Arts-Based Approaches and their Contribution to CBPR
“ABR practices have emerged out of the natural affinity between research practice and artistic practice, both of which can be viewed as crafts.”- Patricia Leavy
Many of us have heard about community-based participatory research (CBPR), whether it was in a classroom, a nonprofit board meeting, or an evaluation research team. However, we may not be as familiar with arts-based research or its relevance to CBPR. For this reason, we will be exploring arts-based research and its contribution to CBPR.
CBPR is oriented towards promoting agency and participation within the community and dismantling those ‘active researcher-passive participant’ power relations that have a long history in research. The goal is to build capacity for a more equitable experience when initiating and carrying out research in communities.1
This approach to research is, in many ways, revolutionary. It stemmed from two historical roots: The northern tradition and the southern tradition1. The northern tradition has influenced our value in collaborating to solve problems and altering power dynamics. The southern tradition, linked to Latin America, Asia, and Africa, began as an integration of liberation theory and practice.1 This paradigm emphasized an emancipatory approach to the social science2, and was greatly influenced by challenging the positivist approach to research and the domination of the people by the Colonizers; this orientation was championed by Paolo Freier.1
These two paradigms have influenced the way we currently think about CBPR. There are four major elements to CBPR: participation, the co-production of knowledge and control, praxis and equitable distribution of power.1 Community members are actively involved in the research process and are considered co-researchers who share ownership over the creation, implementation, and dissemination of the study.1 CBPR is a framework that fits well with our goals and practice as community psychologists and contributes to our intention of understanding the social context of individuals within their communities.4 The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality have developed criteria to evaluate the participatory qualities of research projects, which can be found here. These aspects may be helpful to keep in mind when developing CBPR studies.9
Similar to CBPR, arts-based research (ABR) provides a unique and transformative set of methodologies that draw on various art modalities to address social issues.6,7 This approach uses art forms such as literary arts, music, dance, drama, visual art, film and so on.6,7 It has served as a medium through which researchers and communities can identify or raise consciousness about social issues, such as poverty, sex-trafficking, or homelessness.6 The work of Dr. Izumi Sakamoto and her colleagues provides a powerful example of what arts-based CBPR looks like. Their Coming Together project documented the experience of homeless women and transwomen in Toronto. In using staged photography (an art form that combines photography, theatre, dance, and painting), women expressed their experiences with social support, trauma, homelessness, and discrimination based on gender or transphobia. The researchers and advisory board (consisting of women who had experienced homelessness) held public presentations showcasing the work, and disseminated the findings to local policy makers and social service agencies.8
In arts-based research, we can definitely see how the core concepts of CBPR emerge. ABR is, in fact, action oriented and participatory.6 ABR is a creative and powerful tool that can be used to create compelling, contextual accounts of a community’s experience.6 When we look at the history of participatory approaches in community psychology we see that it has been an important tool for engaging communities and promoting empowerment.3,4,5 As arts-based CBPR continues to expand, we hope to see a stronger presence in community psychology research and practice.
In the coming posts we will explore different methods embedded in ABR/CBPR, and would love comments on people’s thoughts or experiences of these approaches!
This post was written by Katherine Cloutier from Michigan State University, and Kyrah Brown from Wichita State University.
1. Wallerstein, N., & Duran, B. (2003). The conceptual, historical, and practice roots of community based participatory research and related participatory traditions. In M. Minkler & N. Wallerstein (Eds.), Community-based participatory research for health (pp. 27-52). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
2. Lykes, M. B., & Mallona, A. (2008). Towards transformational liberation: Participatory and action research and praxis. In P. Reason & H. Bradbury (Eds.), Handbook of action research (pp. 106-120). London: Sage Publications.
3. Kelly, J. G. (1971). Qualities for the community psychologist. American Psychologist, 26, 897-903.
4. Kelly, J. G. (2003). Science and community psychology: Social norms for pluralistic inquiry. American Journal of Community Psychology, 31(3/4), 213-217.
5. Rappaport, J. (1977). Community psychology: Values, research, and action New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.
6. Leavy, P. (2009). Method meets art: Arts-based research practice. New York: The Guilford Press.
7. Finley, S. (2008). Arts-based research. In J. G. Knowles & A. L. Cole (Eds.), Handbook of the arts in qualitative research (pp. 71-82). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
8. Sakamoto, I., Ricciardi, J., Plyler, J., & Wood, N. (2007). Coming together: Homeless women, housing and social support. Toronto: Centre for Applied Social Research, Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto.
9. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. (2004). Community-based participatory research: Assessing the evidence. Rockville: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Rockville, MD.