Advocacy & Policy

NAEA Position Statement on Visual Arts Education and Social Art

[Adopted March 2015; Reviewed and Revised March 2018; Reviewed and Revised April 2023]

Previously titled: NAEA Position Statement on Visual Arts Education and Social Justice.

NAEA recognizes the importance of visual arts, design, and media arts education to raise consciousness, foster empathy and respect for others, build community, and motivate people to advance positive social change.

Artists and cultural organizations often engage with the issues of their time, and some treat the creation and/or curation of art as a social practice. Art can provide a meaningful catalyst to engage and empower individuals and communities to take action around a social issue. The processes by which people create and engage with art can help them understand and challenge inequities through art education and social art.

The interconnectedness of online resources and social media has enabled art and arts-based service learning experiences to grow into global arts-based efforts. Visual art educators are encouraged to guide learners to participate in, identify, create, and/or implement their own social art/arts-based service learning experiences. These experiences can help educators and learners bring about awareness of social issues, open dialogue, and identify ways in which the arts can impact efforts to address injustice.

Defining Language
NAEA recognizes that language and terms change over time. The term ‘social art’ is used in this statement to refer to “artists choosing to engage with timely issues by expanding their practice beyond the safe confines of the studio and right into the complexity of the unpredictable public sphere. This work has many names: “relational aesthetics,” “social justice art,” “social practice,” and “community art,” among others. These artists engage in a process that includes careful listening, thoughtful conversation, and community organizing. (Nato Thompson) is a most fervent champion of art and social justice. He is that rare curator and scholar that insists that artists not only create, but also create important change.” Anne Pasternak, President and Artistic Director, Creative Time, LIving Form Other terms in use include socially engaged art; art activism; social justice art; and social artistry.


Anderson, Tom; Gussak, Gussak David; Hallmark, Kara Kelley; Paul, Alison; Art Education for Social Justice, NAEA, 2010

Elliott, David, Silvermann, Marissa, Bowman, Wayne; Artistic Citizenship: Artistry, Social Responsibility and Ethical Praxis Oxford University Press, 2016

Helguera, Pablo, Education for Socially Engaged Art A Material and Techniques Handbook Jorge Pinto Books 2011

Keifer-Boyd, Karen, Knight, Wanda B., Perez de Miles, Adetty, Ehrlich, Cheri E., Lin, Yen-Ju, & Holt, Ann Teaching and Assessing Social Justice Art Education: Power, Politics and Possibilities Routledge, 2022

Sholette, Gregory, Bass,Chloe, and Social Practice Queents; Art as social Action: An Introduction to the principles and practices of teaching social practice art Allworth, 2018

Schultz, Marianna, A Possible Future: Exploring Social Artistry;The Colloquium, 2020

Tavin, Kevin and Morris, Christine Ballengee Editors. Stand(ing) Up for Change: Voices of Art Educators, NAEA, 2013.

Thompson, Nato, Living as Form: Socially Engaged Art from 1991-2011 Creative Time Books MIT Press 2012

NOTE: The Platform Working Group has created a writing committee of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee members to write a new position statement specific to Visual Arts and Social Justice with plans to adopt in the 2023-2024 cycle. The PWG and ED&I Committee felt this statement is more closely aligned to the broad curriculum topic of Social Art (which could include climate change, animal extinction, bullying, social justice, etc.)