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Black Aesthetics: Upsetting, Undoing, and Uncanonizing the Arts Therapies

Image Description: Three overlapping circular portraits of three Black women smiling. The portraits are enclosed by a dark blue background with pink, orange and beige decorative shapes. There is orange text at the top of the graphic that reads, "Black Aesthetics and the Arts Therapies".

Fortunate to usher the work of Black artist, practitioners, and historians with colleague and friends, Leah Gipson and Britton Williams for the Special Issue of Black Aesthetics in the Arts Therapies in Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. An excerpt of the editorial co-written with Leah Gipson and Britton Williams is included below.


As three Black American women guest editors of this special issue, we came together out of the continued need to address the multiple ways Black spaces and Black imag- inations have cultivated the ground for the arts therapies. We recognized the need to delineate how the social stratification of Blackness allows for thematic construction of expression, implicating an expansive conception of Black aesthetics within disciplinary practices. Dually, we recognized the need to address contemporary discussions about the place and significance of Black peoples in the “field” (Thomas & Norris, 2021). While Black aesthetics has been a focus of our individual and collective work since our earliest experiences in arts therapies classrooms, our observations have revealed that when Black arts therapists focus on Blackness within pedagogy, practice, and research, their work is marginalized, contested, or subjected to oversight or surveillance (Norris, 2020a; Stepney, 2019). Although professional practices of surveilling Blackness in the field have appeared more subtly and at times to advance multiculturalism, this type of anti-Blackness has had a significant impact on theory, practice, and the development of Black aesthetics discourse that informs the whole of the arts therapies professions. This special issue is carried forward by a Black cultural overtone of protest against anti-Blackness. Attending to Black voices is a necessary, sustaining work of politically mediating Blackness across disciplinary boundaries—what it means to live in our skins and in arts therapies spaces and what it means to transgress dominant professional practice. We conceived this issue to center experiences of Black arts therapies commu- nities and the emerging dialogue on Black aesthetics in the arts therapies professions.

Read the full editorial by Marisol Norris, Britton Williams, Leah Gipson here:

Black Aesthetics Upsetting, Undoing, and Uncanonizing the Arts Therapies
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