Agora Doctoral Dissertation Award to Jing Yang

The Agora Center of the University of Jyväskylä celebrated its 16th anniversary on 16 March 2016 and granted the annual Agora Doctoral Dissertation Award for a multidisciplinary dissertation significant for the development of innovations that serve people and benefit society. For the first time, the award was handed to an international researcher who has completed a doctoral degree in Jyväskylä. The awarded person is MA, PhD Jing Yang.

In her awarded dissertation, Dr Jing Yang developed the evaluation criteria of benefit-oriented socially engaged art practices that consider financial, social, artistic and aesthetic values. They help to define a special tendency of social engagement of art: artists and art educators engaging in social work experiments and committing themselves to the duties of social workers. 

The award was handed by Anita Mikkonen, the CEO of the Regional Council of Central Finland. She emphasised that, in addition to high scientific quality, the awarded dissertation was of topical interest and aimed at societal impact in the field.

- I am especially happy about that now we had a chance to award an international researcher in Central Finland. International collaboration is beneficial both for research and the whole society, says Anita Mikkonen.

Anita Mikkonen.

- The theme of the Agora day is the impact of research. The dissertation of Jing Yang caught the award jury’s attention with an uncompromising effort to focus on the evaluation of the impact of art without forgetting the artistic and aesthetic values, which are at the core of art, says Professor, Director of Agora Center Pasi Tyrväinen.

The dissertation is based on two real cases. The Finnish case is the Art and Culture Companions activity in Jyväskylä involving voluntary art instructors, mostly above the retirement age, in connection of the Art Museum. In China, Yang monitored the Art for the Disabled Scheme organised by a private foundation for young people disabled in an earthquake in 2008. The projects used art in a concrete way to ease social problems through voluntary and welfare activities. In both projects, dedicated individual artists had a key role.

The dissertation proves that artists and art educators who practice societal work experiments create new kind of understanding on artistic creativity: an ability to combine different areas of knowledge, integrate sectors and institutions in the community and mobilise competence in various fields of science to produce solutions for problems faced by societies.

- It often comes up in public debate that only certain fields, for example, technology and natural sciences would be societally beneficial fields of science. However, this kind of studies prove that any field of science may have concrete impact, says Pasi Tyrväinen. - With the award, Agora Center wants to encourage researchers to open-mindedly seek means to combine different angles and use their competence and research results for the good of society.

The annual Agora Doctoral Dissertation Award has been awarded since 2001.  The Agora Center implements multidisciplinary research at the University through a variety of projects. With its award, the Center and its partners wish to bring out the versatility of technology and innovations and support researchers and entrepreneurs to find cross-boundary solutions. The amount of the grant for scientific research is EUR 1,000.

Jing Yang

Further information:

Link to Jing Yang’s dissertation:

Jing Yang (Yang is the surname) is from Chengdu, China. She completed her BA and MA (1999) degrees at the Department of Decoration and Environment Art of the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute. After that she completed a master’s degree at the Faculty of Art and Design at the University of Lapland, Chinese art propaganda as her research subject. She also spent, within the Erasmus exchange programme, an academic year in Ecole Superieure d’Art et Design de Saint-Etienne, France. She wrote her dissertation Benefit-Oriented Socially Engaged Art for the Department of Art and Culture Studies at the University of Jyväskylä and completed her doctoral degree in February 2015. 

Jing Yang has taught, for example, at the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, the Fine Arts College of Sichuan Normal University and the Department of Art and Culture Studies at the University of Jyväskylä. In addition, she participated as a researcher and author in the Year of the Dragon, a Chinese art collection and exhibition project of the Joensuu Art Museum in 2012. Currently she writes her postdoctoral research in China, studying the impact of Chinese contemporary art to ecological consciousness and activities.

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