I'm Susanne Cockrell, and I bring 20 years of teaching and administrative experience to CCA's Community Arts Program, along with a background in theater and dance, environmental studies, anthropology, and Chinese medicine.
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 studio, research, and public art practice.
I bring the same sense of openness to the program; community arts is an interdisciplinary approach to creative practice that involves people, community, social and public engagement alongside a personal studio practice.
Community Begins In the Classroom
Our Community Arts faculty trains students in different ways they can apply a creative practice in the world at large.
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.
Our majors choose an area of studio concentration (such as painting, printmaking, sculpture or animation) -- sometimes two -- and develop strong conceptual and art-making skills. They learn to combine their aesthetic and making skills with larger social and political interests, developing context-driven projects that link art into real world situations. This requires a critical analysis of the complex world we live in, alongside strong art and design skills.
The Classroom Leads Into the World
There is no single way that a Community Arts student's work appears -- one might be exploring gender identity and social space in a series of public performances; another creating a gallery and residency in their home as a way to develop an alternative arts community and neighborhood resource; and yet another making an audio tour with a diverse group of middle school girls that explores education, power and privilege through the analysis of a San Francisco museum’s art collection.
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.
Community Arts alumni 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.
We have seen a recent increase in curriculum options that insert creative practice into local communities. To meet this heightened level of interest, my role as chair has evolved to link Community Arts across the college as well as in local and global contexts -- emphasizing skills and strategies for working alongside people as co-creators and stakeholders. We frequently share curriculum and forge collaborations between other majors and disciplines.
I am passionate about developing curriculum and extra curricular projects that support students in developing their own innovative and unique approaches to working in the social and community contexts while also preparing them for jobs in the field. This includes facilitating student-led research, where we continually refresh our notions of what creative practice in community arts looks like for artists and designers responding to pressing local and global issues.
It’s an exciting time to be involved with communities and social issues as an artist. I believe that working collaboratively and co-creatively with a wide range of methods and people outside of the college has the power to deepen and direct the practice of artists and designers.