What does it mean to be a social practice artist?

Social practice is not an easy way for an artist to make a living, since there’s nothing to sell. And since I’m NOT a SUPER famous social practice artist, I have to work to support my art making. Including adjunct teaching at Tyler School of Art at Temple University, I work three jobs during the spring and fall semesters. My art practice slows down quite a bit during that time, and it often makes me wonder if I’m even still an artist.

A social practice project also takes a lot of time to plan and orchestrate. It involves a community, which means a lot of correspondence, meeting people (which I enjoy very much), and bringing people together. I have not made a painting or a piece sculpture for myself for a while now. Seriously, am I still an artist?

My artwork for the last ten years has revolved around the idea of interpretation and translation. I believe that as an artist, we interpret and translate what we see– our experiences, our surroundings – into a piece of art, and I chose social practice as my main medium. I want not only audiences but also participants. I want my art to move people. Pretty cliche, but when you talk to people about your art project and they start crying because it resonates, that’s some pretty strong stuff.

It has been pretty awesome that I now have time to work on Dish (shout out to Asian Arts Initiative!). I’ve been working slowly, very slowly on this project for the last two years, but with this gift of time (as artist residencies always graciously provide) I have been able to reach out to more people and give Dish a sort of a kick in the butt and get it moving. There’s still more corresponding, coordinating, and planning that I have to do in the coming weeks, but things are gathering and I sense a perfect storm.

Hell yeah, I’m an artist.

(This post was originally posted in Asian Arts Initiative's blog during the artist's residency in 2017)

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