Tag: Social Practice Arts

What We Can Do to Help Syria

I was in college during the genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia. As a theatre major/dance minor at a liberal arts school who was admittedly immersed in herself, in Millikin-world,  in a strong education and new ways of thinking, I barely remember the news. Class assignments and rehearsals and flirting and friendships all took priority of my consciousness. The closest I got to thinking deeply about others and about being a global citizen was when I took Ethics with Dr. Money. I loved the class discussions about abortion, corporal punishment and more…  we did not, however, talk about wars and the U.S.’s indirect or direct contributions to  conflicts such as Iraq, nor our responsibility to help. No class or professor or classmate even mentioned Bosnia, Rwanda, Palestine, Northern Ireland, Sudan…; if they did, I wasn’t listening.

I have no defense. Being an artist (or a student, or both) is no excuse for being completely arts-absorbed, deaf to the world.

Decades later when I read “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide by Samantha Power and traveled to Bosnia, and also Occupied Palestinian Territories, and Northern Ireland, I was devasted by how much was happening in the 1990s that I had been unaware of at the time. I didn’t even know when I was party to gentrification or privilege. I didn’t even see what was happening on the other side of the river in Saginaw, MI.

Well, now one big world crises is Syria. And it is serious. It is devasting. And I hope we as artists are listening.



Photo by Mohamed Radwan


According to the UN and Amnesty International

  • More than 50% of Syria’s population is currently displaced.
  • Around 250,000 people have been killed and 13.5 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance inside Syria.
  • One-in-every-two of those crossing the Mediterranean this year – half a million people – were Syrians escaping the conflict in their country.
  • While waiting out the long resettlement application process, more than 4.5 million refugees from Syria are in just five countries: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt.
  • Funding shortages mean that the most vulnerable Syrian refugees in Lebanon receive just US$0.70 cent a day for food assistance, well below the UN’s poverty line of US$1.90.
  • The United States has approved only around 2,500 Syrian refugees for resettlement here, mostly women and children whose fathers and older brothers are still in process and living abroad.
  • Shamefully, the high-income countries of Russia, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain have offered zero resettlement places.

The U.S. could set a better example by welcoming more refugees and also strongarming the leaders of the high-income countries mentioned to do something.

We, as the artist community, might not be rich and may be (like me) unemployed or underemployed, but we are wealthy in potential contributions of another kind.


Photo by Mohamed Radwan

Photo by Mohamed Radwan


In Chicago, there are 25 refugee families; my friend and I found out during a holiday event for the cause. Their services are managed by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Syrian Community Network (a small, local nonprofit organization run by an amazing woman and her mother). You can read example stories of the families on their website. We asked what they needed: English tutoring, quarters for laundry, gift cards for groceries, and feeling welcome among their new neighbors, new homes.

After some further investigation, I found out the families live within walking distance of the small dance studio where I used to teach for nearly a decade and continue to sub. I love this school. They said yes right away to my proposal of hosting the Syrian refugees in the studio.

I have volunteered to offer a series of English language learning dance workshops (free of charge) in this space (also donated) where the children and their parents will mingle with other dance parents (mostly Jewish and Christian), as well as to collaborate on a community performance opportunity in June.


Photo by Mohamed Radwan

Photo by Mohamed Radwan

We started last week and it was amazing.

One of the students I supported in Egypt is now in Chicago getting his masters as a Fulbrighter; he is volunteering to help with translation and facilitation during the workshops.  Other guest teachers and facilitators have also signed on to volunteer.

We just need a little help.

Photo by Mohamed Radwan

Photo by Mohamed Radwan

One of my intentions is to make the experience as authentic as possible. I want the workshops and performance to be as close to what the paying students get. The Syrian refugees are real dancers and I want to treat them as such, Although we incorporate certain social-emotional skills and language goals for these particular students, we provide them disciplined dance classes in ballet and jazz, fused with the assets of their traditional Syrian dances and culture. Sweaters and jeans won’t do.

Plus, I cannot fathom the visual of all the other dance students in polished outfits while the “poor refugees” are on stage in t-shirts and socks.

What we need…

  • 10 sets of skirted leotards and tights for the younger girls (in process)
  • 5 sets of long-sleeve leotards, long ballet skirts, and dark tights for the older girls – size adult S, M
  • 15 sets of boys’ white or black t-shirts and black dance pants – child S, M, L
  • Girls’ and boys’ jazz and ballet shoes in a range of sizes
  • Girls’ and boys’ costumes (in matching sets of 3+) or a connection to a costume company who could donate matching costumes for the entire group
  • Monetary donations or gift cards for the volunteers and the families

Donations can be sent to my name at Performing Arts Limited, 2740 W. Touhy Ave., Chicago, IL 60645.

Photo by Mohamed Radwan

Photo by Mohamed Radwan

If you can, I ask you to also look for the refugee communities in your area and see what they need. Welcome them into your dance, music, theatre, and visual arts worlds. Look into the possibility of bringing ourselves as artists to refugee camps. At the very least, continue to open our ears to crises and to be a voice in the face of fear and Trumped policy.

Photo by Mohamed Radwan

Photo by Mohamed Radwan

My 2016 Resources for Social Practice Artists

In the next two weeks, I will be speaking publicly, and I wanted to invite you all to those events, but I also offer you a few of my current resources for this work.

First, you are cordially invited to Hope College and SUNY Purchase. Both events are free and open to the public.

PicMonkey Collage

Hope College 1/14 and SUNY Purchase 1/20


Hope College in Holland, MI

“Art in the Real World” A Conversation with Shawn Renee Lent

Thursday, January 14, 2016 / 3:00pm-4:30pm, Jack Miller Recital Hall

From a childhood cancer hospital to the scene of a shooting, from post-war Bosnia to revolutionary Egypt, hear real stories of the power of the performing arts in our world. Shawn Lent will share her experiences on the ground and bring you inspiration and resources for doing this work. Sponsored by: The Departments of Dance, Art & Art History, Music, Theatre, & the Dean of Arts & Humanities

Slides available here.


State University of New York (SUNY) in Purchase, NY


Wednesday, January 20, 2016  / 2:30 – 6 pm, Dance Theatre Lab, Dance Building

The School of Arts at Purchase College is thrilled to present a one-day collaborative workshop, conversation, and performance program that deals with the intersection of dance, movement, social justice, and psychology. This project, funded by SUNY’s Network of Excellence, introduces work by a variety of artists, practitioners, researchers and theorists across various SUNY campuses and abroad. MOVEMENT/MOVEMENTS will feature examples and inquiries on how engagement in body-based arts can positively impact peace, conflict resolution and prevention, and diplomacy. Throughout the session students from the School of the Arts will provide a real-time visualization of the language and concepts introduced by the speakers.  Featuring: Doug Varone, Shawn Lent, Jonathan Hollander,  Chris Robbins, Roman Baca, Andrew Fitz Gibbon, Rachel Owens, Christina Merilees, and Melanie Gambino.


Now on to the promised resources. I will stick to what is most useful and inspiring to me currently. You will note that I am most interested in social practice and community-engaged dance, with a focus in intercultural, inter-group and international work. This is an acknowledged departure from teaching artistry in both the arts integration and community-based arts worlds. I also do not consider my practice dance therapy and do not offer resources in those areas, but what I do offer will hopefully be helpful to some of you out there. It is not comprehensive but is a follow-up to a previous post. Please feel free to add additional links and resources in the reply section below.  I will offer resources in the following categories:

  • Undergraduate Programs
  • Graduate Degree, Professional and Certificate Programs
  • Fellowships, Jobs/Internships, Volunteer Opportunities and Residencies
  • Groups, Initiatives and Organizations
  • Readings, Webinars and MOOCs

Lastly, if you are interested in joining a Facebook group to share opportunities and resources in social practice dance, let me know.


Undergraduate Programs

Performing Arts & Social Justice with a Dance Concentration at University of San Fransisco

Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation (CAST) interdisciplinary minor at Brandeis University

Community Arts BFA Major at California College of the Arts

Contextual Practice BFA Major at Carnegie Mellon University


Graduate Degree, Professional and Certificate Programs

Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Community Arts at Lesley University

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Teaching Artistry at Wayne State University (3 years, part-time, low-residency)

Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Arts for Social Change at Simon Fraser University (Canada)

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Art, Education, and Community Practice at NYU Steinhart

Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) at University of Maryland cultivating teaching artists.

M.A., M.F.A., and Ph.D. in Performance as Public Practice at The University of Texas at Austin

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Social Practice and Public Forms at California College of the Arts

Master of Arts Management (M.A.M.) in Community Arts Management at University of Oregon

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Socially Engaged Art at NCAD in Dublin, Ireland

Socially Engaged Practice Certificate at Arizona State University

Social Emotional Arts (SEA) Certificate at UCLA

Dancing to Connect Institute (June 15-26 in NYC)

Luna Dance Summer Institute (July 22-29 in Oakland, CA)

Look out for programs at Arizona State University with Liz Lerman now there looking at the arts and the environment, arts and equity.


Fellowships, Jobs/Internships, Volunteer Opportunities and Residencies

Next Level, Seeking Hip-Hop Artist-Educators to participate in an international exchange program.

Daniels Spectrum Artist-inResidency for community-engaged professional artists.

A Blade of Grass Fellowship for Socially Engaged Art

Imagining America Page Fellowship for graduate students

Artists Striving to End Poverty (ASTEP) volunteer opportunities

On-the-Move cultural mobility network’s list of residencies.

International Peace & Collaborative Development Network forum listings of jobs, conferences, grants and more.

Idealist volunteer opportunities and job postings.

Design-Your-Own Volunteer Opportunities at your local children’s hospital, veterans’ affairs group, refugee center, homeless shelter, juvenile detention facility, or public or private religious school (insular or divided communities).

Creative Time jobs, internships, fellowships, and volunteer opportunities.

Artslink international grants and fellowships.

Move This World position as a U.S. Trainer

Mladi Info with lists of scholarships, fellowships, conferences etc. mostly in Europe.

Alliance of Artists Communities case study residencies in social practice.

Surdna Foundation grants for artists engaging in social change (not currently open).

U.S. Fulbright Scholar Program (for artists, faculty, researchers or staff) DUE August 3 – This is the program I did. Let me know if you have questions or want my help reviewing your application!

U.S. Fulbright Student Program (for current masters and PhD students, recent grads, and young professionals in the arts and other fields) DUE Mid-October

U.S. State Department Exchange Opportunities

U.S. State Department Exchange Opportunities


Groups, Initiatives and Organizations

MindLeaps dance – vocational training – youth advancement programming in Rwanda, Guinea, and Bosnia-Herzegovina

(SPAN) Social Practice Artist Network

The International Centre of Art for Social Change

ASC! (Art for Social Change) 

DanceMotion USA

Dancing on the Edge


Readings, Webinars and MOOCs

1/20 Social Justice Funders webinar by Americans for the Arts

Bibliography listings and Glossary for the 2015 Duke MOOC on Public Art

Americans for the Arts’ On-Demand Webinars including Arts Deployed and Current Trends in Public Art & Social Practice

1/18 Creative Capital: Values-Based Goal Setting

4 Questions for Artists Working in Social Justice

On Social Practice and Performance by Andy Horwitz.

Who Gets to Perform? The Ethics and Aesthetics of Social Practice by Simon Dove

Arts-based Conflict Resolution, an interview with Michelle le Baron.

Acting Together documentary and toolkit (peacebuilding and theatre)

Dancing to Connect’s Cultural Diplomacy Toolkit

Imagining America publications, case studies, research, blog and Public journal

Dancer Citizen online scholarly journal.

ASC! (Art for Social Change) resource articles and publications.

50 Titles, 50 Perspectives: A Reader’s Guide to Art + Social Practice by Broken City Lab.

Dance, Human Rights, and Social Justice: Dignity in Motion by Naomi Jackson.

Movement as Cultural Diplomacy at Battery Dance

Arts in the Public Interest Archives.

Outside the Citadel, Social Practice Art Is Intended to Nurture (New York Times) by Randy Kennedy.

How the Art of Social Practice is Changing the World, One Row House at a Time by Carolina A. Miranda.

Alliance of Artists Communities resource list.

Free PDF Books on Race, Gender, Sexuality, Class and Culture

Education is Performance Art

Am I a Dancer Who Gave Up? by Shawn Lent (Huffington Post).

Open Windows to Social Practice Arts (33 links). Enjoy!

Social practice is making it big. Ever since I posted Am I a Dancer Who Gave Up? and the follow-up post, I have not been able to keep up with the response. This sector is not new. But we seem to be just now becoming aware of each other, across arts disciplines, definitions, contexts of working, nationalities…


Dancing patients from 57357 Children’s Cancer Hospital Egypt

You can read about Social Practice Art as defined on Wikipedia, how social practice arts are changing the world, how social practice art is intended to nurture, how social practice art is gentrifying community arts, how social practice art is something else, and how social practice arts need to be looked at critically. Not nearly enough of this dialogue I’ve found involves dance, cultural diplomacy, cross-cultural or multi-religious work in an international context, work in hospitals, areas of conflict, etc. The definition is often visual arts in an urban American context. One of the best articles I’ve read on the subject is by Andy Horwitz, so I will not attempt to recreate what he eloquently details.

Opportunities are listed nearly daily on SPAN a social practice arts network. On-the-Move, Mladi, and Peace & Collaborative Development Network also list potential programs.

But I started to create a list of opportunities in order to organize my own life. And I thought, it might be great to share this.



Dancing patients at 57357 Children’s Cancer Hospital Egypt

Robert Rauschenberg Foundation: Artist as Activist letters of interest due October 13

FIELD, a new on-line, peer-reviewed journal devoted to socially engaged art practice: call for papers critical essays for its inaugural issue, deadline October 15

Americans for the Arts: 2015 Conference proposals due October 20

Surdna Foundation: Artists Engaging in Social Change request for proposals due November 12

Open Engagement: an international conference and platform to support socially engaged art, 2015 conference submissions due November 17

A Blade of Grass: Fellowship for Socially Engaged Art applications due November 24

Ariane de Rothschild (ADR) Fellowship: Social Entrepreneurship & Cross-Cultural Network applications should be due in February

Kala Art Institute: fellowship including social practice applications should be due in April

Caroline Plummer Fellowship in Community Dance (NZ) applications due June 1

Asian Arts Initiative: Philadelphia social practice lab applications should be due in January


But that’s not all…


My students at Easy Talent Academy in Cairo, Egypt


My students at Easy Talent Academy in Cairo, Egypt

Several educational opportunities in dance are opening-up in community dance, dance education, and teaching artistry.

University of Maryland: MFA for Dance Teaching Artists opportunities

University of Roehampton: post-graduate program in Community Dance opportunities

University of Bedfordshire: MA in Community Dance Leadership opportunities

The Foundation for Community Dance in UK opportunities includes educational resources.

Dance and Social Justice at the University of San Francisco opportunities

Many, many more…


Dance as Diplomacy inside the U.S. Embassy Cairo

The educational opportunities in social practice are mostly fine arts based. We could bust these bubbles just by entering them, and thus create a more vibrant web of possibilities.

California College of the Arts: graduate fine arts concentration in social practices and visiting faculty for their Social Practice Arts Workshop opportunities

University of California – Santa Cruz: Social Practice Arts Research Center opportunities

Portland State University: MFA program in Arts and Social Practice opportunities

New York University: Masters program in Art, Education, and Community Practice opportunities

Arizona State University: Herberger Institute Socially Engaged Practice Certificate program opportunities

Carnegie Mellon University: MFA Contextual Practice opportunities


This is in no way a comprehensive or well-representative list. But if it helps someone out there, it was worth it.

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