December 11, 2006

California College of the Arts: Social Practice

California College of the Arts (CCA)


Social practice incorporates art strategies as diverse as urban interventions, utopian proposals, guerrilla architecture, “new genre” public art, social sculpture, project-based community practice, interactive media, service dispersals, and street performance. The social practice concentration focuses on questions of aesthetics, ethics, collaboration, persona, media strategies, and activism that are central to artworks and other projects that cross into real-life social situations and institutions. These varied forms of public engagement are linked critically through theories of relational art, social formation, pluralism, and democracy. Artists working in these modalities either choose to cocreate their work with a specific audience or propose critical interventions within existing social systems that inspire debate or catalyze social exchange.

Because many of the opportunities for creating fully-realized social artworks involve public commissions, long-term residencies, or the creation of alternative institutions or collectives, the social practice concentration prepares students to conceive projects, articulate narratives that support them, and cultivate a network of fellow practitioners and supporting institutions. Its field-based pedagogical model immerses students in critical discourses and provides them with specific contexts and opportunities for creation.

Central to the social practice concentration is the workshop, a studio/practicum class coordinated by resident faculty in concert with a succession of national and international visiting artists and theorists. The workshop is based around semester-long frameworks that are thematic and located in diverse social and physical contexts, including urban environments, formal and informal organizations, and popular media. The workshop is attended by all social practice students and is structured around group discussions, site visits, theoretical readings, and individual meetings with faculty—all leading to the creation and critique of finished projects.

Social practice students work in a shared space rather than in private studios. This environment forms the basis of a dialog-centered creative process, with the shared space serving as a meeting room, a place for research, and a site for production. The shared space is also home base for visiting artists and resident faculty, who interact with the students in the formal context of the workshop as well as through daily, ongoing contact.

Because the social practice concentration is a part of the interdisciplinary Fine Arts Program, its students will take graduate level critique and theory seminars with studio-based graduate fine arts students, as well as elective seminars with students from the writing, curatorial practice, visual criticism, architecture, and design programs. This interdisciplinary basis will enable their work, whether it is fully realized or seen in the form of proposals or in-process reports, to be considered critically across a variety of discourses.

Resident Faculty 2006–7

Amy Franceschini ( )

Ben Kinmont ( )

John Jota Leanos ( )

Ted Purves ( )

For more information about CCA’s concentration in social practice within the MFA Program in Fine Arts, visit .

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