I'm Susanne Cockrell, and I bring 15 years of teaching experience to CCA's Community Arts Program, along with a background in environmental studies, anthropology, Chinese medicine, theater, performance, and media arts.
While this range of studies has made me a generalist in terms of my creative approach, my long-term work as an artist has channeled these diverse interests into an ongoing public art practice.
I bring the same sense of openness to the program; wherein community arts is an interdisciplinary approach to creative practice that involves people and publics alongside a personal studio practice.
Community Begins In the Classroom
Our Community Arts faculty trains students with a focus on working in public space, within specific and diverse local communities and context-driven art projects.
We foster a cross-disciplinary approach by teaching students to combine their interest in community engagement with their passions for being image-makers and curators of social experiences.
This requires a critical analysis of the complex world we live in, alongside a solid art or design practice.
Our majors choose an area of concentration -- sometimes two -- and develop strong conceptual and art-making skills. They interview people, create pop-up shops, hold meetings, share meals, plant crops, teach, paint murals, and stage interventions as they investigate and interact in social worlds.
The Classroom Leads Into the World
There is no single way that a Community Arts student's work appears -- one might be exploring food and heritage in a series of performances and public events; another working with youths to produce a series of video portraits; and yet another might be working with a class to design a graphic-identity campaign for a local nonprofit.
Despite the diverse ways our students work, many qualities exist that connect all community arts practitioners. Foremost is a drive to take their ideas and activities out of the studio and into the world through teaching, collective action, or community creation as well as an interest in social change, activism, and community development.
Many go on to build careers in social and community art practice, arts administration, and teaching.
Looking Backward, Thinking Forward
The Community Arts Program was created out of CCA's Center for Art and Pubic Life. Since its inception in 2005, CCA's Community Arts Program has investigated the role of artists and designers in the sustainable and creative life of communities.
This has most often involved working in context-driven situations like a community center, a school, the streets, parks, plazas, or nonprofit art organizations.
I am interested in facilitating student-led research in building a community-engaged practice as an artist.
It is an opportune moment to build our connections with the Graduate Program in Fine Arts Social Practice curriculum and other institutions nationally and abroad that are developing social practice and community arts programs.