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Dewey for Artists - Mary Jane Jacob


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John Dewey is known as a pragmatic philosopher and progressive architect of American educational reform, but some of his most important contributions came in his thinking about art.

          Dewey argued that there is strong social value to be found in art, and it is artists who often most challenge our preconceived notions. Dewey for Artists shows us how Dewey advocated for an “art of democracy.” Identifying the audience as co-creator of a work of art by virtue of their experience, he made space for public participation. Moreover, he believed that societies only become—and remain—truly democratic if its citizens embrace democracy itself as a creative act, and in this he advocated for the social participation of artists.

          Throughout the book, Mary Jane Jacob draws on the experiences of contemporary artists who have modeled Dewey’s principles within their practices. We see how their work springs from deeply held values. We see, too, how carefully considered curatorial practice can address the manifold ways in which aesthetic experience happens and, thus, enable viewers to find greater meaning and purpose. And it is this potential of art for self and social realization, Jacob helps us understand, that further ensures Dewey’s legacy—and the culture we live in.

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