obligations seeking learning experiences grounded in the real-world.
Residencies are a time to explore, network, learn, witness, and share with peers, staff, and faculty. Students work with advisors and peers in close-knit advising groups to forge individualized study plans that describe their learning objectives for the semester.
Working closely with their faculty advisors, and supported by fellow learners, students identify areas of study, personal goals, relevant resources, and avenues to achieve these goals. Students also attend and are invited to help organize workshops, keynote addresses, celebrations and other events intended to stimulate, inspire, and challenge.
This low-residency model combines the breadth of a collaborative community with the focus of personalized learning, enhanced by insightful exchanges with a faculty advisor and course mentors.
All students must satisfy General Requirements for the BA/BFA at Goddard College. In addition, students pursuing the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Socially Engaged Art will satisfy the following requirements:
- Studio Practice – Using a design-based approach to project creation, students will identify techniques and skill sets necessary to bring their artistic goals to fruition. They will develop modes of experimentation, research, and active and rigorous studio practice to explore the interplay between idea, material, form, media, creation and presentation. Students will document their process in regular project portfolios demonstrating sustained growth, intentional exploration, and an understanding of a self-directed interdisciplinary studio practice.
- Art in Context – Students will contextualize their artistic practice through a foundational engagement with art histories, cultural theory, social history, and diverse understandings of art. This includes the role of art in social relations and social change. They will reflect on the relationship between their arts practice and personal identity, lived experience, and social context. Students will examine contemporary theories to understand the artistic, cultural, socio-political context that informs their creative practices.
- Social Engagement – Students will engage with communities consciously, critically, and ethically in the development of collaborative and/or participatory work. They will incorporate the feedback of the audience or public impacted by the work in both the creation and the assessment of the work. This will be demonstrated in process documents and in students documented engagement with college policies for ethical research.
Required Group Studies
- Methods & Materials – This seminar focuses on design-based approaches to technical skill development. The seminar will identify the parameters of the work and materials and skill necessary to accomplish it. This includes researching the materials and techniques involved; and developing regular iterative practices in order to develop the necessary skills. A resulting series of studies will explore the qualities of the material and/or media and their implication on composition and content. Students will meet during the residency and virtually during the semester for discussions and demonstrations of relevant material techniques. They will also create a portfolio of exercises, experiments, and creative works generated in the Group Study.
- Art & Idea – This seminar focuses on the concepts and theories relevant to socially engaged art. The specific content will vary each semester based on the interests of faculty and the students enrolled. The seminar will include exposure to theories of art, creativity, and aesthetics spanning historical and cultural difference; the analysis and discussion of ideas; the articulation of students’ own positionality and aesthetic goals. Students will meet during the residency and virtually during the semester for discussions of readings and artworks on the co-designed syllabus. Also, they will generate written and creative work (e.g. annotations, essays, creative responses).
- Community & Curation – This seminar focuses on creative exchange, the shared design and development of creative work, and the dynamics of collaboration. It will draw upon relevant theories and examples and provide students with hands-on experience. They will participate in a collaborative project from conception to presentation. It will also provide a forum for the discussion of student’s individual projects in Social Practice. Students will meet during the residency and virtually during the semester for discussions and for collaborative practice. Also, they will generate written work and collaborative creative work, relevant to their practices.