Thomas Hirschhorn’s Gramsci Monument, 2013, Photo by author.

Johanna Taylor’s research places art practice at the center of urban experience as a means to both analyze its capacity to do social justice work locally and to act as an innovative agent for global transformation. The research is a critical analysis which builds toward a more just city that has applications for independent arts practitioners, arts organizations, innovation leaders, community development organizations, policymakers, city officials, and funders.

Her forthcoming book The Art Museum Redefined: Power, Opportunity, and Community Engagement (Palgrave Macmillan, Sociology of the Arts) analyzes the power and opportunity created in the implementation of community engaged practices within art museums. It examines the networks connecting art museums to community organizations, artists, and residents. It draws on global examples of museums extending beyond exhibitions within their walls to build dedicated partnerships that create art and impact communities while placing the Queens Museum as an ongoing case study. The book finds that cooperation is critical to build a community practice, requiring museums to disrupt organizational hierarchies to share power in decision making with artists and communities. In this way, artists and communities and museums build new pathways for shaping the design of their shared city.

She is currently conducting embedded research in the socially engaged art project Future IDs at Alcatraz, a year-long exhibition and series of public programs on Alcatraz Island. Led by artist Gregory Sale and a team of core collaborators, the project uses the visual and political framework of an identification card for people with conviction histories to conceive and develop visions for a future self. These stories of transformation connect criminal justice reform into art and community practice. Taylor is working with a collaborator who is also an artist on the project on a series of publications both for academic and public outlets.

Other scholarship looks at the intersection of art practice and urban policy, exploring their impacts on one another in working towards shaping the city, from the built environment to social programs. For example, in ongoing work in New Orleans this means exploring competing work of city officials and arts activist groups each working to reshape the built environment from monuments to housing. Collaborative art practices emphasize racial equity and challenge institutional structures to combat exclusionary divides and develop equitable opportunities to pursue life as chosen in the city.