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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Open Engagement 2015 Call for Submissions: Pittsburgh

April 17–19, 2015 
Submissions close: November 17, 2014 
Theme: Place and Revolution 

In April 2015 Open Engagement will coalesce in Pittsburgh. Open Engagement, an annual art conference that explores various perspectives on art and social practice, will bring an international focus and perspective to the socially engaged work that is taking place in the local Pittsburgh community.

Established in 2007 by artist Jen Delos Reyes, Open Engagement explores various perspectives on art and social practice and expands the dialogue around socially engaged art making. In 2014 OE established a partnership with A Blade of Grass based upon our aligned missions to nurture the practice. The 2015 conference is presented in collaboration Carnegie Mellon University, Carnegie Museum of Art, The Sprout Fund, and the Office of Public Art. The conference will highlight the work being done around socially engaged art in the greater Pittsburgh area and further materialize this already developing network, and create a site that will connect these efforts.

The conference 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. This conference is an essential educational resource that delivers workshops to provide attendees with skills and tools to support their work in communities and embedded contexts. Open Engagement is committed to creating a space that is accessible, including free childcare to conference attendees, ADA accessible venues, and remaining a no-cost/low-cost platform.

Since 2007 the conference has convened over 900 presenters and over 4000 attendees from around the world to share current perspectives and approaches to this work. The conference presenters are selected from an open call for submissions. Open Engagement promotes multiple ways of knowing and experiencing this work from projects that are enacted at the conference, walking tours, panels, and hands on seminars. The submissions are selected by committees comprised of artists, educators, professionals, and community members.

After the 2015 conference, Open Engagement will move to the West Coast for 2016, then in 2017 the Midwest, and then returning once again to New York in 2018.

Open Engagement
April 17–19

The three-day conference will explore the theme of Place and Revolution. The conference will bring an international focus and perspective to the creative work that is taking place in the local Pittsburgh community. Open Engagement will highlight local artists and organizations through series of micro-boosting grants for projects that will be activated throughout the city.

What is the role of artists in defining place and creating change in the world? How are artists working in communities today? Open Engagement 2015 features keynote presenters Rick Lowe of Project Row Houses and Emily Jacir and focuses on the theme of Place and Revolution. The keynote speakers will bring together international perspectives on locality and change that will include artists' role in the creative revitalization of communities, to their role in global transformation.

The conference will begin on Friday, April 17. Open Engagement will highlight the work of local artists and organizations supporting, presenting, and creating social art through a series of catalytic grants made by The Sprout Fund to support projects that will be activated throughout the city. It will culminate in a weekend of programming at Carnegie Mellon University and the Carnegie Museum,  which will include presentations that activate the campus and the galleries.

The full conference schedule will be available in late February.

Call for submissions
The call for submissions for presenters is open now. We are inviting proposals for projects, performances, tours, interventions, presentations, or panel ideas connected to Place and Revolution. Contributors are encouraged to think of ways to work across disciplines, connect peers and colleagues at this conference, and to connect and engage multiple publics. We encourage presentations, projects, and panels that challenge expected conference approaches, for example engaging in multiple forms of learning, creating structures that privilege discussion and interaction and presenting content without the use of standardized visual aids formats.

We are also asking for submissions to Continuing OE workshops, presentations, and skill-building sessions related to socially engaged art, as well as education, institutions, and modes of support.

Selections will be made by committees of artists, educators, students, and invested community members.

Go to to submit.

Submissions close November 17.

Keynote presenters bios:

Palestinian artist Emily Jacir divides her time between New York and Ramallah in the West Bank. She is best known for presenting issues related to immigration and historical narratives of freedom and exile. Jacir employs her creativity to assert Arab identity through photography, film, installation, and performance. Because Jacir grew up in Saudi Arabia before moving to Rome for high school, she was exposed to issues of national and religious identity at a young age.

Rick Lowe's Project Row Houses (PRH), founded two decades ago, has created a blueprint for using urban renewal practices within an artistic context to enrich lives. Located in Houston's Northern Third Ward, one of the city's oldest African-American neighborhoods, PRH is founded on the principle that art and the community it creates can be the foundation for revitalizing depressed inner-city neighborhoods (an idea that derives in part from Joseph Beuys's concept of "social sculpture").

Partnering organizations:

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.

Carnegie Mellon University's School of Art 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.

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 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. 

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