Theses Doctoral

Portraits of Artists’ Lived Experiences of Co-Creating Art

West, Eric Christopher

Much has been said about what artists experience when they make visual art individually, but less has been said about what artists experience when they make art together. The study is based on the author’s perception, elaborated below, that artistic co-creation in the visual arts seems to be regarded as less valuable than individual artistic creation. To explore and richly describe the experience of artistic co-creation from the perspective of artists themselves, I initially invited three duos of artists to create visual art together in an experimental, time-bound co creation.

After the onset of COVID-19, however, I amended the study by inviting participants to co-create art by virtually passing pieces of art to one another. I then interviewed them about their experience. Guided by a phenomenological approach, I conducted semi-structured interviews using questions sourced from the study purpose and related research questions. These interviews, held periodically through the co-creative project, sought to uncover the emergent themes of the experience of artistic co-creation. After reviewing the transcripts from these interviews, I created a representative written likeness of each duo experience, called a portrait, using the qualitative modes of portraiture.

Six themes emerged from these portraits in the ways the artists reflected on their experiences of creating art together, including: moments of relationship and connection in the process of co-creation, the context and structure of the experiment, seeing experiences differently in the process of co-creation, finding agreements between the perspectives of the co-creators, developing creative rhythms based on temporal parameters, and learning in the partnership of the project.

I did not begin this study with a formally-articulated conceptual framework, but I was influenced in my thinking by Basquiat and Warhol’s relationship and subsequent collaborative artworks. This research contributes to the literature in key areas by examining existing assumptions about the value of artistic co-creation in the visual arts.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Organization and Leadership
Thesis Advisors
Marsick, Victoria J.
Ferguson, Janet
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
November 3, 2021