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Art and Society: Overview

In this guide...

New books, basic readers and suggested websites to begin exploration on the topic of art and society.

Art Research Guide
Drama Research Guide
Environment: A Multidisciplinary Research Guide

Related research guides
Art and Ecology
Women and Art
Artists' Books
Art: Critical Studies
Art: Contemporary Artists Overview

If CMU Libraries don't have what you need:
Interlibrary Loan

Featured new database

Explores the protest movements, revolutions, and civil wars that have transformed societies and human experience from the 18th century through the present. Organized around more than thirty events and areas, representing a variety of time periods, regions, and topics, this collection includes at completion 175 hours of video, 100,000 pages of printed materials (personal papers, organizations, government documents, journals, reports, monographs, and speeches), and more than 1,000 images. Database Guide

Featured New Titles

Allocca,Kevin. Videocracy : how YouTube is changing the world-- with double rainbows, singing foxes, and other trends we can't stop watching. New York: Bloomsbury, 2018.
HUNT HM742 .A46 2018


Wainwright, Leon, ed.  Disturbing pasts : memories, controversies and creativity . Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2018.
HUNT N8260 .D57 2018


Kim, Linda. Race experts : sculpture, anthropology, and the American public in Malvina Hoffman’s Races of mankind . Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
HUNT STACKS-2 (Stacks 2nd Floor) NB237.H55 A74 2018

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Featured online journal

The Third Rail is a free nonprofit periodical devoted to a discussion of modern and contemporary art, politics, philosophy, culture and featuring critical essays, interviews, literary arts, and artist projects.

Basic Readers

Johanna Burton, Shannon Jackson and Dominic Willsdon, eds. Public Servants: Art and the Crisis of the Common Good.
The MIT Press, 2016

McQuiston, Liz. Visual Impact: Creative Dissent in the 21st Century. London, Phaidon Press Ltd., 2015
HUNT OVRSZQ-4 N6497 .M39 2015


Bradley, Charles and Charles Esche, eds. Art and Social Change: A Critical Reader. Millbank, London: Tate Publishing; Afterall, 2007.
HUNT FA-REF-4 N 72.S6 A78 2007
Selected writings by international artists chronologically organized around political upheaval or conflict: 1871 Paris Commune, 1917 Russian revolution, 1968 political turbulence worldwide; 1989 progression toward the end of the Soviet empire.


Burnham, Linda Frye., and Steven Durland. The Citizen Artist: 20 Years of Art in the Public Arena : An Anthology From High Performance Magazine 1978-1998. Gardiner, NY: Critical Press, 1998.
HUNT STACKS-4 NX180 .A77 C56 1998
Selections from the magazine showing the development of socially engaged art over a 20-year span.


Bocola, Sandro. The Art of Modernism : Art, Culture, and Society from Goya to the Present Day. Munich ; New York : Prestel, 1999.
HUNT FA-REF-4 N6350 .B6313 1999


Greenwald, Dara., Josh MacPhee, Exit Art Gallery. Signs of Change: Social Movement Cultures,1960s to Now.
Oakland, Calif. : New York: AK Press, 2010.
HUNT OVRSZQ-4 N8243 .S65 S54 2010
Catalog published in conjunction with the exhibition of the same name. An annotated visual compendium of posters, prints, photographs, films, videos, music, and ephemera around the globe surrounding radical movements of the past fifty years.


Thompson, Nato. Living as Form: Socially Engaged Art from 1991-2011. New York, NY, Cambridge Mass; London: Creative Time; MIT Press, 2012.
HUNT FA-REF-4 N8243 .S65 L58 2012
Related online resource:

Living as Form: Archive of Socially Engaged Practices from 1991-2011 by Creative Time, Inc.

Web Sites


Arts Rights Justice Library
This open- access collection contains documents about freedom of artistic expression and related topics with tookits, training materials, legal frameworks and advocacy, and reports; hosted in database Hildata of the University of Hildesheim as part of the Arts Rights Justice Programme.

Art in the Public Interest
Historic site and archive for the non-profit supporting community-based organization for the socially conscious.


The Brooklyn Rail: Critical Perspectives on Arts, Politics and Culture
...originating "in a borough that has long been a "Crucible" of artistic and political democracy...obliged to work in that tradition."


Creative Capital Foundation
a New York City-based nonprofit organization; funds and promotes "artists who pursue innovation in form and/or content in the performing and visual arts, film and video, and in emerging fields"; provides advisory services and professional development assistance to recipients.


Creative Time
Organization founded in 1974 supporting innovative public art/commentary in New York City. Web site includes documentation on past, current and upcoming projects.


Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life
"A national consortium of colleges and universities committed to public scholarship in the arts, humanities, and design.. joins serious intellectual endeavor with a commitment to public practice and public consequence." The org hosts an annual conference and the web site provides information on the consortium including news and events.

Open Engagement Conference
" annual, three-day, artist-led conference dedicated to expanding the dialogue around and creating a site of care for the field of socially engaged art. The conference highlights the work of transdisciplinary artists, activists, students, scholars, community members, and organizations working within the complex social issues and struggles of our time.Since 2007, OE has presented seven conferences in two countries and four cities, hosting over 1,300 presenters and over 5,000 attendees. Annual programming is selected by committees comprised of artists, educators, professionals, and community members from a free, open call for proposals.

Public Art Network (Americans for the Arts)
Provides "services to the diverse field of public art and to develop strategies and tools to improve communities through public art." Site includes Year in Review artists projects images and descriptions (slides or cd's available), contact information for their Networking and Outreach program including the PAN listserv, Public Art Network summaries, and Research and Planning Tools. Distributes the Public Art Network Award presented at the annual conference; produces the Public Art Program Directory.

Public Source Pittsburgh. Online weekly digest covering public safety, education, economic development, environment, health, social justice, money & politics.


Just Seeds Artists' Cooperative
"a decentralized network of 24 artists committed to making print and design work that reflects a radical social, environmental, and political stance."

Social Sculpture Research Unit (Oxford Brookes University, England)
" an interdisciplinary research and practice network inspiring new thinking, engagement and action in the field of social sculpture and related practices -- developing insights, methods and practices toward a humane and ecologically sustainable future -- creating opportunities for new forms of enquiry and transformative action in which we are creative participants -- supporting research on social sculpture and connective practices, including material on its influences and evolution -- connecting and contributing to the growing community of practitioners in social sculpture and related fields.


Vera List Center for Arts and Politics (The New School, NYC)
Organizes public events, forums, online programs, and occasional publications focusing on "cultural production that emerges within and outside the traditional art world and seeks to intervene in contemporary political debates." Each year focuses on a theme wherein the Center convenes "artists, scholars, activists, public intellectuals, and political and cultural leaders to examine this theme."


Voting Booth Project: Where Art and Democracy Collide....
Does not seem to be a unified web page currently, but if you Google it you'll see examples of artists' work by that title.
First held as an exhibition at the Parsons School of Design, October 8-November 15, 2004.
Artists, architects and designers transformed Votomatic booths used in the 2000 presidential election in Florida.

CAS: Center for the Arts in Society

"A faculty research center dedicated to the exploration of the arts as they relate to and involve the larger society. A collaborative effort of artists and scholars affiliated with CMU's College of Fine Arts and Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, CAS explores and aims to have impact on the workings of social power and in processes of social change."

CMU Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion

Featured Journals


Public Art Dialogue
A scholarly journal and "forum for critical discourse and commentary about the practice of public art defined as broadly as possible to include: memorials, object art, murals, urban and landscape design projects, social interventions, performance art, and web-based work. .. welcoming of new and experimental modes of inquiry and production. Most issues are theme-based, and each features both peer-reviewed articles and artists' projects."


Scholarly articles and essays across disciplines for those "interested in art and politics in transitional countries and regions; postsocialism and neo-liberalism; postmodernism and postcolonialism, and their critiques; and the problem of global art and global art history and its methodologies."



Based in the UK, Mute: We Gladly Feast on Those Who Would Subdue Us is an online magazine that addresses activist political discourse as it relates to digital culture and art practice.


Daedalus:  Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Articles written by scholars from the arts, sciences, humanities and social sciences exploring "frontiers of   knowledge and issues of public importance."


"a forum for serious, playful, and radical thinking about art in the world today." Founded 2009; headquartered in Brooklyn, New York.

Featured Orgs

Art Works for Change produces traveling exhibitions to effect change and action for human rights, social justice, gender equality, environmental stewardship and sustainability.

Art Gallery of York University, Toronto
A gallery dedicated to creating exhibitions, events, residencies and publications that reflect community and activism in the public sphere,
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