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For decades, social practice art has been solidifying its relevance within almost every medium of contemporary artistic practice. A term curator Maria Lind deems “kaleidoscopic” in range, social practice refers to any art work that positions itself somehow within a social realm, whether it’s created collaboratively with communities of people, serves to narrate human social experience, is structurally dependent on participation to build the work, or directly seeks to transform political or social realities.
This year, the Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA) is digging into the impact of social practice art works and the role of artists as social agents through a series called Community Works. As multi-faceted as the genre it examines, Community Works includes an interdisciplinary conference, several residencies, an international exhibition, and brand-new course offerings at CIA.
An international roster of artists, scholars and curators will gather in Cleveland for the conference Unruly Engagements: On the Social Turn in Contemporary Art and Design from November 6-8. The conference begins with a keynote address from Shannon Jackson (author of Social Works: Performing Art, Supporting Publics, 2011) and concludes with remarks from a special respondent to the conference, Jen Delos Reyes. Panels featuring artists from around the world (and notably the Great Lakes Region) will convene to discuss social practice history, urban design, and current tools and strategies at play in social practice works. The full conference schedule is available at: http://cia.edu/academics/community-works/unruly-engagements-conference/conference-program
Register at: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/873285
CIA will also host the international exhibition, Community Works: Artist as Social Agent, at the Reinberger Galleries, opening Friday, November 7, from 6:00 – 8:00 pm. Participating artists Ch-Yu Liao, (Taiwan); Maj Hasager (Denmark); Caroline Woolard (New York); Jose Carlos Teixeira (Portugal); and Dor Guez (Israel) will discuss their work in a panel from 5:00 – 6:00 pm that evening.
During a one-week residency at CIA to kick off Community Works, Woodrow Wilson Fellow Stephen Vetter spoke of a particular power artists have to act as conveners of new dialogues, in particular because artists capture our imaginations and often defy the world as we know it. Community Works is convening voices of such power. What comes of the conversation will be fascinating to see.
Kate Sopko is an artist, writer and community organizer in Cleveland, OH. View more articles by Kate Sopko.