University of Community Arts

Stumbling through the 1s and 0s of the internet as I often do, I came across an interesting arts resource– CANuniversity. A program of the Community Arts Network, the university exists “a resource for people involved or interested in community arts training. CANu looks at college and university programs and courses and at the university-community partnerships and faculty- and student-led projects that enhance that training and put it into practice.”

The “Why CANu” section of the web page kinda creates a scrappy atmosphere for the project

The field of community arts is growing rapidly, attracting practitioners, thinkers and participants around the world. And when the arts intersect with education, community development, healthcare, environmental concerns, religion, politics – in fact in any sensitive area of community activity – skills are required that have never been a part of a traditional arts education.

Training in these skills is not yet the field norm. Certainly many practitioners have no formal training whatsoever, relying primarily on peer advice and lessons learned “on the job.” Only now as the field matures are formal training opportunities becoming available, often taught by those pioneers whose wisdom comes from years of practice.

Universities are beginning to offer degree programs in community arts, usually as a minor or a concentration within an art degree. But even as this kind of education proliferates, it is still flying below the radar, tucked into arts departments like theater, dance, performance studies or public art, under rubrics like “applied theater” and “art for development.” But it’s also showing up in programs like public administration, business management, social work, social justice, education, community development, public dialogue, social sculpture, architecture, citizenship, public policy, even tourism. This diffusion is partly because its proponents have to use every trick in the book to squeeze this work into the severely protected fiefdoms of academia. But it’s also happening for a healthy reason: As artists collaborate with – and even become part of – other fields, the professionals in those fields are demanding adapted training programs too.

This actually sounds like a reflection of Daniel Pink’s new book coming out called a Whole New Mind which argues that right brained folks who currently don’t get paid very well will be the element that allows the US to maintain a competitive edge in the world market of tomorrow. He suggests that creative people will be in demand in those fields mentioned in the last CANu paragraph I quoted.

I haven’t really had a chance to read the essays and syllabi listed on the website at this point, but I will obviously report anything interesting I come across.

But given that my interests and yours certainly will differ–give it a look-see yourself!

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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