All over the world, conferences and panels cover “relational aesthetics,” and “social justice art,” while papers and essays address “social practice,” “social sculpture” and “community art.” Although the terms vary, at Creative Time, we use “social practice art,” to denote a range of practices in which artists engage with communities and social issues by moving their practice out of the studio into the living, breathing world, transforming art into a powerful tool that can radically transform their communities.
Creative Time has long recognized that social practice artists can stimulate change in a way that government agencies and NGOs rarely can - with creativity and sensitivity. As demonstrated by artist Ai Weiwei’s detention, protests surrounding workers’ rights in Abu Dhabi, and the murder of Palestinian theater director and activist Juliano Mer-Khamis, art is powerful - even a threat to oppressive regimes.
In 2009, Creative Time produced an annual global Summit to foster greater dialogue about social practice art. A fast-paced conference that brings together over 50 invited presenters and speakers to discuss how their work engages pressing issues affecting our world, the Summit has since become a vital program within the arts community forefronting how artists engage as citizens and activists. After two sold-out years, we feel that the Summit - called “visionary” by the New York Times, “enormously valuable” by Artforum and inspiring by nearly every attendee - offers a major platform to recognize social practice artists and provides a forum for sharing work and technique.
The Summit has brought together 100 presenters from New York to Nigeria, from Seoul to San Francisco to discuss how their work engages pressing issues affecting our world. We have reached a combined audience of 1,500 people in person and over 40,000 more online through our website and last year’s Livestream. In 2010 alone, with no advertising budget, we drew more than 22,000 people to watch the conference online from over ten countries who spent a total of 301,006 minutes watching presentations! The Summit also features the Leonore Annenberg Prize for Art and Social Change, a $25,000 prize supported by the Annenberg Foundation awarded to an artist who has committed his or her life’s work to the promotion of social justice in surprising and profound ways. Past recipients include the Yes Men (2009) and Rick Lowe (2010).
In an age of great, issues-oriented conferences like TED, the Clinton Global Initiative, and the US Social Forum, the art world still lacks a parallel model. Our vision is to make the Summit the leading global arts conference. To this end, our 2011 Summit aims to expand our international audience online and bring more partners to the table from outside the art world.