Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Elizabeth Bird


Creativity, Development, Ecology, Grassroots, Participatory, Video


The main purpose of this study was to analyze the role and potential of community arts programs and organizations in improving the lives of disadvantaged African American youth, through the creation of a participatory video project and the internal evaluation of the same; using applied anthropological methods, and cultural praxis (an innovative educational design), and following the recommendations of expert community arts programs evaluators. The study responds to the need identified in the community arts literature to offer robust program evaluations that explain the benefits of such programs. The lack of evidence seems to derive not only from the difficulties of measuring creative practices and other desired outcomes related to quality of life, but also from inadequate research design and implementation (Matarasso 1996; Putland 2008).

Although the evaluation instruments can use some refinement, the resulting ethnography brings about the complexity of the lives of disadvantaged African American youth and the difficulty in making generalizations about their needs. It also highlights the need for community organizations to understand the context in which their programs are offered, and of using a holistic/integral and long-term approach in the design and implementation of programs, which can potentially enhance the growth and development of participants. This study speaks to the fundamental need for community arts organizations to train personnel adequately and offer the necessary infrastructure and tools to instructors in order to accomplish the objectives of the organization. Community arts programs and their outcomes depend on a clear understanding of the population's needs, adequate design and implementation of programs with capable instructors, and an internal organization that is sustainable and that can ensure the safety and wellbeing of all those involved.