The Shapeshifting and Boundary Crossings of Socially Engaged Art


  • Rebecca Bourgault Boston University



socially engaged art, artist-researcher, artist-ethnographer, arte utíl, quiet activism, social change


Socially engaged art practices are understood to borrow from and overlap with several disciplinary territories, crossing over into contexts that, in the process of engaging in civic work and everyday actions, obscure their identity as art and aesthetic practices. The article examines the complications that result from co-existing in various ontological sets of properties, through the presentation of a socially engaged project rooted simultaneously in art, social work, education, and ethnography, and where the author acts and performs as an artist, scholar, and facilitator. Participants in the project embody multiple identities which are dependent on changing perspectives and conditions. Arguing for a relevant ethical orientation to research adapted to the transdisciplinary positions of such community-based projects, the inquiry further interrogates the wrangle between the expectations that symbolic capital is typically accrued to artists engaged in these practices and the inconspicuous agency of quiet activism that offers potent alternative forms of resistance. 

Author Biography

Rebecca Bourgault, Boston University

Rébecca Bourgault is a visual artist, educator, scholar, and community worker. Degrees include an EdD from Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, an MFA from the University of Calgary, and a BFA from Concordia University, Montreal. Current research interests include socially engaged art practices and multimodal experiments in research-creation and arts-based research. 



How to Cite

Bourgault, R. (2022). The Shapeshifting and Boundary Crossings of Socially Engaged Art. Art/Research International: A Transdisciplinary Journal, 7(1), 102–122.