Center for Civic Arts (CCA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to artistic enterprises inspired by civic engagement, community development, and social justice. Moving beyond conventional studio materials, the civically engaged artist’s toolkit includes dialogue, community organizing, public awareness campaigns, and art media, with the intention to impact social, environmental, political, or economic change. These participatory public art works are co-creations by the artist and the community, as equal partners in a democratic civic practice.
CCA’s CREATE is a community-based art education program established to address a gap in youth programs to provide culturally responsive pathways to learning and leadership opportunities which build a sense of agency, student voice, optimism, and positive identity. The learning environment is a holistic blend of community, school, and home. CREATE arts programs include digitally produced hip hop music and lyric production, or art integrated visual arts and crafts with socially provocative messages. In the 2018-19 school year, the program’s focus was bullying and the related violence. The arts allow youth to deal with trauma or other negative experiences by providing an alternative strategy to express negative feelings, insecurities, and vulnerabilities, rather than acting out in destructive ways (Vice 2012). During its first fall session, CREATE focused on speaking out about violence through hip hop music such as “Put the Guns Down.” Teaching artists observed a wide range of issues (bullying, food insecurities, absent parents) causing children to struggle with a lack of confidence and belief that they are each uniquely beautiful. Through the arts, students build character, confidence and creative thinking necessary to be peacemakers in an urban community like Wilkinsburg which has known too much violence.
The arts provide youth opportunities to express their voice, and beyond conventional learning spaces, they develop narratives which contribute to positive community outcomes.
CCA’s history of artistic enterprises include:
- The Stoner Way Blight to Bright Project (2016) (blight remediation partnership with Allegheny County Cleanways)
- South Fayette State Correctional Institute’s Faces from Within Project (2017) (healthcare injustice stories and portraits by SCI inmates)
- CREATE (2018) arts education based at Turner Intermediate School, Wilkinsburg
- Wood/South Gateway Project (2018-20) (vacant lot revitalization as a green public space),
- Socially Engaged Public Art (2016 – 2021)
- Dream Bench, Ross Avenue bus stop, recycled material bus stop bench (2016)
- Bob Ziller and Martha Rial Stoner Way murals celebrating Wilkinsburg heros. (2016)
- Environmental public art project in partnership with Nine Mile Run Watershed Association, to build public awareness about the invisible air and water pollution caused by Braddock/Rankin industry and transportation. (2018-2021)
- Gateway Project public art responding to environmental hazards. (2019-2020)
- Geometric sidewalk mural, Ross and Wood in Wilkinsburg (2018)
- Ferguson Playground: tessellation mural by children. (2019)
- 2020 planned Wilkinsburg farmers market artist in residency to bring awareness to Wilkinsburg’s scarcity of healthy food options.
- Historical Restoration and Preservation (2017-2021)