Creating social change through arts practice

Art and Social Change – Dust: a case study by Dr Donna JacksonA creative motivator and provocateur who initiates social change through large-scale participatory arts projects, Dr Donna Jackson will launch her new book: Art and Social Change – Dust: a case study – highlighting the processes and resources required to create Dust, a collaborative production that increased participants and audiences understanding and perceptions about asbestos-related diseases.

Art and Social Change – Dust: a case study documents the genesis of Dust including Dr Jackson’s methodology and creative collaborations with approximately 475 participants (including actors, singers and dancers) that resulted in seven successful seasons throughout Victoria, South Australia and Queensland from 2008 to 2013 with audiences of over 5,250 people who viewed the work, enjoyed the show and learnt more about the issue of asbestos.

After completing a Doctor of Philosophy at La Trobe University in the making of large-scale arts projects beyond the mainstream and following the five years of touring Dust, Dr Jackson wanted to ensure that her process and the Dust resources could continue to be presented and studied in schools and also performed by choirs and community groups.

Dr Jackson explains that she wanted to create a much-needed resource that captured her approach to influence social change: “Art and Social Change – Dust: a case study highlights a provocative arts practice that initiates greater awareness by engaging large teams of community participants – it’s a simple methodology that can be applied to arts projects across all aspects of government, education and advocacy groups.”

“I’m not interested in creating theatre as light entertainment – I want to make works that are useful and utilitarian, both in the processes used to create it and in the finished work. To create Dust seven times in seven different locations, I used a process of working with local participants and artists to find relevant and specific stories about asbestos that would resonate with those communities,” Dr Jackson said.

Incorporating reflections from a wide range of protagonists and participants, Art and Social Change – Dust: a case study is a stimulating resource that examines a large-scale arts project from conception to execution – it contains the Dust script and score, articles by practicing artists, educational learning resources, evaluation of how arts does affect social change, a recording of the Dust songs by Mark Seymour and a copy of the ABC documentary about the making of Dust by Malcolm McKinnon.

Featuring performances by the Dust composer and rock legend Mark Seymour with a choir and hosted by Australian arts advocate Robyn Archer, Art and Social Change – Dust: a case study will be launched as the feature festival closing event of the Williamstown Literary Festival at the Williamstown Town Hall on Sunday 19 June 2016.

With support from the Hobsons Bay City Council and through her company Hubcap Productions, Dr Jackson is currently the initiator and artistic director of the new Art & Industry Festival based in Melbourne’s western suburbs will be held in November 2016, and will include Dr Jackson collaborating with a range of artists and trades people to create work using her methodology for large-scale arts projects which influences awareness and change.

Dr Donna Jackson is a director, writer, teacher, consultant and arts practitioner who focuses on the area of democratic art making. She has been awarded a Fellowship from the Australia Council for the Arts and inducted onto the Victorian Honour Roll of Women.

In 1991 she founded and was the artistic director of the Women’s Circus. Through performing her one-woman shows, The Baby Show and Car Maintenance Explosives and Love, Dr Jackson communicates provocative ideas. This practice and research-led way into making art democratically has been further developed by academic study. Dr Jackson completed a Master of Arts at La Trobe University on processes of making arts projects involving social change and used the production of Dust as the focus of enquiry.

Her PhD, Illuminating Arts Practice: Making Large-Scale Projects beyond the Mainstream extensively interrogated practice-led research. Through her company Hubcap Productions, she is currently the initiator and artistic director of the Art and Industry Festival which is based in the western suburbs of Melbourne.

Art and Social Change – Dust: a case study Book Launch
Williamstown Town Hall, 104 Ferguson Street, Williamstown
Event: Sunday, 19 June 2016 from 6pm – 7.30pm
Information and Bookings:

Art and Social Change – Dust: a case study is available from

Image: Art and Social Change – Dust: a case study by Dr Donna Jackson