This article reports new ethnographic research exploring community-based, participatory arts practice in Northern England and Mexico City. Noting the value of an ethnographic approach, the study investigated whether commonalities discovered in practitioners' approaches are significant enough to constitute a generalisable participatory arts methodology, transcending significant contextual differences, and recognisable across national boundaries.
Shared characteristics emerged in practitioners' modes of engagement with groups, and strategies for catalysing change; clear convergences from which a core methodology in community-based participatory arts for change is distilled. It suggests the opening of liminal spaces in which participants can reflect, rehearsing fresh ways of engaging in transformative dialogues in relation to the world in which they live. This article presents the study findings as a grounded characterisation of 'participatory arts practice': a complex but potentially powerful mechanism, in use within numerous community health projects, and evident in diverse settings, despite little or no exchange of ideas between practitioners.
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