Introduction to special edition on Arts in Social Work
Arts have much to contribute to social work theory, practice, teaching and research: Indeed, from the large response we received for the call for this special issue, we learn that art is relevant for service users, as a phenomenological, embodied and culturally embedded method of communication with self and with others. Social art focuses on an ecological gestalt of person-in-context, as compared to psychological theories that understand art as a projective expression of the decontextualized subconscious. Social art is also different from fine arts that create art products disconnected from the creator, and that are in dialogue with discrete fine art discourses. Social art correlates to social work's central epistemology of " person in context" through the compositional tension and interrelationship that art creates between actor and stage, tune and accompaniment, dancer and space, and subject and background. Art as self- expression enables firstly to excavate, secondly to interpret and thirdly to communicate to others-one's own phenomenological experience of social reality. In Freirean terms, the arts become a way to empower and re-conceptualize the connection between personal identity and society, enhancing social- justice perspectives. In this special edition, Conroy and Power from the US show how to use arts to enhance awareness of social justice issues in their students. Narsai from South Africa, describes using music to create social change. Tascón, from Australia, discusses the transition from art therapy to social change, and Barkai from Israel, describes using arts to promote better work conditions for social workers.
Neurologically, the arts induce prompt perceptual 2 processing, information gathering, and metabolic arousal that mobilize the organism to plan actions on spatial and temporal levels with the help of past sensory-memory and future imagination. In this special edition, Ganesh Rodrigues and Stalin from India, describe psychosocial arts use in children's foster homes, Malka from Israel, describes how he uses photo-voice to gradually reveal the secret of the lived experience of children of addicted parents and Millirons, Rawdotalk and Moxley from Alaska describe the potential of arts training for children in impoverished neighborhoods. On a social level then, cultural symbols are the spaces that enable communities to negotiate the tension between homeostasis and change, because symbols are a broad enough base to enable multiple and dynamic interpretations of events. This is demonstrated in the articles about community intervention. For example, Schubert and Grey from Australia describe art use in a community program for the prevention of family violence, Hoeppe from Germany, describes her arts performance as a way of enhancing understanding and integration of new immigrants into the city, Bonnycastle and Heinonen from Canada describe arts as community interventions in disaster rehabilitation, and Ottmann from Australia/Germany theorizes the connection between community arts and social work, while Jensen, from The Netherlands, argues for creativity as having intrinsic as well as economic value.
The shift to arts in research helps to counteract the verbal supremacy of power infused narratives, enabling the participants to co-produce new perspectives and give voice to their silenced experience. Yet for others the focus on arts use in social work evaluation and research is a way to co- produce knowledge. Susan Levey from Scotland, discusses the theoretical connections between social work and arts, Damm, Kaiser Salomon and Schneider from Germany, describe using theatre and film to research social issues, Akhtar from England, utilizes stories of social workers to learn about their work and to change their image in social media and Drolet, Fulton and Prakash from Ireland, describe use of arts in social work education. In teaching, arts enable the creation of multi-literal and experiential training and supervision opportunities, helping to foster different ways of knowing through 'disrupting' automatic thinking. Arts create a more embodied knowledge and a space to include emotions in social work knowledge that enables self- care post trauma. This focus on arts in social work education is well represented in this special issue. McGuire from Canada describes how arts can be used to install critical thinking, while Hafford-Letchfield, Leonard and Coachman from England, utilize arts to enhance emotional learning. Similarly, Wallengren and Lynch from Holland, and Safodien, from South Africa, describe using photo-voice to empower social workers in social work education to raise critical consciousness. Riggs from Australia describes her methods of using arts as self-care for social workers working in post- disaster areas while Kuehnel, from Germany describes using music to provide social work skills.
The articles in this special edition all demonstrate how social workers have utilized arts in their practice, teaching, and research, providing clear methodologies and most importantly a theoretical understanding of social- versus psychological or fine art- that emerges inherently from social work practice. These examples describe how and also why to use photo-voice, outsider art, community arts, arts-based research, arts as self- care, arts as a critical space, arts as community building and arts in teaching and supervision and show together a diverse set of arts uses that create a robust method for social work that is theoretically connected to the aims of social work. This continues the current turn towards arts in social work conferences, special interest groups, and theoretical literature as showcased in our and others’ publications and in Huss & Boss upcoming edited book on arts in social work (Routledge, 2018). All those involved in this issue are very excited by the huge response to this special edition and hope that this special issue will help canonize, theorize, teach, and inspire social workers to embrace their own and their client's creativity as a recourse in social work in different international contexts. A special thank you to Carolyn Noble, Editor-in-Chief, for her endless patience, optimism, advice and hard work in helping compile this special issue on Arts and Social Work.