Peer Reviewed





Socially engaged art is a broad term used to describe contemporary visual art practices that are concerned with the creation of experiences and, as such, often involve participation as an integral component of a work. Art galleries and museums across the United States have embraced socially engaged art with increasing frequency over the past twenty-five-years, mirroring its uptake by artists throughout the country. Despite its prevalence, little scholarship has addressed why art institutions have embraced socially engaged art, nor what benefits they gain from supporting it. In this paper, I attend to this absence with an emergent conceptual framework that illustrates how five of the most common forms of socially engaged art—service, dialog, education, entertainment, and performance—align with the evolving values and priorities of the 21st century museum. This framework combines literature on socially engaged art and critical museology, as well as numerous examples of recent artistic projects, to examine the intersecting aims of these fields, and potential ethical issues that may arise from artist and museum collaborations.


Socially engaged art; art museums; critical museology; contemporary art; participation

Total Pages

17 pages


Copyright © 2018 Allison Rowe

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.