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Sure, a public mural can add a splash of color and some vibrancy to a neighborhood. But when done the right way, collaborative art project can do much more for a community. It can be transformational.  

That’s among the themes of a recently published article by a research team that includes University of Wisconsin Oshkosh associate marketing professor Melissa Bublitz. 

She and 10 other researcherauthored Collaborative Art: A Transformational Force within Communities for the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research (JACR). It gives a new perspective on the positive impacts of community cooperation on arts initiatives 

“It’s really not so much the output as much as it is the collaborative input into the process within a communitybringing in stakeholders,” Bublitz said. “For a lot of communities, it is about bringing diverse groups together and helping them forge an identity and tell their story.” 

The research team, known as Transformative Consumer Research, works within the Association of Consumer Research. It includes academics from Wisconsin, Florida, Texas, Virginia, New Jersey and Oregon.   

The article was published in the October 2019 issue of JACR and both offers up strategies for developing community-based collaborative art and rolls out an agenda for further researchWhile visual art projects like murals and sculptures are often what comes to mind with community art, the work deals with a variety of forms.

Bublitz’s contributions included learning about a project called Walls of Wittenberg in the small Wisconsin town northwest of Green Bay. Residents in the rural Wittenberg community came together for a mural project that launched in 2005. 

“Their goal initially was to sort of drive community development to bring people back to downtown, to attract visitors and tourists (and) also to instill pride in the history of this community,” Bublitz said.  

It became much more. Instead of simply a one-and-done art project, Wittenberg expanded to now feature a variety of arts programming, including live dance performances, and brought its schools into the mix. It’s the sort of collaborative endeavor, Bublitz found, that can have an impact on communities large and small. Philadelphia, Houston and Milwaukee are among the many other areas referenced as having benefited from these cooperative efforts.  

This latest piece is the continuation of Bublitz’s research work that pairs marketing science and issues including health and well-being, social entrepreneurship and public policy.

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