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Articles, Essays & Research

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Arts-based Community Development - History, Theory, Definitions

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Training & Professional Development

Research, Case Studies, & Documentation

Portraits of Arts-based Community Development


Mapping the Field:

Arts-based Community Development - History, Theory, Definitions

magazine cover csac
Spring 1992
Bridges Translations & Change: The Arts as Infrastructure in 21st Century America

This a four-part essay first appeared in High Performance Magazine in1992. It's publication gave rise to the establishment of the Center for the Study of Art and Community later that year. While some of what it contains is dated, we feel strongly that the basic issues, ideas, and values are more relevant today than when they first appeared. Click here to view each section.

between race and fear book cover csac
June 2010
Between Grace and Fear: The Role of the Arts in a Time of Change

This paper stems from the findings of a research project that invited a range of writers, artists, politicians, scientists, community leaders, theologians and social theorists to engage the following question: If a major shift in worldview is taking place, what role might society’s arts and cultural resources (artists, arts institutions and cultural creatives) play? Click to go to the article


The book based on this research is available here.

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July 2010
Arts-based Community Development: Mapping the Terrain

The modern-day arts-based community development movement is founded on the belief that the arts can be a powerful agent of personal, institutional, and community change. Since its beginnings in the 1970s, the movement has grown from a very small and contained universe of intent and definition to become a widespread approach to both art-making and community building. To effectively assess the current impact of these ideas, it is useful to look at the movement's components, its shared assumptions, and the vocabulary used to describe the more.

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January 2017
Bravo, Sort Of!

n a 1991 article entitled Bridges Translations and Change: The Arts as Infrastructure in 21st Century America, I argued that the arts community in the US was a co-‘conspirator in its own marginalization. I was referring to the need for arts sector advocates to examine and question, the often disaffecting language, we use to communicate about our work. I would like to say that we have come a long way in the past 24 years, and this is no longer a matter of concern. But, unfortunately, I think it still is, particularly when it comes to the way we communicate about public more.

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July 2011
The Role of the Arts in Building a Better Society: An Interview with Barry Hesseneus

A three part interview with Western States Arts Federation arts blogger Barry Hessenius exploring many of the issues and ideas advanced in Between Grace and Fear: The Role of the Arts in a Time of Change.

Part l

Part ll

Part lll

making exact change book cover csac
January 2010
Making Exact Change:
How U.S.-based arts programs have made a significant and sustained impact on their communities

This is the Findings and Recommendations section from the book of the same name published by Art in the Public Interest in 2010. This chapter describes the characteristics of art-based programs that have demonstrated their capacity to produce positive change that is measurable and sustained (10 yrs+) in their communities. The emphasis of the analysis was to identify common elements that could provide a foundation for the creation of field standards for practioners and their supporters. Click here for more...

Click here for the full book

Building the Field:

Training & Professional Development

people holding hands collaboration csac
January 1997
Thoughts on Training & Support

In 1995 and 1996 CSA&C undertook the development of a 3-day community arts training program with the Arts Extension Service at the University of MA. The curriculum for the Community Arts Partnership Institute was conceived and presented by Dyan Wiley, community arts veterans Bob Leonard and Alice Lovelace and myself. The highly experiential, arts-infused program emphasized the history and dynamics of social change, the development of equitable community partnerships and deep reflection about the high level of responsibility inherent to the work. Over the next five years the AES Institute planted the seeds for community arts leadership training programs in six US communities. (Mississippi (state-wide) St. Louis, Missouri, San Diego, California, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Minneapolis, Minnesota and Delaware (also state-wide)). This article reflects early thinking about how such training can help build healthy community arts ecosystems.

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Summer 2016
Supporting Community Arts Leadership

We initiated our research on support for community arts leadership development described in Options for Community Arts Training and Support with the expectation that recent growth in investment in community arts and creative placemaking would be reflected in our findings (i.e., more projects, more training, and more interest). What we did not anticipate was the large number of training programs we found (164), and the high levels of community arts activity (74 percent) and interest (90 percent) reported by our cohort. What we really did not see coming was the 85 percent that indicated their strong interest in the incorporation of the arts into government service or even the 26 percent that are providing grants directly to non-arts organizations. This article appearing in the Fall 2016 GIA Reader, (Grantmakers for the Arts) summarizes the report's findings and and their implications for arts fundraising.

Lightbulb network abstract image csac
January 2009
Learning, Culture, and Change: A Model for Place-based Community Cultural Development Leadership Training

In the fall of 2001, Sandy Agustin, and Tom Borrup at Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis, approached CSA&C about providing training for an arts-based anti-gentrification initiative called  People, Places Connections (PPC). They felt an in-depth cross-sector training program similar to one CSA&C developed with the St. Louis Regional Arts Commission could help raise the bar, not only for PPC, but the community as well. What eventually became known as  the Creative Community Leadership Institute (CCLI) had a 14 year run. In 2009, the CCLI faculty (Erik Takeshita, Wendy Morris and myself) were asked to share the program's unique arts-infused, cross-sector approach for a national community arts conference convened by the Maryland Institute College of Art. The resulting paper describes CCLI's  genesis, structure and learning strategies.

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January 2011
Lifelong Learning

I often use stories to communicate about the role of art in community life. I have found that stories can be a good way to link discussions about community arts practices to the people and places they impact. And, if the stories are shared with grace with an open heart and mind, people usually get a lot more from their telling than from a ponderous pile of facts and opinions.

One of these stories is about a shaman 10,000 years ago who is leading a community in its preparation for a critical hunt. I have used this imagined saga to remind folks that, for most of human history, the activities considered central to community well-being (healing, blessing, mediating, mentoring, commemorating, interacting with the spirit world, etc.) have been facilitated by people who have used what we now call “art” as an important part of their practice. At times, I have referred to the shaman as the pre-art artist.

people sharing laughter csac
March 2016
Options for Community Arts Training & Support

In the fall of 2015, Intermedia Arts joined with Animating Democracy at Americans for the Arts to sponsor a CSA&C study to learn more about where community arts training is currently taking place and where there may be future interest. The research cohort was comprised of leadership from 423 local arts agencies who had previously indicated their interest and/or involvement in community arts programming in the 2015 Americans for the Arts local arts agency census.

The full report provides a snapshot of community arts training opportunities In the US and shares ideas for increasing access and affordability to in-depth professional development for the field.

brain with wings csac
March 2010
Seeing the Way Forward Through Arts Education

There are the things critical to our survival we don’t see, or refuse to see, that are, often, staring us in the face. I would speculate that we are all afflicted by one version or another of this kind of “selective blindness.” These blank spaces on the community landscape can manifest as our next-door neighbors or the people we pass by every day on the street. They might also be communities we avoid or don’t even know about. Sometimes, they show up as slow motion changes that sneak up on us, transforming long held assumptions into a private shriek: “what in the world has gotten into ‘this place’ or ‘those people’?” 


For me, one of the most obvious of these hidden-in-plain- sight conditions is what has happened, (and continues to happen), to America’s relationship to creativity and learning. Despite the election of a President who has said that arts education is critical to the future of our democracy, the creative learning agenda we hoped for (even anticipated) has not emerged.

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Gathering: A Study of the San Diego Gathering Places Initiative

For twenty-seven years the Pomegranate Center has been making communities more livable, sustainable, and socially engaged through large scale community design/build initiatives. In 2012, The Center partnered with ARTS (A Reason To Survive) and the San Diego Foundation to launch the San Diego Gathering Place Initiative. This multi-year project included a “Pomegranate Fellows” training to teach others the Pomegranate model, and the subsequent construction of two gathering places under Pomegranate’s mentorship.
The Center for the Study of Art and Community conducted an eleven month evaluative study assessing the impact of the Initiative on participants, partnering organizations, and the community.

Creative City Making program csac
June 2016
Creative CityMaking: In Search of the New Village

In 2013 the City of Minneapolis and Intermedia Arts collaborated on Creative CityMaking (CCM), a  program aimed at integrating creative thinking, strategies, and processes into the ongoing  operations of City Departments. Functioning within the Department of Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED), five core projects enabled artists and planners to explore new ways to involve citizens who typically haven’t participated in planning processes.


This case study explores the genesis, planning, and implementation of Creative CityMaking. Detailed stories of the five collaborative projects at the heart of Creative CityMaking along with outcomes and learning from the first phase provide an  illuminating and instructive look at how collaboration between artists and municipal government can achieve more diverse participation and greater equity in public process.

creative MN logo csac
January 2018
Creative MN: What Artists Contribute to Communities and What Artists Need to Thrive

This report, summarizes research conducted by Minnesota Citizens for the arts and CSA&C on the structure, condition, and needs of Minnesota’s artist ecosystem. Using this information as a foundation, the resulting essay which appeared in MCA's second Creative MN report  explores three areas relevant to understanding the cultural, social, and economic impact artists have on the state; 1.) where artist live and work; 2.) the many ways artists contribute to our communities; and 3.) what Minnesota’s artists need to thrive.

What Artists Say study csac
What Artists Say: A Study of McKnight Supported Artists

In 2011 and 2012, The McKnight Foundation asked the Center for the Study of Art & Community to help them in their efforts to learn more about the structure and dynamics of Minnesota’s artist ecosystem.  Put simply, the picture of the ecosystem that artists described has four basic parts: the artists themselves, the artist’s human support system or artists community, the creative infrastructure of organizations and processes that support their work, and the audiences that interact with it. Our respondents described these elements as intensely interconnected and highly interdependent. Click BELOW to read the reports executive summary. Click here to read the full report.

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January 2014
Artist's Count: A St. Louis Artist Census

In 2012, the St. Louis Regional Arts Commission undertook the Artists Count survey of artists and creatives to understand their working and living environments, the conditions under which they create their art, how they support themselves financially and the motivations that affect their work. More than 3000 artists responded, making this one of the largest studies of artists ever completed in the United States. Participants included visual artists, writers, dancers, actors, directors, videographers, graphic designers, architects, singers, musicians, fashion designers and other self-identified creatives. This research summary shares the highlights and outlines the significant investments the RAC has made in response to the identified needs and opportunities.

a man's hands bound in chains
California Arts in-Corrections:
Research Synopsis on Parole Ourcomes for Participants Paroled
Dec. 1980 - Feb. 1987

In 1988 the Research Department of the California Department of Corrections initiated a study of parole outcomes for 177 randomly selected inmates who had participated in at least one Arts-in-Corrections class per week for a minimum of six months. Outcomes were studied for six-month, one-year, and two year -periods after release.


For the one-year period, the Arts-in-Corrections favorable rate was 74.2% while that for CDC parolees was 49.6%. Two years after release 69.2% of the Arts-in-Corrections parolees retained their favorable status in contrast to the 42% level for all releases.The research also shows that as time since release increased, the difference between the percentage of favorable outcomes for Arts-in-Corrections and all CDC parolees becomes greater. The data indicates that after 6 months the Arts-in-Corrections favorable rate is 15.7 percentage points higher than the CDC rate. Two years after release that difference climbs to 27.2 percentage points'.

Core Arts report csac
CoreArts for Adjudicated Youth: Program Research 1999-2007

This paper summarizes three studies undertaken between 1999 and 2007 to assess Mississippi’s investment in arts programming for adjudicated youth.  Questions considered included:  (1) What goals do the various partners and participants have. f (i.e., impact on behavior, learning, recidivism, costs, etc) (2) To what degree have these goals been achieved? (3) What characteristics (i.e., curriculum, staffing, and program design) advanced or inhibited achievement of these goals? (4) How state and site collaborations contributed to the accomplishment of these goals? and (5) How the partners sustained the program beyond the initial research development phase supported by the state?

african american men raising their arms csac
California Arts in Corrections: A Cost Benefit Analysis

Established in 1979, Arts-in-Corrections (AIC) began as a pilot project at the California Medical Facility at Vacaville under the auspices of the William James Association. In 1981, the California State Legislature established Arts-in-Corrections as a department wide program. This seminal study, was designed to evaluate the operations, costs and benefits of the AIC Program. At the time  the research was conducted, AIC was directed by an Corrections-based Arts Program Administrator and a staff of full-time civil service Artist/ Facilitators, operated in all the state's twelve correctional institutions. William Cleveland, CSA&C's founder, directed AIC from 1982 to 1992. The program was discontined in 2006.  A second iteration of the program was established in 2014, as an interagency program of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the California Arts Council.

grantmakers in the arts magazine csac
Summer 2017
Buying Time and Fanning Flames (Exploring Art & Medicine)

The question of what it takes to create an enduring presence of arts in health care is one of the central themes that emerged in our discussions in Orlando. For me, one of the most useful findings in the literature review was that durable programs, like those at Shands, Houston Methodist, and Duke University, have developed gradually, generally starting with introductory, toe-in-the-water arts events, and then evolving over time to become more broad-based, interprofessional collaborations between arts and medical professionals. The experienced artists and arts administrators at the forum reinforced the notion that this kind of institutionalization requires patient, long-term investment and learning from everyone involved, including funders.

Learning from the Field:

Research, Case Studies, & Documentation

bridge project trompe l'oeil on wall
March 2000
Touching the Stone: The Community Bridge Mural Project

Although he is a muralist, William Cochran could also be described as an illusionist.  And, though his methodical rendering appears quite safe, there is also an element of risk to his work. Cochran’s “magic” is trompe l’oeil, the ancient art of visual deception. The risks he faces are less obvious, but in some ways more real.  This is because Cochran sees his painted illusions as a catalyst for an enterprise more subtly perilous, yet far more complex —building community.

artwork for corrections project csac
June 1988
Arts in Corrections: A Case Study

In the early 1970's, a time when work opportunities for artists and arts educators were diminishing in the mainstream culture, many professional artists began to look to society's forgotten corners for a new constituency.  Patients and prisoners offered an alternative opportunity for artists to respond to a crying need to be valued.  The emergence of these institutional art programs also provides a challenge to artists' preconceptions about the value and potential of the creative processes--a value which was as rooted in the issues of survival as those of aesthetics.

Image: Portrait Abstractions, Adrian Trent Woudstra, used by permission of the William James Association

arts access nz logo csac
September 2003
In the Land of the Long White Cloud

The e-mail was from Penny Eames, the director of an organization called Arts Access Aotearoa (AAA). Would I come to New Zealand in the late summer (February 2003) to participate in a national conference "celebrating Creative Spaces?" As far as I could tell, the reference to "Creative Spaces" was the Kiwi equivalent of what we call community arts. Now I know differently.

Wedding Peace Wall in Belfast
September 2006
Theater and Social Change: Ten Standards and a Wedding

In the winter of 2005, I traveled to Belfast to see the final two performances of The Wedding Community Play and to do research for a book called Art & Upheaval.  The Wedding was presented 24 times over a two-month period in four venues-- a Protestant house, a Catholic house, a community church and a reception hall.  Audiences were transported by bus to the first two locations where they crowded into the bedrooms, kitchens, and living rooms of the two homes. In these venues Northern Ireland’s incredibly complex cultural, religious, political, and economic issues were played out among the two families portrayed by the 40 plus community members who made up the cast of this play. 

Photo: William Cleveland

DaH theater logo csac
September 2003
Days and Nights With Dah

Dah was established in 1991, on the eve of the decade-long civil war that turned Yugoslavia from one of communism’s most civilized bastions into its most Balkanized and traumatized remnant. The onset of war plunged Dah's founders  into a chaotic universe of brutality, betrayal and the street. Within weeks, Dah’s co-directors auditioned actors and created street performance challenging the official position that the war in Bosnia did not exist. This bold and, some would say dangerous act was the first of many in Dah’s perilous and adventurous thirteen-year history.

pillsbury theater actors making funny faces
January 14, 2017
Shaman's Stories: A Survey of Arts-integrated Social Services and Community Development Programs

This summary of model programs was provided to assist the Pillsbury House Neighborhood Center in Minneapolis  learn to how arts resources can contribute to the development of a Cultural Community Hub in service to a wide range of community needs and opportunities in four areas:

  • Child and Youth Development

  • Community Identity Cohesiveness

  • Community Cultural Development

  • Community and Family Health

The thirty programs profiled represent a diverse range of programmatic approaches and philosophies.

Photo: William Cleveland

Stories from the Field:

Portraits of Arts-based Community Development

Pills- Shaman
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