Roots and Branches | Artists in the Community

Current AGM exhibition Roots and Branches features the results of several artist projects created in the community. While the classic image of an artist is one who works in a studio or with a canvas en plein air, many artists, such as those in Roots and Branches, create their work in public space, as well require engagement with the community in order to create their work. In this essay excerpt, AGM Director | Curator Stuart Keeler writes about a social art practice he calls Service Media, a “more engaging and collaborative form of art in public space.”

Living in Chicago between 2001 and 2007, I noticed a number of artists engaging with the city and its citizens in public space. Their work was ephemeral, socially engaged and open ended – oftentimes it seemed inspired by a local need. Temporary Services, for instance, created a “Warming Center” between January and February of 2001. Throughout this project, the public was invited into the warmth of an office building to eat soup and receive further advice about how to keep warm and, on certain days of the week, could even sign up for professional massages. In these quiet activist-engaged projects, the audience/public becomes a participant in the situation defined by the artist. The non-literal art object is manifested by the shared cohesion of artist and viewer. While art has arguably always sought to create a mediated experience, Service Media aims to create a moment in which the viewer can negotiate this experience, using conversation as a key factor. Service Media projects have turned up in the form of public transit sites, recycling centers, the reclamation of urban areas and the web to name but a few. The artists in this genre create a temporary situation that melds experience, process and a performance-based action, while serving a “need.” These projects challenge popular assumptions about public art, social space and the “community artist” paradigm by taking a conceptual approach to the experience of site.

– Source:

Keeler, Stuart. “Introduction.” Service Media: Is it “Public Art” or is it Art in Public Space?. Ed. Stuart Keeler. Chicago: The Green Lantern Press, 2011. 2 – 12. Print.


Roots and Branches is an innovative Artist-in-Residence project which aims to tap into the communities of Mississauga, to connect arts and literature with socially based art projects rooted in experimentation. The exhibition will be at the AGM March 7 – April 20, 2013. Information:

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