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Academics . Community Works 

Community Works: Artist as Social Agent

Cleveland Institute of Art dedicates its 2014-15 academic year to an in-depth look at the many roles of art and artists in society with Community Works: Artist as Social Agent

Community Works: Artist as Social Agent is a multilayered, year-long effort exploring the nature of art and social engagement through:

  • A national conference on the capacity of art and design for social agency
  • Exhibitions and related public programming by national and international artists 
  • Residencies by acclaimed artists 
  • Round table discussions and public forums by a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow 
  • A regional symposium to network resources among urban arts educators
  • Three new undergraduate courses 
  • High school student involvement through CIA’s Art + Achievement program

From September 2014 through May 2015, these events and people will help the CIA community explore new opportunities for artists, designers, urban neighbors, and other community partners to work together in order to effect positive civic engagement and social change.

“By bringing in visiting artists and speakers who represent a variety of perspectives and backgrounds, we hope to present a comprehensive look at the range of expression that may be considered socially engaged art,” said Bruce Checefsky, director of CIA’s Reinberger Galleries. 

In addition to the elements listed above, Community Works: Artist as Social Agent will also include a community partnership in which medical students at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine will take a portraiture class taught by CIA faculty.

Artists and designers have a unique opportunity, and perhaps responsibility, to address social and civic concerns, engaging their talents and skills to bring about positive transformations and connections focused on civic engagement, community organizing, social change, social justice, participatory democracy, community building, and community development. Artists and designers can lend a voice – or an image, or meaning – to complex social and public processes and spaces, creating an ever-evolving community dialogue. Public engagement and urban revitalization are at the heart of this yearlong series of Community Works activities that CIA is undertaking.

Over the course of the year, CIA in partnership with other members of the community will openly seek answers to questions such as:

  • What is the capacity of art and design for social action? 
  • How can artists and designers effectively partner with other individuals, neighborhood groups, grassroots organizations, and institutions in the development and realization of innovative, community-based projects that will enhance the quality of life for constituencies? 
  • How can these relationships maintain and nurture the values of mutual reciprocity and respect? 
  • What are the most effective means of facilitating access to the creative economy for all who care to participate in it?

Addressing these questions will enable the CIA community to spark public discourse on the underlying theories, politics, and feasibility of social engagement projects in Greater Cleveland.

The programs included in Community Works are examples of Cores + Connections, CIA's academic mission in which core values of faculty mentorship, studio and academic rigor, and state-of-the-art curriculum, all power extensive connections for student engagement in field-based experiential learning, real-world professional projects, and social practices in art and design.

CIA thanks its sponsors, Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, The George Gund Foundation, and the Cleveland Foundation through its Creative Fusion initiative. CIA's George P. Bickford Fund and its Louis D. Kacalieff Visiting Artists and Scholars Endowment are providing crucial support to Community Works. CIA also thanks the following community partners for their cooperation: Cleveland Clinic, and the Cleveland Metroparks.

Cuyahoga Arts and Culture