Community Engagement

Graffiti Institute, 2014, with Miguel del Real and students in the UIC Free Summer Art School.
Advocating for the power of the arts and creative culture to transform communities

We believe in the power of the arts and visual literacy to transform society and to unleash the creative imaginations of all people. We work as part of, and not simply in partnership with, communities across the city.

Socially Engaged Art Classes are undergraduate classes offered every year with a “Communiversity”—open performances and lectures that are free to the public. A rotating roster of artists and activists teach the history of art and make work with students in class. Examples of classes typically offered include: one with a focus on Hip-Hop co-taught by Kevin Coval, Artistic Director of Young Chicago Authors and co-founder of Louder Than a Bomb, and another on prison aesthetics taught by Laurie Jo Reynolds.

Open Engagement Artist-led Conference

Open Engagement (OE) is an annual, three-day artist-led conference dedicated to expanding the dialogue around and creating a site of care for the field of socially engaged art. Founded in 2007, OE has evolved into an unparalleled hub for practitioners and audiences of socially engaged art to assemble. The conference highlights the work of transdisciplinary artists, activists, students, scholars, community members, and organizations working within the complex social issues and struggles of our time. OE has presented seven conferences in two countries and four cities, hosting over 1,100 presenters and over 4,000 attendees.

OE is excited to announce the next phase of growth: a national consortium that will situate the conference in the Bay Area, Chicago, and New York. The three-year cycle will begin with the Bay Area in 2016 in partnership with the Oakland Museum of California and the California College of the Arts, Chicago in 2017 in partnership with the School of Art & Art History at University of Illinois Chicago, and in New York in partnership with the Queens Museum in 2018.

Each year will focus on a singular theme, exploring major issues at play and at stake in socially engaged art. The cycle of themes include POWER in Oakland 2016, JUSTICE in Chicago 2017, and SUSTAINABILITY in New York 2018. Annual programming will be chosen from an open call for proposals, under the direction of an appointed curator from the region and selection committee comprised of national consortium members, local partners, educators, students, community members, and organizations including New York-based non-profit A Blade of Grass.

Open Engagement 2016 –– POWER will take place April 29 - May 1, 2016 at the Oakland Museum of California and additional sites throughout the Bay Area. The conference theme will be guided by the curatorial vision of René de Guzman and feature keynote speakers Angela Davis and Suzanne Lacy.  A Chicago Delegation will be headed out to OE and reporting back to help plan for OE 2017. 

OE works to honor multiple ways of engaging in dialogue, to foster the community surrounding socially engaged art, and to serve as a site that supports multiple forms of knowledge. OE is ADA and family welcoming, and encourages local, national, and international artists, activists, academics, cultural producers, administrators, curators, educators, writers, thinkers, doers, makers and non-artists of all ages to apply.  Please visit for details.  

Young Chicago Authors and UIC "Write to the City"

Young Chicago Authors Summer Writing Camp is a writing camp for curious youth that bridges the literary and visual arts and provides engaging experiences and exposure to the city’s most interesting, exciting artists and cultural institutions.

UIC Free Summer Art School

UIC Free Summer Art School represents our commitment to providing art experiences and visual literacy skills as a catalyst for community building and for creative problem solving around pressing social issues. The first year of School took place in July 2014 with funding by the National Edowement for the Arts and was offered in conjunction with the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. Additional programming is on hold at this time. Refer back to our website for updates.

Mana Contemporary

Mana Contemporary is a groundbreaking venture that brings together influential artists, collectors, galleries, dealers, and institutions to create a single community whose purpose is to advance the production and exhibition of art. Currently, UIC’s School of Art & Art History occupies three dynamic spaces in Mana’s beautiful new arts complex located in a cluster of warehouses and factories in the Pilsen neighborhood. Each of the three spaces invigorates the arts and creative community by inspiring public practice and conviviality. 

Donald Young Artists’ Library

A wide range of captivating art catalogues and books collected by the late Donald Young, one of Chicago's most prominent gallerists, and made available to the public through a generous donation by his wife, Shirley Weese Young.

Maker Space

Operated and run by UIC’s New Media faculty, students and volunteers. Maker Space utilizes arts and science, craft and technology to explore creative solutions to the world’s problems. From amateur tinkerers to professional designers, the space is designed with a variety of experiences levels in mind.  

We aim to create a new culture of artists, makers, benders, and breakers, one that strives to make art and technology inclusive for people of all backgrounds and technical abilities. We welcome makers of all genders, orientations, and ethnic and cultural heritages.

Critical Care

The UIC School of Art & Art History is committed to the health and wellness of our students, faculty, and staff. We are working hard to create a campus that promotes a culture that ends stigma around mental health concerns and promotes support, awareness, and empathy. 

Each semester the UIC School of Art and Art History offers a series of interventions, workshops, events that focus on what we are calling Critical Care. This initiative encompasses community building, mental health, and creating and maintaining a balanced lifestyle. Holding the space in our creative practices to maintain our personal well-being, give into public exuberance, maintain relationships, face our emotions head on, and build community is what makes it possible for us to continue to do the important work of artists and scholars in the 21st century.