Joan Marie Kelly is a visual artist and a social artist exhibiting and publishing internationally. As a senior lecturer at Nanyang Technological University, in Singapore since 2005, Joan Kelly navigates complex interwoven community relations in South East Asia with her own status as foreigner, by engaging communities in art making. This is the basis of her social art practice. She reinvigorates concepts of figure painting and drawing by collaborating with ethnographic practices. She empowers communities by accessing and engaging with their creative processes, stimulating and inspiring communities to look beyond long-established social structures.
Kelly refers to herself as an Urban Ecologist, one who investigates the ecosystem of the city, initiating artistic encounters with migrant and marginalized communities. Art is a means to witness the environments and daily lives of communities that are often represented by constructions of the media. She has conducted social art workshops in neighbourhoods of Kolkata, Shenzhen, Fez in Morocco, and Singapore, empowering people through creativity, while the experience inspires her own artwork.
The multi-disciplinary environment of NTU nurtures diversity and interdisciplinary relationships. Building alliances and collaborations has become a blueprint for success and innovation. As an artist in a research-focused university, Kelly continues a long collaboration with linguists, to sustain oral languages and work collaboratively with tourism ethnographers developing research methods for building communications between developers and ethnic villages during the process of touristification in Thailand.