Art projects don't just have to result in finished products or gallery shows. Social Practice is an art medium that focuses on social engagement, collaboration, and participatory work with communities and institutions. Artists working in social practice co-create their work with a specific audience or propose critical interventions within existing social systems that inspire debate or catalyze social exchange.
Different from art therapy, social practice focuses on the interaction between audience, social systems, and the artist through attention to aesthetics, ethics, collaboration, and activism. The social interaction is key. It is this component that drives, or in some instances creates the project itself. Although some projects may incorporate traditional studio media, projects are realized through non-traditional forms such as performance, social activism, or mobilizing communities towards a common goal.
For this prompt the invitation is to organize an intentional walk with a group of people as your art project. Harrell Fletcher is an artist who often works with walks as both a participation and an intervention strategy. These walks serve multiple aims including education (walkers learn more about the history, geography and other elements of the location they are walking in,) human connection, health and wellbeing just to name a few.
In 2014 Fletcher took a group of students on a 5-day walk from Portland, OR to Mount Hood. Along the way participants learned about Oregon’s regional natural history, contemporary urban and rural issues, and the art of walking. In another project Fletcher took a group to the top of Pikes Peak in Colorado. During the walk each participant gave a lecture about an aspect of the environment they were walking through from a variety of disciplinary perspectives including geology, botany, history, map making, etc.
Your walk doesn't have to be for multiple days or to any particular destination, it could just be a walk in your neighborhood. The point of this project though is to be intentional about both the walking and the social interaction that can happen while walking. Some of you may choose to start a walking group that doubles as a book club (talk and walk!) others may choose to walk with only one other person and as a way to interview them or learn about something, still others may choose to plan a route that takes you through parts of a city that aren't normally noticed but have interesting history or are the home of current political issues. Whatever kind of walk you take, remember that you make the road by walking!