A New Framework for Understanding the Field of Artists Who Work in Community and Education Settings


  • Eric Booth The World Ensemble




Teaching Artist, Community Artist, Arts Integration, activating artistry, field of teaching artistry


This paper presents a Framework for understanding the field of teaching artists (also known by other terms such as community artist, participatory artist, social practice artist, civic practice artist, artist-in-residence and more) in the U.S. and around the world. This paper describes the current state of the field, which is disparate and disorganized and suggests that previous ways of describing it have proved unhelpful.  This pioneering Framework was developed in partnership with practitioners in many communities over years, and was vetted by practitioners in communities around the world to affirm its validity. This Framework was introduced by the author about a decade ago, categorizing the field according to the purposes for which these artists are hired, which turn out to be seven identifiable threads that contain almost all employment in the U.S. and in other countries. This Framework has proven useful in clarifying and advancing the field in a variety of communities, for administrators, for practitioners, for funders, and for those discovering, entering, and advancing in the field. This paper introduces the Purpose Threads and describes each one, giving community-based examples of organizations that employ teaching artists to achieve their goals, and suggesting ways in which one might evaluate whether each purpose is achieved. This paper acknowledges that the seven purposes do not play out discretely in practice, but naturally overlap, and the author identifies a series of basic teaching artist tools that apply across all threads. The author also discusses teaching artist work in digital media, a reality that has burst into prominence during the Covid pandemic. The author invites readers to apply this material in whatever ways are useful.






Community-Engaged Research Articles