Intersection of Art, Social Work, and Faith

On this page you will find our recommendations of books, research articles, editorials, websites, movies, podcasts, and other media that we use in our research and work with the Intersection of Art, Social Work, and Faith.


  • Dewhurts, M. (2014). Social Justice Art: A Framework for Activist Art Pedagogy. Cambridge, MA: President and Fellows of Harvard College.
    • “In this lively and groundbreaking book, arts educator Marit Dewhurst examines why art is an effective way to engage students in thinking about the role they might play in addressing social injustice. Based on interviews and observations of sixteen high schoolers participating in an activist arts class at a New York City museum, Dewhurst identifies three learning processes common to the act of creating art that have an impact on social justice: connecting, questioning, and translating. Noting that “one of the challenges of social justice art education has been the difficulty of naming effective strategies that can be used across multiple contexts,” Dewhurst outlines core strategies for an “activist arts pedagogy” and offers concrete suggestions for educators seeking to incorporate activist art projects inside or outside formal school settings. Social Justice Art seeks to give common language to educators and others who are looking to expand and refine their practices in an emerging field, whether they work in art education, social justice programming, or youth development.”
  • Huss, E. & Bos, E. (2019). Art in Social Work Practice – Theory and Practice: International Perspectives. New York, NY: Routledge.
    • “This is the first book ever to be published on arts use in social work. Bringing together theoretical connections between arts and social work, and with practice examples of arts in micro and macro social work practice from around the world, the book aims to inspire the reader with new ideas. It provides specific skills, defines what is social rather than fine or projective art use, and explains the theoretical connection between art and social work. It has chapters from all over the world, showing how arts are adjusted to different cultural contexts. Section I explores the theoretical connections between art and social work, including theories of resilience, empowerment, inclusion and creativity as they relate to art use in social work. Section II describes specific interventions with different populations. Each chapter also summarizes the skills and hands-on knowledge needed for social workers to use the practical elements of using arts for social workers not trained in these fields. The third section does the same for arts use in community work and as social change and policy. Using Art in Social Work Practice provides theoretical but also hands-on knowledge about using arts in social work. It extends the fields of both social work and arts therapy and serves as a key resource for students, academics and practitioners interested in gaining the theoretical understanding and specific skills for using social arts in social work, and for arts therapists interested in using social theories.”
  • L’Engle, M. (2016). Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art. New York, NY: Penguin Random House LLC.
    • In this classic book, Madeleine L'Engle addresses the questions, What does it mean to be a Christian artist? and What is the relationship between faith and art? Through L'Engle's beautiful and insightful essay, readers will find themselves called to what the author views as the prime tasks of an artist: to listen, to remain aware, and to respond to creation through one's own art.”
  • Sholette, G., Bass, C., & Social Practice Queens. (2018). Art as Social Action: An Introduction to the Principles and Practices of Teaching Social Practice Art. New York, NY: Allworth Press.
    • Art as Social Action is both a general introduction to and an illustrated, practical textbook for the field of social practice, an art medium that has been gaining popularity in the public sphere. With content arranged thematically around such topics as direct action, alternative organizing, urban imaginaries, anti-bias work, and collective learning, among others, Art as Social Action is a comprehensive manual for teachers about how to teach art as social practice. Along with a series of introductions by leading social practice artists in the field, valuable lesson plans offer examples of pedagogical projects for instructors at both college and high school levels with contributions written by prominent social practice artists, teachers, and thinkers.”
  • Wytsma, Ken. (2016). Create vs. Copy: Embrace Change. Ignite Creativity. Break Through with Imagination. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.
    • “Today’s leaders simply can’t succeed without putting creativity in their toolbox. If you don’t think you’re creative, that may sound discouraging. But take heart: creativity can be taught and practiced, and Create v. Copy shows you how. This short, punchy book explores various aspects of creativity and imagination and leads you toward a healthy, confident, more innovative life mindset. It celebrates the good news of your God-given capacity to create and helps you harness it to take charge of your life, navigate changing times, and ultimately, flourish and succeed. Having traveled to dozens of countries, founded the leading international conference on justice and theology, and collaborated with scores of nonprofits, Wytsma is uniquely fit to help us be culture-shapers in a world of global change. He blends theology, history, and cultural observation to show us what being God’s creative image-bearers might look like today. Whether you're a parent, CEO, pastor, or politician, this fresh look at contemporary leadership will challenge the way you view your position of influence, and it will equip you to adapt and thrive in our perplexing yet exciting cultural climate.”

Research Articles and Editorials:

  • Cramer, E. P., McLeod, D. A., Craft, M., & Agnelli, K. (2017). Using arts-based materials to explore the complexities of clinical decision-making in a social work methods course. Social Work Education: The International Journal, 37(3), 342-360. doi: 10.1080/02615479.2017.1401061
    • “High-impact educational practices through use of arts-based materials (ABM) enrich student learning by deepening emotional and cognitive understanding of others, providing new perspectives on issues, and engaging students in critical reflection. As a form of multimodal learning, using ABM in the classroom engages students in visual, verbal, nonverbal, and experiential learning, which has been shown to contribute to improved learning outcomes. This article describes a high-impact, whole-minded, project in an MSW clinical practice course that involved ABM. The authors provide recommendations for others who are interested in incorporating high-impact ABM projects into their teaching.”
  • Gross, E. (2018). Art and faith converge at a hybrid church/community arts center. Duke Divinity Faith & Leadership. Retrieved from
    • “Art shapes faith and faith shapes art at Convergence, a combination church and arts center that makes space for the creative exploration that artists crave -- and the church needs.”
  • Hickey-Moody, A. & Harrison, M. (2018, Spring). Socially engaged art and affective pedagogy: A study in inter-faith understanding. Tate Papers, 29. Retrieved from
    • “This essay examines a contemporary arts project that was designed to increase understanding of different beliefs between children from a range of faith backgrounds and articulate everyday social and cultural values through practices of making. It extends scholarship on socially engaged practice by demonstrating how creative learning, undertaken through a process called affective pedagogy, can be an agent for change.”
  • Huss, E. & Sela-Amit, M. (2019). Art in social work: Do we really need it? Research on Social Work Practice, 29(6), 721-726. doi: 10.1177/1049731517745995
    • “The arts have been used in social work practice with individuals and communities since the beginning of the profession, and yet an articulation of a rationale for their use is missing. An exploration of how the arts fit within the profession’s mission is also lacking. The lack of a theoretical foundation for the arts in social work has thus resulted in the marginalization of arts practice in the field. This article examines fundamental questions regarding the use of the arts in social work: the relevance of the arts to clients, to social workers, and whether the arts can provide evidence to promote professional work. Addressing these concerns will clarify the relevance of the arts to social work theory and practice and explore their advantages and limitations, thus helping to create more nuanced collaborations between social work and the humanities, arts therapy, and the arts in general.”
  • Jackson, K. (2015). Beyond talk – Creative arts therapies in social work. Social Work Today, 15(3). Retrieved from
    • When words fail, these therapies are often a conduit to the hearts and minds of clients who cannot verbalize their emotions… There's no human endeavor that can't be improved with a little creativity, and social work is no exception. While social workers can draw upon any number of talk therapy techniques to help their clients, there are times when talk isn't helpful or can't be summoned. In such cases, the arts can open a back door to the psyche, drawing from individuals that which they cannot yet put into words, thus catalyzing subsequent therapeutic conversations. Creative arts therapies involve the use of the arts—visual art, music, dance and movement, drama, and poetry—to facilitate therapeutic goals.”
  • Rutten, K., Van Beveren, L., & Roets, G. (2018). The new forest: The relationship between social work and socially engaged art practice revisited. The British Journal of Social Work, 48(6), 1700-1717. doi: 10.1093/bjsw/bcx118
    • “In 2015, Leanne Schubert and Mel Gray wrote a critical commentary in the British Journal of Social Work entitled ‘The death of emancipatory social work and birth of socially engaged art practice’. In this commentary, the authors argue that artists have moved in to fill the void that increasingly emerges as social workers vacate the public spaces of activism and social change. However, there is little consensus in the existing body of research about the so-called ‘death of emancipatory social work’ and what ‘social engagement’ in the arts precisely entails. The aim of our article is therefore to revisit the relationship between social work and socially engaged art practices. A rhetorical analysis of the differing constructions about social engagement in the case study The New Forest displays different roles of artists: (i) the artist generates change, (ii) the artist imagines, (iii) the artist researches, (iv) the artist acts as an entrepreneur and (v) the artist confirms the social order/takes advantage. Our analysis of how artists deal with the complexity of social problems and attempt to take up an explicit social engagement offers insights for a reconsideration of the emancipatory potential and social justice aspirations of social work.”
  • Yale Divinity School. (2015). Seeking God’s splendor: Thoughts on art and faith. Divine Radiance: Keeping Faith with Beauty. Retrieved from
    • “Can beauty be a way to God? How can art deepen the church’s impact? Is art a neglected topic in today’s congregational world? Is beauty in the life of faith a luxury … or a necessity? Such questions animate this Spring issue of Reflections, and we invited answers from several Yale Divinity School students who have a commitment to the arts. Their replies suggest approaches that will shape future relationships between religion and art. Most of the YDS students featured here are dually enrolled in the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, an interdisciplinary graduate center that educates leaders to engage the sacred through music, worship, and the arts.”

Movies, Podcasts, and Other Media:

Websites and Other Resources: