Learning, making and flourishing in non-formal spaces: Participatory arts and social justice

Peter Wright, Barry Down, Christina Davies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


This article considers Participatory Arts and sociocultural understandings of justice and praxis through the example of Big hART, an Australian multi-award winning provider where both artists and participants - often disenfranchised and marginalised young people - co-create the work (Matarasso, 2018). Enacting social justice principles, Big hART works alongside young people to improve their life outcomes through arts practice strengthening young people's critical capabilities by inducting them as both makers and responders to their own lives and the world around them. Drawing on three years of ethnographic research across three sites in rural and regional Australia we highlight how multidimensional and multi-modal arts-based projects contribute to young people's lives through theorising the attributes and dimensions of twenty productive conditions and practices identified as essential for social change. These possibilities are important as when these conditions are purposefully enacted, the power of the arts for sense-making and identity development is revealed in non-formal learning spaces. Theoretically unpacking these conditions and practices and linking them with research outcomes helps build understanding of the generative power of Participatory Arts through the ways Big hART builds bridges between young people and their communities and the developmental trajectories they may take through being 'at-promise' rather than 'at-risk'.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-68
Number of pages15
JournalEducation, Citizenship and Social Justice
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


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