Date of Award


Document Type




First Advisor

Dr. Timothy Dixon


A brightly colored mural of a neighborhood hero painted on the side of an old building in Philadelphia. A choir in a prison in New Jersey, directed by music education students from a nearby university. A theater program employing Southern California day laborers to design and perform plays exploring the difficulties of immigration. An off-campus university architecture studio in rural Alabama where students learn to use their skills and local resources to improve community infrastructure. An after school music program offering free violin, viola, and cello lessons to underserved youth in Providence, Rhode Island neighborhoods. Choirs throughout the country putting singers who are experiencing homelessness on center stage.These are all snapshots of Arts-Based Community Development programs which seek to improve conditions for and empower those who are often pushed to the margins of society.

Arts-Based Community Development (ABCD) is a broad and diverse field, which intersects with several other fields of study. It typically refers to some kind of programming which incorporates the arts with a development goal within a particular community. Often these programs involve a participatory element, in which the participants are actively creators, and typically, the populations served by ABCD programs are underserved. Given this broad definition, it is clear that this may be manifested in different ways in different communities. Research has been done focusing on this work in the context of various populations and social issues. William Cleveland, a leader in the field for over thirty years, has created a diagram to show the variety of efforts which are included in this field.