Making Art in/with Communities

Arts & Sciences and Civic Engagement | LASE 3559 | DANC 3590


Katie Schetlick
Office Hours by appointment

Peter Bussigel
Office Hours by appointment


Mondays, 4-6pm, Room 217, Drama Building
Wednesdays, 4-6pm, various locations off Grounds


Class Email

What do we mean by community art? How can site-specific performance be used as a platform for social change?

Is art-making a right or a privilege? Can art act as a lens through which we come to know and understand the world and, more importantly, our local communities?


Why are we here? 

This practice-driven course explores the relationships between collective art-making and civic engagement. We will carefully consider the history, ethics, and organizational structures of community engaged art practices and then meet with local organizations and artists to better understand the arts and communities specific to Charlottesville. Drawing from a variety of practices including site-specific performance and public art, we will develop context specific approaches to art making that provide a sustained opportunity to work off Grounds.

We will strive to create an experience of making something that we can draw from for the rest of our lives, a challenging imperfect experience that models a way of being together and asks questions about our collective and individual standards and value systems. Our community will extend beyond the temporal and spatial confines of a “course” to become a collective exploring a variety of projects and causes.

Civic Responsibility

Why does this matter? 

We will address the history, ethics, pedagogical approaches, and organizational structures of art and civic engagement as well as practice the skills necessary to design, implement, and facilitate a mindful program based on collective research, conversations, and experiences. We will think and work in context–the context of a particular space, the context of the local community, and the contexts that materialize over time and in collaboration. It is our hope that by joining forces and sharing resources with local communities, we might in some small way alter the dynamic between the University and its underrepresented neighbors.

This course is part of a pilot program on Community and Civic Engagement. We will be experimenting with ways that community and civic engagement can enhance our learning experiences as part of a larger initiative to rethink the college curriculum. Broadly, we are interested in aesthetic engagement, empirical and scientific engagement, engaging difference, and ethical engagement and we will discuss these forms of engagement throughout the year. A significant portion of class time will occur off grounds in the greater Charlottesville community and will require considerations beyond those of the traditional classroom.

Learning Objectives

What will we do?

Engage: We will engage with current and historical approaches to community through the arts.

Experiment: We will experiment with different models for designing, facilitating, and evaluating community art practices.

Question: We will learn how best to ask questions and challenge art practices that are exploitative and/or oppressive.

Listen: We will become active listeners not only with our ears but, most importantly, with our entire bodies.

Share: We will recognize and examine the dangers of unidirectional outreach and learn to embody the role of the student and teacher simultaneously.

Make: We will create short site-specific projects that consider various contextual dimensions (historical, social, geographic, etc). You will take risks and try on different lenses.


How will this work?

We will meet on-grounds for 2 hours on Mondays, discussing readings and examples, and off-grounds for a 2 hour in-context session on Wednesdays, conversing with various arts organizations about their work in developing arts programs and projects in downtown Charlottesville. Moving around within Charlottesville is an important component of the course and we will often ask you to use public transportation. Short site-specific projects designed to help you engage with these ideas will be due every few weeks. 


How will we mark our progress?

Attendance and participation are important in building our community. You are expected to be present and prepared for every session, however, two unexcused absences are permitted without penalty. Each unexcused absence over two will lower your final grade by 5%. Because of the interdependent nature of this class, please email the whole class if you are planning to miss: Of course, if there are personal reasons for not emailing the full class, feel free to just email us.

50% Weekly Reflections

Everyone must submit a one page reflection with each week by midnight on Sunday. The reflection is a time and space for you to explore Wednesday discussions and reading topics in more depth, process project ideas, and track your thinking about art and community.

      Guiding questions:
  • Was there information/an experience(s) that garnered understanding? frustration? more questions?
  • What specifically garnered that feeling?
  • Did you find any connections or observe any disconnection between the readings and our off grounds experience?

30% Projects

Small projects over the course of the semester will ask you to make something off Grounds. See projects tab.

20% Final Paper

Take TIME to read back through all of your reflections. What readings and/or conversations shifted or cemented your understandings of art and community? What questions were answered? What questions remain? Write a 4-5 page (double-spaced) paper reflecting on and synthesizing the topics covered over the course of the semester:

  • Charlottesville & the University
  • Listening
  • Collaboration, Social co-operation, Collectivity
  • Ethics
  • Artists and Gentrification
  • Decentering Aesthetics

Be specific and engage directly with the readings.

Recommended Materials

In general, the readings will be pdfs and available on the website. The list of resources below is provided to move deeper into the various topics we will cover in class.

Responsibilities / Policies

What will we expect of each other?

Honor Code: We expect you to follow the Honor Code. Production courses often call into question traditional notions of fair use, copyright, and plagiarism. If you have questions about a specific project, talk with us during office hours.

Communication: We will make every effort to reply to emails within 24 hours. If we don’t reply within 24 hours, please email us again.

Violence Prevention: We are committed to reducing incidents of violence, harassment, bias, and hazing at UVA and in the broader community. We also believe that every person can play a part in reducing these incidents. If you are interested in becoming a more active bystander ask Peter or Katie about the Green Dot program and other organized prevention efforts underway at UVA.

Just Report It: If you would like to make a report of bias, hazing, or sexual/gender-based harassment or violence, either anonymously or in your own name, you can do so through the university’s Just Report It website:

Circumstances: Let us know if you have a disability or another condition that might require modification to these course procedures and exercises. For information visit

Resources: If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual/gender-based violence or harassment, information on reporting options and resources can be found

Resources for people who have experienced bias related to age, color, disability, marital status, national or ethnic origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, veteran status, or family medical information can be found here:

Resources for people who have experienced hazing can be found here: