Is Social Work Art, Or Is Art Social Work?

Leanne Schubert
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Traditionally social work has struggled with its identity – waxing and waning between the dualism of ‘an art’ or ‘a science’. In the Australian social work context, surrounded by increasing political conservatism and economic rationalism, the pendulum in this debate has swung towards ‘a science’ driven by the pursuit of evidence based practice. Practitioners increasingly struggle to remain engaged with and meet the challenges of maintaining the artistic side of their practice in this context. By contrast, in recent decades, community and public oriented artists art has increasingly moved away from the idea of art as object to art and theories of art that are more oriented to process, relationship and community incorporating ideas as diverse as the notion of ‘Happenings’ and the blurring of art and life (Kaprow), relational aesthetics (Bourriaud), connective aesthetics (Gablik), dialogical art (Kester), new genre public art (Lacy), and the increasing emphasis on space, place and time (Kwon, Lippard and Massey). All of these ideas serve to bring art to an increasing orientation to community and people, often resulting in arts practice that to the social worker seems in many ways indistinguishable to everyday life in social work practice. This paper attempts to identify the common ground at the intersection between social work and arts practice and consider some of the implications for engagement and beyond.

Keywords: Social Work, Art Theory, Aestehtics
Stream: Media, Film Studies, Theatre, Communication, Aesthetics, Design, Ethnicity, Difference, Identity
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Is Social Work Art, Or Is Art Social Work?

Leanne Schubert

PhD Candidate, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, The University of Newcastle

Leanne is a social worker with over twenty years of direct practice experience in fields as diverse as child protection, out of home care, disability services and community health following completion of her Bachelor of Social Work in 1984 at The University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. She has an interest in and commitment to the practice of narrative ideas within social work. She is currently employed on a part time basis as a social worker in Community Health in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales, Australia.
In 2003 she commenced lecturing on a sessional basis at the University of Newcastle in the Bachelor of Social Work Program engaging in the innovative experience based learning model of teaching and learning utilized there. Her teaching strengths lie in the area of direct practice skills.
Leanne has a long standing interest in the arts and culture. She holds a Graduate Diploma in Cultural Heritage Studies. In 2005 she commenced a research higher degree at the University of Newcastle with the intention of combining her major areas of interest – Art, Social Work and Social Change.

Ref: H06P0299