Jill Beth Jacoby, Ph.D. is a 2009 graduate of the PHD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

Dissertation Committee

  • Jon Wergin, Ph.D., Committee Chair
  • Laurien Alexandre, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Steve Chase, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • David Attyah, Ph.D., External Reader


action research, study circles, dialogue circles, popular education, water resources, activist art, social change, public art, environmental art, community-based art, collaborative leadership, environmental leadership, civic engagement

Document Type


Publication Date



This research explored the use of study circles as a means of engaging artists in dialogue with their peers about water related concerns. The question driving this research was, “In what ways do study circles empower artists to become community leaders around water issues?” Secondary questions focused on emerging environmental, water, and social justice themes as well as examples of increased water awareness and behavior change occurring as a result of individual participation in the study circles. Artists have a unique way of commanding attention and communicating about environmental concerns while functioning as catalysts for activism on a variety of social topics. Barndt (2004, 2006,2008) has written extensively about the nexus between community-based art, activism and action research, as well as identifying the important differences in participation and intent behind community-based art versus art as commodity. This research incorporated the use of study circles (also known as dialogue groups, dialogue circles, or talking circles) with artists to learn how study circles empower artists to become community leaders. Literature focusing on civic engagement and the arts has looked at the process of utilizing the arts to engage the public in dialogue about a social concern. This research differs in that it focused on how a dialogue process impacts artists. Seventeen artists participated in four study circle sessions that encouraged in-depth dialogue on water quality concerns. Lohan’s (2008) Water Consciousness: How we all Have to Change to Protect our Most Critical Resources was used as a study guide and to focus the dialogue sessions. The artists participated in one-on-one semi-structured interviews to help clarify the relationship between the study circles and their own water awareness as well as community building, collaboration, and/or leadership among the artists. A focus group was used to obtain feedback on the value of study circles for social change. Key findings from this research conclude that the study circles brought about new methods for problem identification and solving, individual behavior changes, a deeper understanding for others, and the dialogue provided a powerful catalyst for collaboration, leadership and relationship building. The electronic version of this dissertation is accessible at the OhioLINK ETD Center,