Cleveland Institute of Art focuses on socially engaged art

Exhibitions, visiting artists, conference, and Wilson Fellow: Yearlong series looks at roles of artists in society from many angles


Socially engaged art can take as many different forms as there are artists and designers creating it. Danish artist Maj Hasager, for example, has exhibited an archive of possessions and photographs owned by a group of Polish women in order to convey their personal narratives of opposing totalitarianism. Halfway around the world, Taiwanese artist Ch-Yu Liao uses video and still-image installations of highly stylized scenes to explore relationships, imagination, memory, body image, food culture, and gender roles.


Dor Guez

Dor Guez

Different as they are, these two artists – along with Jerusalem-based artist Dor Guez, Brooklyn, New York-based artist and community organizer Caroline Woolard, Cleveland-based artist and architect Sai Sinbondit, and Portuguese artist José Carlos Teixeira – are participating this fall in Cleveland Institute of Art’s multi-layered focus on artists in society. CIA is calling its yearlong series (and fall exhibition) Community Works: Artist as Social Agent.  The series will feature:



A Cleveland City Club talk by a visiting Woodrow Wilson Fellow on Oct. 10

* Residencies, visits, and exhibitions of work by acclaimed international artists

* A panel discussion by international artists on Nov. 7

* A national conference for academic, curatorial, and independent scholars Nov. 6-8

* A March 2015 regional symposium on art and design as activist practices beyond the academy 

* Three new community-based undergraduate courses



It’s quite a lineup. By bringing in visiting artists and speakers who represent a huge variety of perspectives and backgrounds, we hope to present a comprehensive look at the range of expression that may be considered socially engaged art,” said Bruce Checefsky, director of CIA’s Reinberger Galleries.


Maj Hasager

Maj Hasager

Woodrow Wilson Fellow

The first major public event of Community Works will involve CIA President Grafton Nunes interviewing international development expert Stephen Vetter at Cleveland City Club on Oct. 10. Through the auspices of the Council of Independent Colleges, Vetter will spend the week of Oct. 6 at CIA as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, meeting with students, faculty, staff, and board members. He will challenge audiences to re-imagine their social responsibilities with his ideas about: the importance of service learning for students, the loss of social trust and what it means for the new citizen, and global environmental change and local responses.


On Oct. 8, Vetter will be a guest on The Sound of Ideas on 90.3 WCPN, along with Checefsky and Mark Chupp, assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University’s Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences.


Exhibition and visiting artists

The world is coming to Cleveland with the exhibition, Community Works: Artist as Social Agent, which opens on Friday, Nov. 7, in CIA’s Reinberger Galleries. Community Works will explore multi-layered narratives of identity, exile, and displacement through works of photography, video, installation, and other media.


Jose Carlos Teixeira

Jose Carlos Teixeira

Among the featured artists, Woolard creates sculpture and websites, but she’s also created a barter network for cultural production. Guez uses video installations and photography to present personal histories, especially of the Christian-Palestinian minority in the Middle East. Sinbondit’s work reframes art and architecture for social change. Originally from Thailand, he works independently and with the United Nations on displaced communities and refugees, both in the US and internationally. Teixeira employs video-essays, photography, installation, text, and live performance to explore notions of notions of identity, otherness, language, boundary, and displacement.


As a preview to the show’s opening, on Thursday, Nov. 6, visiting artists Woolard and Hasager will give gallery talks about their work in Reinberger from 3-4pm and 4-5pm respectively. The exhibition officially opens with a panel discussion on Friday, Nov. 7, from 5-6pm, featuring Hasager, Woolard, Sinbondit, Teixeira, and Liao and moderated by Checefsky; and a public reception from 6-8pm in the gallery. Liao’s work will be installed in CIA’s Joseph McCullough Center for the Visual Arts.


Sai Sinbondit

Sai Sinbondit


The Community Works exhibition opening is timed to coincide with an interdisciplinary conference at CIA Nov. 6-8, intended for academic, curatorial, and independent scholars as well as practicing artists and designers. Participants in this conference, titled “Unruly Engagements: On the Social Turn in Contemporary Art and Design,” will explore what constitutes socially engaged art and design in contemporary culture. Author and University of California, Berkeley Professor Shannon Jackson will deliver the keynote address on Nov. 6. Author, artist and Portland State University Assistant Professor Jen Delos Reyes will serve as special respondent at the conclusion of the conference. Participants must register at


It Takes a Village

It’s not an exaggeration to say that the gathering of these diverse thinkers, their works, and their ideas here in Cleveland is extraordinary. Their participation is made possible by numerous partnering organizations interested in the power of art. The George Gund Foundation made a generous grant to support the entire Community Works series, including Vetter’s and Jackson’s visits. Cleveland Foundation, through its Creative Fusion program, brings Liao to CIA as an artist-in-residence from Sept. 1 through Nov. 30. The Danish Arts Council underwrote Hasager’s travel to Cleveland. Texiera is currently the Champney Family Visiting Professor at CIA and the CWRU Art History Department. Other visiting artists are funded by CIA’s George P. Bickford Visiting Artist Fund and its Louis D. Kacalieff Visiting Artists + Scholars Endowment. All public programming at CIA is supported by the citizens of Cuyahoga County through Cuyahoga Arts & Culture.


Shannon Jackson

Shannon Jackson



Caroline Woolard

Caroline Woolard

Stay Tuned

There’s more. Next spring Community Works continues with more visiting artists and exhibitions, two symposia, at least one panel discussion, and opportunities to see the socially engaged art created by CIA students over the course of the year. For details on fall and spring offerings, go to



Cleveland Institute of Art

Gund Building (home of Reinberger Galleries)

11141 East Boulevard


McCullough Center

11610 Euclid Avenue





Steve Vetter

Steve Vetter

CIA’s visiting Wilson Fellow on The Sound of Ideas on 90.3 WCPN, 9am Oct. 8

Cleveland City Club talk by CIA’s visiting Wilson Fellow, noon Oct. 10

National conference for academic, curatorial, and independent scholars Nov. 6-8

Panel discussion with international artists 5-6pm Nov. 7

Exhibition opening in the Gund Building, 6-8pm Nov. 7