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News . Feature Stories . CIA's Community Works series focuses on socially engaged art


September 26, 2014

CIA's Community Works series focuses on socially engaged art

Wilson Fellow, visiting artists, exhibitions, conference, and new courses reimagine the roles of artists in society

Cleveland Institute of Art shines a light on socially engaged artists and their work in a yearlong series titled Community Works: Artist as Social Agent. The series features:

  • A visiting Woodrow Wilson Fellow on campus Oct. 6-10
  • Residencies, visits, and exhibitions by international artists
  • An academic conference Nov. 6-8
  • A panel discussion by international artists on Nov. 7
  • A March 2015 symposium on art as an activist practice
  • Three new community-based undergraduate courses

“It’s quite a lineup. By bringing in visiting artists and speakers 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.

Fall Exhibition + visiting artists

The world is coming to Cleveland with the exhibition, Community Works: Artist as Social Agent, which opens on Friday, Nov. 7, in CIA’s Reinberger Galleries. Community Works will explore multi-layered narratives of identity, exile, and displacement through works of photography, video, installation, and other media. As a preview to the show’s opening, on Thursday, Nov. 6, Caroline Woolard, Susan Jahoda, and Maj Hasager will give gallery talks about their work in Reinberger from 3-5pm. The exhibition officially opens with a panel discussion on Friday, Nov. 7, from 5-6pm, featuring artists Hasager, Woolard, Jahoda, Dor Guez, José Carlos Teixeira, and Chi-Yu Liao and moderated by Checefsky. A public reception follows from 6-8pm in the gallery. The exhibition closes Dec. 20. Liao’s work will be installed in CIA’s Joseph McCullough Center for the Visual Arts.

Among the featured artists, Tel Aviv-based Dor Guez brings his video installations of personal histories, especially of the Christian-Palestinian minority in the Middle East.

New York-based artists and community organizers Woolard and Jahoda will install a series of illuminated plaques etched with their surprising findings about art school graduates in society.

Portuguese artist Teixeira employs video-essays, photography, installation, text, and live performance to explore notions of notions of identity, otherness, language, boundary, and displacement. Danish artist Hasager exhibits an archive of possessions and photographs owned by a group of Polish women in order to convey their personal narratives of opposing totalitarianism. And halfway around the world, Taiwanese artist Liao uses video and still-image installations of highly stylized scenes to explore relationships, imagination, memory, body image, food culture, and gender roles.

Liao will be an artist in residence at CIA for the entire fall semester, thanks to a Creative Fusion grant from the Cleveland Foundation. Administered by CIA alumna Kathleen Cerveny ’69, the foundation’s Creative Fusion artist residency program partners international artists with local arts organizations with a goal of maximizing the cultural exchange between the artists and the community.

Conference: Unruly Engagements

The Community Works exhibition opening is timed to coincide with an interdisciplinary conference at CIA Nov. 6-8, intended for 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, according to conference organizer Professor Gary Sampson.

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 Nov. 8. Participants must register at

New Community Projects Courses

As part of Community Works, CIA is offering three new elective courses designed by faculty to engage students in addressing social and environmental problems:

  • Socially Engaged Art for Change I: Drawn to Care = Portraiture + Medicine, in which students will draw portraits of patients and their caregivers at the Cleveland Clinic
  • Socially Engaged Art for Change I: projectFIND = People + Shelter + Food + Mapping, in which students will work with 17 organizations assisting Cleveland’s homeless by creating a visual guide that maps available resources
  • Environment, Art and Engaged Practice, a field-based course involving investigative studies within the Cleveland Metroparks

Spring Exhibitions

Community Works continues in the spring 2015 semester with additional visiting artists, an exhibition titled Women to Watch - Ohio, a regional symposium on art and design as social practices specifically for those who bring people to art, and an opportunity to see the socially engaged art created by CIA students enrolled in field-based courses.

Women to Watch - Ohio will be one of the final shows in CIA’s Reinberger Galleries. Two Cleveland curators – Reto Thüring of the Cleveland Museum of Art and Rose Bouthillier of MOCA Cleveland – chose the following artists to participate: CIA graduates Christi Birchfield (Class of 2006) and Lauren Yeager (Class of 2009), and Hildur Jonsson, Mimi Kato, and Eva Kwong. Checefsky selected the work to be shown. The theme is women’s relationships with nature and art.

“We’re organizing this exhibition because women have been under recognized in exhibitions in this region and nationally and this is an attempt to show the significance of their contributions,” Checefsky said. “These particular women artists represent the very best and the finest craftsmen and artists in the region and have reputations that extend nationally and globally.”

Women to Watch - Ohio opens to the public with a reception in Reinberger Galleries on Thursday, April 2, from 6-8 pm. As part of CIA's Lunch On Fridays series, the featured artists will participate in a public panel discussion on women in the arts on Friday, April 10, 2015, at 12:15pm in Aitken Auditorium in the Gund Building. Case Western Reserve University graduate student and CIA curatorial assistant Jen Rokoski will moderate the forum.

Woodrow Wilson Fellow

International development expert Stephen Vetter spent a week at CIA as a visiting Woodrow Wilson Fellow from Oct. 6-10, challenging his various audiences to re-imagine their social responsibilities with his ideas about: the importance of service learning for students, the loss of social trust and what it means for the new citizen, and global environmental change and local responses. Vetter is president of Partners of the Americas, an international grassroots organization that connects volunteers, organizations, and communities in efforts to reduce poverty and improve social justice in Latin America.

Vetter’s packed schedule at CIA included meetings with students, faculty, staff, and board members. Of note:

  • He was a guest on 90.3 WCPN’s Sound of Ideas, along with Barbara Chira, academic director of Cores + Connections; Bruce Checefsky, Reinberger Galleries director; and Mark Chupp, assistant professor and chair of Case Western Reserve University’s Concentration in Community Practice for Social Change. Listen to the broadcast here.
  • He was interviewed by CIA President Grafton Nunes at the Cleveland City Club’s Friday Forum. Listen to that discussion here.

“Stephen Vetter’s being here helped to expand Cores + Connections to a wider, international scale,” said Chris Whittey, vice president of academic and faculty affairs.

Cores + Connections is CIA’s commitment to engaging students in community-based learning, real-world projects, and social practices in art and design. “It is not enough anymore for art to be made and remain on the shelf; it has to engage with and change the world of which it is a part.”

It Takes a Village

It’s not an exaggeration to say that the gathering of these diverse thinkers, their works, and their ideas together in Cleveland is extraordinary. Their participation is made possible by numerous partnering organizations interested in the power of art. The George Gund Foundation made a generous grant to support the entire Community Works series, including Vetter’s and Jackson’s visits. Cleveland Foundation supports Liao’s visit through its Creative Fusion program. The Murphy Family Foundation is helping to fund the projectFIND course to create resource guides for the homeless. 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 by the citizens of Cuyahoga County through Cuyahoga Arts & Culture.

For details on fall and spring offerings, go to

Above: Chi-Yu Liao, CIA's Creative Fusion artist in residence.

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Fueling up for today's final Pre-College classes and exhibition. Congrats to all the students who made such great work during your two weeks here! We'll see some of you next week when a new session begins. 🎉

about 22 hours ago via Twitter


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