Against a background of contemporary social problems and concerns, this article considers the role of the arts in creating community. It begins with a synopsis of Ellen Dissanayake’s anthropological perspective on the importance of the arts in human evolution, human development, and premodern societies. It then considers current approaches to community-building through the arts based on two recent research projects done by Harvard Project Zero and its affiliates. One project, the Lincoln Center Institute Arts-in-Education Survey Study, reviewed twenty-two arts-in-education programs including community art centers, cultural centers, arts-infusion schools, and state and local arts councils. The other, Project Co-Arts, involved a survey and portraits of community art centers that focus on education in economically disadvantaged communities. In discussing this research, different forms of community-building are considered, including efforts to sustain ethnic communities as well as those intended to bring diverse populations together. Suggestions are made in conclusion of ways art programs can enhance connections within communities while maintaining autonomy and integrity.
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