Community arts as an academic discipline is a relatively new field. However, there is a long and diverse history of artists working with communities and in the public sphere.
One of the first of its kind in the country, the Community Arts Program at California College of the Arts critically examines and celebrates these varied traditions through course offerings and extracurricular projects.
From Judy Baca’s Great Wall in Los Angeles to Rick Lowe’s Project Row Houses in Houston to Ted Purves's and Suzanne Cockrell’s Generosity Projects in the San Francisco Bay Area, students within the Community Arts Program examine these projects from established artists alongside rich emergent work that comes from schools, small community organizations, and lesser-known artist collectives.
The most important tools the Community Arts Program can impart its students are those of multicultural communication, mastery of a particular craft, and strategies to work with communities in the public realm.
I became chair of the Community Arts Program when I started teaching at CCA in January 2008. My own practice as an artist is steeped in issues of nomadism, identity, the residue of labor, memory, and movement in the urban sphere—all of which involve various disparate social and geographic communities.
My work is multidisciplinary in nature with projects involving such mediums as video, ceramics, digital photography, and sound—an approach I incorporate into the Community Arts Program as well. I encourage students to develop an affinity toward a particular artistic medium and at the same time hone specific tools that allow them to access and collaborate with different communities.
I am continually impressed by the caliber of students I work with and the diversity of experiences they bring to this program.
As Simpson chair of the Community Arts Program, I am committed to its goals of providing students with an interdisciplinary, community-based program devoted to creative practice in the public sphere. I work with faculty to develop a curriculum that focuses on the ways artists and designers interact, collaborate, and intervene in a variety of social networks in order to build sustainable community relationships, engage cultural diversity, and stimulate social transformation.
I firmly believe students in the Community Arts Program leave CCA well positioned to work competently in different cultural fields and have the fluency in the language of artistic practice as well as community engagement.