Engaging Collectively Through Art and Critical Social Psychology

Fall Open
Class Standing
Shaw Osha (Flores)
Arita Balaram

Art is fundamental to human expressions of experience and meaning-making, a fact which has vast implications for individual and collective well-being. This program will think about how the practices and methodologies of art and social psychology can inform each other as community-engaged practices. Both psychology and art look critically at the culture around us and how we affect and are affected by it. How can these two disciplines collaborate to work towards a healthier society? Why might questions of representation be important for our explorations of art and psychology?

Traditionally, visual art has served both as a psychic connection with sacred objects and as a source of medical information. In our contemporary moment, it allows for a sense of cultural solidarity and critical questioning of societal forces and individual responses to those forces. Psychologists have used visual data, including photography, documentary, film-making, drawing, internet media, and collages to understand human subjectivity.

In this program we will draw on social science and critical theory to analyze the form and content of artworks and how art represents human conditions (plural) and how formal aspects of art correspond to ways of being human. We will examine the fluidity of identity as a personal and/or socially constructed representation of self in a community (ethnic, national, civic, etc.) with others. We will look at how art stimulates empathy on the part of the viewer and what creativity gives voice to. We will study theories of psychoanalysis, aesthetics, and critical social psychology as theoretical frames.

This interdisciplinary program is intermediate in its scope and level of academic engagement. In fall, students will gain, or add to, their experience of design and materials in 2D and other studio practices and will gain, or add to, foundations in critical social psychology. As a learning community, students will engage in art and psychology practices that explore what it means to be in conversation with the sociopolitical world, drawing encouragement and influence from each other. Students in the program will write essays and academic papers, conduct focused research and engage in collaborative art and psychology projects. Winter quarter will offer opportunities for students to pursue individual projects in areas that interest them. Program reading will include texts addressing critical psychology and visual/cultural studies, including literature, and aesthetics.

This program is designed to support students interested in community engagement, visual art, critical social psychology, aesthetics, and perception. Students will develop an understanding of how the artist’s work connects to critical issues of health, care, and well-being and they will begin to imagine how to situate their own projects in terms of the world around them. Students will also be introduced to a diverse set of visual methodologies in the social sciences used to understand human experience and subjectivity.


Course Reference Numbers

So - Sr (16): 10104

Academic Details

careers and future studies including graduate studies in psychology, arts, and interdisciplinary studies; work in creative or wellness economies; work in non-profit cultural organizations; work as a professional artist


$190 in for an overnight field trip to Portland, museum entrance fees, and studio supplies.


Hybrid (F)

See definition of Hybrid, Remote, and In-Person instruction

Schedule Details
SEM 2 E4107 - Art Studio