Community art is artistic activity that is based in a community setting, characterised by interaction or dialogue with the community and often involving a professional artist collaborating with people who may not otherwise engage in the arts.
The notion of community art evolved out of the idea of cultural democracy. Cultural democracy emerged after the Second World War and describes practices in which culture and artistic expression are generated by individuals and communities rather than by institutions of central power. Cultural democracy seeks to democratise culture in order to bring about an awareness and appreciation of art to as wide a section of society as possible; and to break down the boundaries between high and low culture in order to make art accessible to a wider audience.
Although there had been earlier tentative experiments in what became known as community art, including by the nineteenth-century Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, it was not until the late 1940s that the concept of community art emerged and began to be seen as a way of empowering people. Initiatives included putting visual artists, actors and musicians to work within communities to create public murals, plays and compositions.
In the 1960s, when social change was seen as possible, community art was seen as a way of giving a voice to society’s disenfranchised.
Assemble are a London-based collective who work across the fields of art, design and architecture to create projects in tandem with the communities who use and inhabit them.