I am a writer, producer, and arts educator. Formerly head of Academic Programs at the UCLA Hammer Museum, I currently work as Director of Communications and Outreach at 18th Street Arts Center. I am dedicated to working for access to arts education for all, and for a greater understanding of the power and relevance of art in our society.
I have a deep-seated investment in socially and politically-engaged art that can be traced to my years as a public school teacher in Los Angeles. I embedded the arts in my classroom every day, but became overwhelmed with the bureaucratic and social injustices facing the public school system, especially in working-class neighborhoods of color. I felt perhaps I could reach more people working with an arts organization, so went back to grad school for Public Arts Studies and ended up at the Hammer Museum. In that time, I discovered socially-engaged art, and became obsessed with understanding how this work could intervene with issues of social injustice to imagine radical new possibilities. I worked on the Watts House Project, and was an adviser for the Asian Arts Initiative’s Social Practice Lab and the granting organization SPArt, and is on the board of Clockshop. I also worked in digital online education for the Oprah Winfrey Network for two years to learn about digital platforms and access, and am applying those learnings to increase access in the arts.
My writing has been featured in exhibition catalogues, UCSD’s Social Practice journal Field, the Liverpool Biennial journal Stages, n.paradoxa feminist journal, Journal of Aesthetics and Protest, the Huffington Post, KCET Artbound, and various arts blogs. I teach regular courses on Socially-Engaged Art and Pedagogy at UCLA and OTIS, and has been a lecturer at California College of the Arts and USC.
This blog is meant to be an ongoing and iterative investigation into social practices in contemporary art – both those considered “artworks” by their practitioners, and those that are not. I hope to turn a critical eye toward social artworks that claim to effect societal change, and to therefore be able to recognize innovative practices when they emerge.
Please email me at sue.e.bell[at]gmail[dot]com with any questions, concerns, critiques, or compliments!
Please note that the opinions expressed in this blog are mine alone and do not reflect the opinions or policies of any of the institutions I am affiliated with.