1st Edition

Democracy as Creative Practice Weaving a Culture of Civic Life

Edited By Tom Borrup, Andrew Zitcer Copyright 2025
    272 Pages 30 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    272 Pages 30 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Democracy as Creative Practice: Weaving a Culture of Civic Life offers arts-based solutions to the threats to democracies around the world, practices that can foster more just and equitable societies. Chapter authors are artists, activists, curators, and teachers applying creative and cultural practices in deliberate efforts to build democratic ways of working and interacting in their communities in a range of countries including the US, Australia, Portugal, Nepal, the UK, and Canada. The book demonstrates how creativity is integrated in place-based actions, aesthetic strategies, learning environments, and civic processes. As long-time champions and observers of community-based creative and cultural practices, editors Tom Borrup and Andrew Zitcer elucidate work that not only responds to socio-political conditions but advances practice. They call on artists, funders, cultural organizations, community groups, educational institutions, government, and others to engage in and support this work that fosters a culture of democracy. This book is intended for undergraduate and graduate students in the humanities and social sciences, activists, funders, and artists who seek to understand and effect change on local and global scales to preserve, extend, and improve practices of democracy.


    Part One: Place-based Actions

    Introduction to Place-based Actions: Following the Thread of Place-based Actions

    Jeremy Liu and John K.C. Liu

    1.  Repurposing agricultural infrastructure to build cultures of democracy in rural communities: A case study from north-west Victoria

    D’Arcy Molan, with Katya Johanson, Emily Potter

    2. Lake Street Arts! – Creative Democracy in Practice

    Meena Natarajan

    3. How ‘creative recovery’ stimulates a culture of democracy: Case studies of post-disaster creativity in rural Australia

    Anna Kennedy-Borissow

    4. Democracy as Demonstration: A Lifelong, Dreamed of, Home

    Kirsten Kaschock and Rachel Wenrick

    Part Two: Aesthetic Strategies

    Introduction to Aesthetic Strategies - Remaking Worlds and Ourselves: Aesthetic Strategies for a Culture of Democracy

    Diane Ragsdale and Shannon Litzenberger

    5. Co-Creating Democracy: Aesthetics in Action

    Andrea Assaf

    6. Braiding Comedy in Precarious Times: The Possibilities and Pitfalls of Research Creation in the Settler Colonial University

    Heather McLean

    7. Mediating Provisional Communities: The Production and Management of Collaborative Arts Projects

    Rui Goncalves Cepeda

    Part Three: Learning Environments

    Introduction to Learning Environments - Learning and Practice: Democracy in Action

    8. Reflections on Doing Visual Politics: Photography, collaboration, and creative practice as civil action

    Alan Hill, Kelly Hussey-Smith, Marnie Badham, Shehab Uddin, and Sagar Chhetri

    9. All the Relatives: Animating Stories of Democratic Participation Through Speaking Out

    Maria Asp and Sonja Kuftinec

    10. The Ray of Hope Project and Women Composers Festival: Reframing Narratives

    Alika Hope and Penny Brandt

    11. The Power of Storytelling: Practicing a Culture of Democracy with Young Students

    Kiyoko Motoyama Sims

    Part Four: Civic Processes

    Introduction to Civic Processes – Get With It: A Play of Civic Processes

    Roberto Bedoya

    12. Democracy is in the Making: Just Act’s Model for Rehumanizing Community Engagement

    Lisa Jo Epstein

    13. Creating Our Next LA: Art Animating Powerful Congregation-Based Campaigns for Justice

    Karen Mack with Elizabeth Cho

    14. Warm Cookies of the Revolution: A Case Study of Democratic Culture through the Framework of Civic Health

    Vincent Russell

    15. Civic Artists Reimagining Democracy

    Johanna K. Taylor, Amanda Lovelee, & Mallory Rukhsana Nezam

    16. “The most optimistic way I have of envisioning our collective future”

    Bronwyn Mauldin and Artists 4 Democracy


    Editors’ Summary and Conclusion


    Tom Borrup is Senior Lecturer and Director of Graduate Studies for the Arts and Cultural Leadership and Civic Engagement Programs at the University of Minnesota and a community and cultural planning consultant.

    Andrew Zitcer is an associate professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, USA where he directs the Urban Strategy graduate program.

    "Borrup and Zitcer strike a timely proposition for the critical role of creative practices to advance cultures of democracy. In the face of current forces that threaten the foundations of democracies around the world, Democracy as a Creative Practice assembles fresh, inspiring, and instructive stories by frontline creative practitioners responding to these threats in a range of rural, urban, educational, municipal, and community settings and contexts. Field thought leaders introduce thematically organized essays layering in illuminating theory and reflections that lend depth and new insights and reverberate throughout the book."

    Pam Korza and Barbara Schaffer Bacon, former Co-directors, Animating Democracy, a program of Americans for the Arts

    "In a time of deepening gloom about democracy, Tom Borrup and Andrew Zitcer’s edited collection, with examples of cultural organizing from around the world, is a source of hope and inspiration. The book is particularly valuable for its detailed look at cultural workers and citizen artists on the front lines of civic renewal and democracy building."

    Harry C. Boyte, Emeritus Senior Scholar, Augsburg University, author, Awakening Democracy through Public Work