March 2023

Sangeeta Isvaran (India)

Arts in Mainstream Systems for Social Transformation

Session Synopsis

In over two decades of working with mainstream systems of health, education, poverty, social justice, caste and conflict in some of the most marginalised communities across the world, Sangeeta Isvaran has seen how much the arts have to offer to create more just and caring societies. While the arts offer cutting edge, innovative strategies to some of the world’s most difficult issues, she has seen very little appreciation and recognition for the skills we as artists have to offer. She believes teaching artists can and should become a part of different organisational systems, not just artistic ones; we need to show that art forms carry strategies and techniques that can serve society in multiple ways. 


This Think Tank provided participants the opportunity to discuss:

  • Best practices and skills needed by examining case studies;
  • Strategies for tapping into mainstream systems (e.g., education, police, shelters for refugees, climate crises programs, disaster management programs, financial schemes for poverty reduction); and
  • How documentation and dissemination embeds teaching artist skills (conflict resolution, social justice, livelihood development, sexual violence, refugee crisis, human rights development)  into the mainstream. 

Afterwhich, Sangeeta invited participants to join the working group, which would collaborate in the following ways: 

  1. Project Development and Exchange: Artists across the world, who work with mainstream systems or wish to gain experience in this domain, will co-create a project and share best practices. There is also an existing, strong team of artists/changemakers in India who could join "buddy groups" with participants, connecting communities across the world for more exciting and intimate co-creation. 
  2. Documentation and Evaluation: Together, we will set up a common set of data to be collected and analysed. We could also reach out to other artists throughout the network to collect basic data on the systems and communities they engage with, thereby creating a data base and network to showcase the range of work happening across the world. 
  3. Dissemination and Amplification: Participants will be encouraged to use social media to amplify the dissemination of our work to different audiences. We will also set goals for each artist to reach out to their local ambassadors from the mainstream, as well as local and international journalists/media, to showcase our work and help others replicate it.
  4. Bring working group participants to India at the conclusion of the project to exchange and continue community building. If the working group is able to develop a strong project, participants could collectively use that as a foundation to then apply for funding.

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