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October 29, 2014

CIA exhibition, international artists, panel discussion, conference, all focus on socially engaged art

For Immediate Release
Contact: Ann McGuire
Director of Communications


CLEVELAND, Ohio – Cleveland Institute of Art may be a 132-year-old college of art and design, but this old school is looking beyond conventional forms of visual art with an exhibition, public panel discussion, and academic conference all exploring the many forms of socially engaged art.

Community Works exhibition

The exhibition, Community Works: Artist as Social Agent, opens on Friday, Nov. 7 with public panel discussion from 5-6 pm in the Aitken Auditorium of CIA’s Gund Building, 11141 East Boulevard. Members of the public will hear from all six of the artists featured in the show: four international artists and two New York artist-activists. From several different angles, these visiting artists will address the question: what is socially engaged art. After the panel discussion, the doors to CIA’s Reinberger Galleries open with a public reception from 6-8 pm.

Reinberger is also in the Gund Building. The exhibition runs through Dec. 20.

Community Works will explore multi-layered narratives of identity, exile, and displacement through works of photography, video, installation, and other media by the following six artists:

  • Maj Hasager (Denmark)
  • Ch-Yu Liao (Taiwan)
  • Dor Guez (Israel)
  • José Carlos Teixeira (Portugal)
  • Caroline Woolard (USA)
  • Susan Jahoda (USA)

“It’s quite a lineup. By bringing in visiting artists who represent a huge 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.

Hasager will exhibit an archive of possessions and photographs owned by a group of Polish women in order to convey their personal narratives of opposing totalitarianism. Liao uses video and still-image installations of highly stylized scenes to explore relationships, imagination, memory, body image, food culture, and gender roles. Guez uses video installations and photography to present personal histories, especially of the Christian-Palestinian minority in the Middle East. Teixeira employs video-essays, photography, installation, text, and live performance to explore notions of identity, otherness, language, boundary, and displacement. New York-based Woolard and Jahoda will exhibit works from their BFAMFAPhD collective, which presents statistics about students graduating with creative degrees, generates dialog about their collective power, and elicits proposals for organizing efforts.

Liao, whose work will be installed in CIA’s Joseph McCullough Center for the Visual Arts, has been an artist in residence at CIA this semester, thanks to a Creative Fusion grant from the Cleveland Foundation. She has been meeting with students, critiquing their work, and enlisting them to assist her with a new video piece she has been creating at CIA.

“This exhibition, and especially the panel discussion that opens it, present new perspectives on the roles that art and artists can play in affecting social change,” said CIA President Grafton Nunes. “We’re looking forward to hearing the ideas of these diverse artists as they discuss – from their very different points of view – this notion of the artist as social agent. ”

Unruly Engagements conference

The Community Works exhibition opening is timed to coincide with – and be a centerpiece for – an interdisciplinary conference at CIA set for Nov. 6-8 that is attracting academic, curatorial, and independent scholars as well as practicing artists and designers.

Participants in this conference, titled “Unruly Engagements: On the Social Turn in Contemporary Art and Design,” will explore what constitutes socially engaged art and design in contemporary culture.

“Presenters and participants are coming from more than 15 different countries to discuss and debate the meaning and value of social practice in art and design,” said Nunes. “This is exactly the kind of contribution we should be making to thought leadership in the visual arts.”

Author and University of California, Berkeley Professor Shannon Jackson will deliver the keynote address on Nov. 6. Author, artist and Portland State University Assistant Professor Jen Delos Reyes will serve as special respondent at the conclusion of the conference on Nov. 8. In between, more than 30 participants from the US and abroad will explore the conference theme in sessions on:

  • Socially Engaged Art and the Public Sphere
  • Artists as Activists: Voices from the Great Lakes Region
  • Historical Precedents and Present Strategies of Social Practice
  • Urban Design and Design in the City as a Force for Change
  • Aesthetics, Ethics, and Politics
  • Student Agency and Society: Visions for the 21st Century Art School

Lunchtime presentations during the conference will tackle a collection of insult humor from around the world (Nov. 7) curated by two CIA graduates, and the ideas behind a collective that is “Energizing Community with Mobile Sauna Sweat Batteries” (Nov. 8).

Participants must register at

The exhibition and conference are two elements in CIA’s year-long series on socially engaged art that shares the title of the exhibition: Community Works: Artist as Social Agent. The series also featured a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow on campus for a solid week in October; three new, field-based undergraduate courses now under way; and an exhibition from March 31 – May 2 titled Women to Watch – Ohio.

It Takes a Village

The participation of dozens of diverse thinkers in Community Works is made possible by numerous organizations interested in the power of art. The George Gund Foundation made a generous grant to support the entire Community Works series. Cleveland Foundation, through its Creative Fusion program, brought Liao to CIA as an artist-in-residence. The Danish Arts Council underwrote Hasager’s travel to Cleveland. Teixeira is currently the Champney Family Visiting Professor at CIA and the CWRU Art History Department. Other visiting artists are funded by CIA’s George P. Bickford Visiting Artist Fund and its Louis D. Kacalieff Visiting Artists + Scholars Endowment. All public programming at CIA is supported in part by the citizens of Cuyahoga County, Ohio, through Cuyahoga Arts & Culture.

About CIA

Founded in 1882, Cleveland Institute of Art is an accredited, independent college of art and design offering 15 majors in studio art, digital art, craft disciplines, and design. CIA extends educational opportunities to the public through gallery exhibitions; lectures; a robust continuing education program; and the Cinematheque, a year-round art and independent film series. CIA’s public programming is supported in part by the residents of Cuyahoga County through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture. For more information visit


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