A necessary concern with ethics is one of the ways that community art has always been separate from fine art. The latter was substantially the creation of philosophy, and its ethical concerns, where they exist at all, are philosophical: ‘art for art’s sake‘, an idea that still resonates for many today, is a rejection not just of political but of moral responsibility, lightly condemned as ‘bourgeois’. Community art (like its largely unnamed and unacknowledged antecedents) began as a reaction against those art world values, that was at once political, aesthetic and ethical. And at a practical, experiential level – which is surely where art must be if it is not just philosophy – an artist who invites other people with less power than theirs to join in a creative act is immediately confronted with a territory of negotiations, in which different needs and desires demand to be heard. The autonomy of studio practice (even if it is more constrained that the art world likes to believe) is irrelevant or impossible when professional and non-professional artists create together.
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