Abstract: (see Poster Gallery) Arts-Based Research: A Liberatory Approach to Knowledge Creation (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

All in-person and virtual presentations are in Mountain Standard Time Zone (MST).

SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

721P (see Poster Gallery) Arts-Based Research: A Liberatory Approach to Knowledge Creation

Sunday, January 15, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Dana Levin, PhD, LMSW, Associate Professor, University of Windsor, Windsor, ON, Canada
Bridget Colacchio, MA, Co-Director, PhD Candidate, Loyola University, Chicago, Chicago, IL
Darren Cosgrove, PhD, Assistant Professor, Miami University of Ohio, Oxford
Background: Quantitative methods and positivist approaches to social work science are often championed in academia, due in part to pressures to produce and publish specific forms of knowledge. While this knowledge holds merit and qualitative methods have become more prevalent in recent years, less attention has been given to approaches such as arts-based research (ABR). Research suggests that the arts have commonly been used to explore emotions, communicate lived experience, and connect individuals and communities throughout history. ABR promotes creativity and universality and can help to amplify minoritized communities and unheard voices. Consistent with social work core values, arts-based approaches also promote liberation and self-determination. For this study, we conducted a collaborative auto-ethnography to explore ABR.

Methods: Three social work scholars met through SSWR, then over Zoom regularly over 18 months to engage in a collaborative auto-ethnography (CAE). Our research explored the meaning and impacts of ABR. We discussed previous experiences with ABR and what ABR meant to us, then shared ABR research approaches and created art pieces. We thoroughly documented the process collecting these data: meeting recordings, transcripts, and our artistic artifacts. Through a collective, phenomenological approach, we analyzed these data to uncover emergent units of meaning. Through iterative, analytical conversations, we identified clusters of meaning followed by themes, reached through saturation and collaborative agreement.

Results: Themes that emerged included power dynamics on various systemic levels, impact of those systems, and ABR as a liberatory research approach. Further, themes related to the research process itself were revealed. The blended CAE-ABR methodology allowed us to focus on our individual experiences and collaboratively reflect on one another's experiences. We explored reactions and emotions evoked by our conversations and art pieces, to co-create new knowledge spurred by our creative expression, free from the rules or expectations of hegemonic systems of power. We experienced ABR as liberatory, transformative, and humanizing, with promise for engagement of the most marginalized within our communities.

Conclusions: Findings suggest that ABR can add unique value to social work scientific inquiry in that it can be liberatory and transformative for both participants and researchers as co-creators of knowledge. This method has the potential to minimize power imbalances, and to draw connections between research and practice, as the process itself is experiential, exploratory, and evocative. As a practice not solely dependent on literacy or spoken language, it has the potential to increase accessibility, meet people where they are at, and amplify minoritized voices.

This method is uniquely suited to the field of social work, as it emphasizes self-determination, connection, accessibility, and liberation. This is particularly valuable given the current context, in which the COVID-19 and on-going racial injustice pandemics have exacerbated feelings of isolation, lack of connection, and inequalities for many. This method provides the potential to interrupt neoliberal positivistic ways of knowing and offer in its place subjective and relational ways of knowing and engaging with the world. With this alignment, the field of social work is uniquely positioned to distinguish itself as a leader in arts-based research.