This study aims to carry forward our research focus on community arts education and to investigate implications from our previous SSHRC study (The Art of New Media Education: A Study of Community-Based New Media Arts Education-2007-2010). Findings from this previous study and other scholarly research indicated that nonprofit, community-based media arts programs attract marginalized young people who do not have access to mainstream educational experiences (Browne, 2003; Castro & Grauer, 2010; Coles, 2007; Montgomery, 2008; Levy & Weber, 2011b; Lin, Grauer, & Castro, 2011). Empirical evidence from that study has shown that marginalized Grauer, K. (PI) 3 youth, such as pregnant teens and youth dropouts, can develop self-esteem and feel empowered through media arts learning experiences when provided with support and resources (Weber & Levy, 2010; http://teenmom.ca/Project_TEEN_MOM).
For marginalized youth, their experiences of family, schools, communities, and society take on an alternate perspective because of a host of factors, including but not limited to homelessness, unemployment, under-education, poverty, gangs and abuse. Youth from traditionally marginalized groups face myriad social, emotional, mental, and physical difficulties, and are exposed to barriers and risk factors that inhibit their participation in various facets of society. Considerable research shows these disturbing trends of youth disengagement across Canada point to broader political, economic, social and cultural conditions that do not enable marginalized youth to become valued members of our society (Beiser et al., 2005; Gaetz 2004, Jenson, 2000; Juteau, 2000; Omidvar & Richmond, 2003). Suggestions from The Art of New Media Education indicate more empirical research is needed to explore ways to engage marginalized youth and to identify the strategies of how community arts learning spaces can help cultivate youths’ potential to contribute to Canadian society. In addition, the involvement of pregnant teens, immigrant youth, and Aboriginal youth in that study showed a need to engage marginalized urban youth through active participation in the arts as a crucial component of a responsive curriculum (Castro & Grauer, 2010; Lin, Grauer, & Castro, 2011; Levy & Weber, 2011b). This proposed research links to two SSHRC research/creation studies (Catch and Release: Mapping Stories of Cultural and Geographic Transition- 2009-2011) in which Beer (PI), Grauer and Budd explored the interactivity of new media in relation to artistic experiences of storytelling and authorship, and (The City of Rich Gate-2004-2007) in which Irwin (PI), Grauer, Beer and colleagues presented issues of identity and acculturation, and opportunities for social and cultural transformation within communities of new immigrants. It also builds upon a SSHRC study (Investigating Curriculum Integration, the Arts and Diverse Learning Environments-2004-2007) in which Irwin (PI), Grauer and colleagues suggested arts school-based programming learning environments as an integrative tool for holistic learning, and a another SSHRC study (Learning Through the Arts-2000-2004) by Irwin and Grauer which identified the disconnects between and among the perceptions and understandings of art, teaching, and integration held by teachers, artists and curriculum specialists.
Our SSRHC-funded research on arts education has consistently focused on examining schoolteachers’ and teaching artists’ perceptions, beliefs and practices (Beer, Irwin, Grauer, & Xiong, 2010; Galbraith, & Grauer, 2004; Grauer, Irwin, Wilson, & de Cosson, 2003; Sinner, Leggo, Irwin, Gouzouasis, & Grauer, 2006). As our work has progressed, we have developed a strong research agenda on the practices of learners not only as creators of images, but also as producers of knowledge (Castro & Grauer, 2010, Darts, Castro, Sinner, & Grauer, 2010; Grauer, 2003; Grauer & Irwin, 2005). We believe that community-based media arts programs should be part of the larger curriculum and pedagogy, complementing and extending in-school arts programs because of their location, flexibility, and ability to offer a responsive curriculum to the unique requirements of particular groups of learners (Castro & Grauer, 2010; Lin, Castro, Sinner, & Grauer, 2011; Levy &Weber, 2011a).
Therefore, we aim to continue our ongoing research inquiry on qualities and characteristics of community arts programming and how in and out-of-school art programs can learn from each other. We will also investigate the role that community-based media arts programs play in the larger media and learning ecologies of youth from various backgrounds.