Using Freirean pedagogy of just IRE to inform critical social learning in arts-informed community education for sexual minorities.

Grace, A. P., & Wells, K. (2007). Using Freirean pedagogy of just IRE to inform critical social learning in arts-informed community education for sexual minorities. Adult Education Quarterly: A Journal of Research and Theory, 57(2), 95-114.

Abstract:

This study investigates the development and implementation of two arts-based community programs for sexual minority young adults. The programs focused on arts-based investigations of the Freirian concept of “just ire”, and how Freirian concepts and pedagogy can be utilized in tandem with the arts to address personal and civic issues, address advocacy and empowerment, and result in social change. This comparative case study investigated two different programs: the Ideal School art installation and SASSY (Summer Arts Studio Supporting Youth) in Edmonton, Canada. Both programs employed multiple art forms, culminated in final art projects, and emphasized the creative process as well as values for self-expression, community, and transformation.

Key Findings:

  • Participants in the programs developed capacities for using the arts in order to narrate their struggles with issues of minority sexual orientation in the context of mainstream society.
  • Participants learned ways to communicate emotion and personal meaning regarding their own sexual identities and possible conflicts with religious affiliations and culture.
  • Participants in the programs developed increasing awareness and understanding of their own capacities for exercising artistic skill and vision.

Significance of the Findings:

These findings suggest that the inclusion of art-based methodologies alongside Freirian pedagogy can enrich the results of the work being done within community-based programs for sexual minority young adults. They demonstrate the value of using the arts to address and unearth personal and cultural struggles and issues, allowing program participants to build capacity for resilience and explore issues of identity, culture, and community. This study documents the value of the arts as a vehicle for communication, education and ultimately social and cultural change, as learning through the arts opens the door for conversations and connections. Interestingly, despite positive effects of the arts based programs, some participants didn’t feel safe enough to discuss involvement in the programs with parents.

Methodology:

This case study investigated two different programs: the Ideal School art installation and SASSY (Summer Arts Studio Supporting Youth). The researchers interviewed twenty-five sexual minority young adults (18 years or older) from the two programs. The interviews were open-ended and the researchers used participant art as prompts to have interviewees reflect on their life histories drawing out themes of sex, sexuality, and gender differences. The researchers also conducted observations of both programs.

Limitations of the Research:

This study focused on a small population within one community in Edmonton, Canada. The study was also limited by a relatively narrow range of methods, making it difficult to apply its findings more broadly.

Questions to Guide New Research:

How can the benefits of community programs of this nature be measured in ways that can demonstrate their value to policy makers and funders? What factors would be necessary for participants in programs for sexual minority young adults to feel safe enough to share their involvement with parents? Future studies may also want to look more closely at the relationship between Freirean Pedagogy and the utilization of the arts in community and social change programs.