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The hero concept is tightly woven into the fabric of American and Western cultural identity. This hero is more icon than human, more mythic than mortal. Ordinary individuals often have little connection to these larger than life characters. Their heroes generally bear little resemblance to the outsized projections splashed across social media, television, movies, and theater. Instead, ordinary individuals choose everyday people as heroes—family members, neighbors, coaches, teachers—with whom they have a personal connection. Social constructionists believe individuals’ perspective of the world is based on their relationships and the experiences that result from those relationships. Using phenomenology and arts-based research, a study was conducted with 18–25-year-old students attending Tennessee State University, an HBCU in Nashville, to explore the archetype of the everyday hero, and how this relationship can shape and transform an individual’s life. Unlike with well-documented and researched iconic heroes, knowledge concerning people’s experiences and interactions with everyday heroes is limited. This study provides insight into that relationship, while expanding existing knowledge of the hero archetype. The visual art component acts as a catalyst for deep inquiry exploring experiences with, connections to, and interactions with everyday heroes. Significant knowledge is accessed concerning this relationship that illustrates the transfer of cultural and generational knowledge that influences, shapes, and also transforms.


File nameDate UploadedVisibilityFile size
19 Jul 2022
152 kB



  • Journal title
    • Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship

  • Volume
    • 12

  • Issue
    • 3

  • Date submitted

    19 July 2022

  • License