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Open Engagement, April 17-19, 2015


Open Engagement is a free international conference and platform to support socially engaged art that highlights the work of transdisciplinary artists, activists, students, scholars, community members, and organizations. The conference mission is to expand the dialogue around socially engaged art, as well as the structures and networks of support for artists working within the complex social issues and struggles of our time.

Open Engagement 2015 will bring together over 200 presenters from around the world to share their work centered around the theme of “Place and Revolution” and features keynote presenters Rick Lowe and Emily Jacir. In 2014 OE established a partnership with A Blade of Grass, based upon our aligned missions to nurture the practice. The 2015 conference will also be presented in collaboration with the School of Art and College of Fine Arts at Carnegie Mellon University, the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, and the Heinz Endowments.

The conference will also highlight the work of local Pittsburgh artists and organizations supporting, presenting, and creating social art through a series of catalytic grants made by The Sprout Fund to support projects and sites that will be activated throughout the city. It will culminate in a weekend of programming at Carnegie Mellon University and the Carnegie Museum of Art, which will include presentations that activate the campus and the galleries.

In an effort to better support conference attendees and open up accessibility, the conference has partnered with the Carnegie Museum of Art’s Education Department to provide an art camp to children of conference attendees on site during the conference. The camp for children aged 7–12 has limited spots; if you are interested in participating, please indicate it on your registration form. Camp registration will remain open until full. Though we provide space and activities for children, we do not require kids to remain only within these spaces. We ask all conference participants to be supportive of kids, parents, and caregivers wherever they are, as we do not discourage them from attending any part of the conference, including workshops.

Keynote Presenters

Emily Jacir’s work spans a diverse range of media and strategies including film, photography, social interventions, installation, performance, video, writing and sound. Jacir has shown extensively throughout Europe, the Americas and the Middle East since 1994.

Rick Lowe is an artist who resides in Houston, Texas. His formal training is in the visual arts. Over the past twenty years he has worked both inside and outside of art world institutions by participating in exhibitions and developing community based art projects. In 1993, Rick founded Project Row Houses, an arts and cultural community located in a historically significant and culturally charged neighborhood in Houston, Texas.

Ongoing Partner

A Blade of Grass is a new funding non-profit that is dedicated to nurturing socially engaged art—an evolving field at the intersection of art and social change. We provide Fellowship resources to artists who demonstrate artistic excellence, work actively in dialogue with communities at ambitious scale, and enact social change. And we create events and content in order to foster an inclusive, practical discourse about the aesthetics, function, ethics and meaning of socially engaged art.

Presentations featuring A Blade of Grass and ABOG Fellows:

Sat, April 18 & Sun, April 19, 10 AM-5 PM: Try Zapatista-grown organic coffee from ABOG Fellow Fran Ilich‘s collaborative Diego de la Vega Coffee Co-op (Rm 313, 3rd Fl, College of Fine Arts Building, Carnegie Mellon University).

Sat, April 18, 10-11:30 AM: SexEd Presents: Pleasure – What do you wish someone had taught or told you about pleasure and sex? Participate in a conversation and become part of ABOG Fellows Norene Leddy and Liz SlagusSexEd project as well as their ongoing exhibition, “YouwishyouwouldhaveknownTube” (Rm 307, 3rd Fl, College of Fine Arts Building, Carnegie Mellon University).

Sat, April 18, 4:20-4:35 PM: ABOG Fellow Jan Mun presents the The Fairy Rings and Greenpoint Bioremediation Project, using mycoremediation and art to innovate bioremediation practices in Greenpoint, Brooklyn (The Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, 1st Fl, College of Fine Arts Building, Carnegie Mellon University).

Sat, April 18, 5-6:30 PM: The Value Proposition for Socially Engaged Art – What value does a social practitioner impart to an arts org? A community foundation? A crowd? How does an artist or an art project declare its value? Explore these questions with Sunny Widmann, Ethany Uttech, Mac Howison, and Dawn Weleski in a conversation moderated by ABOG Executive Director Deborah Fisher (Rm 307, 3rd Fl, College of Fine Arts Building, Carnegie Mellon University).

2015 Partners

The Carnegie Museum of Art is one of the most dynamic major art institutions in America. With our collection of more than 35,000 objects, and through our programming, exhibitions, and publications, we frequently explore the role of art and artists in confronting key social issues of our time. With our unique history and resources, we strive to become a leader in defining the role of art museums for the 21st century.

The School of Art at Carnegie Mellon University considers, in practical and visionary terms, the role of art and the artist in society. It is the first program in the country to offer an undergraduate area of study in Contextual Practice, which engages students in experimental approaches to making art in the public realm.

The Sprout Fund is Pittsburgh’s leading agency supporting innovative ideas, catalyzing community change, and making our region a better place to live, work, play, and raise a family. Sprout provides critical financial support for new initiatives, events, and organizations that help citizens take action on a pressing issue or enhance the cultural vitality of the Pittsburgh region.

The Office of Public Art is a public-private partnership that provides technical assistance and educational programs about public art in the Pittsburgh region.

The Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University is a laboratory for atypical, anti-disciplinary, and inter-institutional research at the intersections of arts, science, technology and culture.

The Heinz Endowments is based in Pittsburgh, where they use the region as a laboratory for the development of solutions to challenges that are national in scope. Their mission is to help the region thrive as a whole community, economically, ecologically, educationally and culturally, while advancing the state of knowledge and practice in the fields in which we work. Their fields of emphasis include philanthropy in general and the disciplines represented by five grant-making programs: Arts & Culture; Children, Youth & Families; Community & Economic Development; Education; and Environment.

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