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Social Practice in Art & Design: Home

The online catalog

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Author Credits

This guide was a collaborative effort between various faculty and staff members at CIA.

Special thanks to the following who contributed information to the guide:

Barbara Chira, Academic Director, Cores + Connections, Adjunct Professor of Art

Chris Whittey, Sr. Vice President of Faculty Affairs + Chief Academic Officer, Professor

Dana Bjorklund, Technical Services Librarian

Laura M. Ponikvar, Library Director

Social Practice Introduction

Social Practice – Changing the World, One Project At a Time

What IS social practice? Is it social impact design? Relational aesthetics? Disruptive design? Socially engaged art? Creative resistance? Public, participatory or interactive art? Hacktivism? Dialogic art? It’s all of these, and more.

But since we’re a college of art and design, we’ll refer to it here as “social practice,” and define it as the application of art and design practices in mutual collaboration with others to creatively respond to a social issue of concern – in other words, using art and design to make a better world.

Different fields of design, visual art, craft and integrated media will explore social practice from different perspectives and skills sets. But artists or designers in any discipline can expand their studio and professional practices to include social practice. It’s not an either/or proposition.

We hope this Research Guide (explore all the tabs!) will not only jump-start your research in this skies-the-limit subject, but will inspire you to explore an innovative social practice project of your own in your academic career here at CIA.

CIA's Graduation Requirement

Effective Fall 2016, beginning with the Class of 2020, completion of 3 credit hours of Engaged Practice (EP) is required to complete the BFA degree. As a result of this requirement, all students will have an opportunity to learn through experience by working on projects with external partners or clients, or in the public sphere.

These experiences may include professionally, commercially OR socially engaged practices, such as:

  • Collaborating with Cleveland Institute of Music students to create animations screened at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History Planetarium
  • Interning at BRICK Ceramic + Design Studio
  • Curating an exhibition of classmates’ work at Waterloo Arts Gallery
  • Partnering with Stryker Corporation in Michigan in the optimization of orthopedic surgical instrument design
  • Providing an arts enrichment program to K-12 students in underserved area schools
  • Interning at NASA’s GVIS (Graphics & Visualization) Lab
  • Conducting anthropological research with East Cleveland residents around the issue of property vacancy

All of these experiences provide a distinctive element to the education at CIA, developing skills and personal attributes such as collaboration, communication, and professionalism well in advance of graduation.

For more info, see pp. 60-61 of the 2016-17 College Catalog (