Community Arts Training (CAT) Institute

2018 Honoree - Robert E. Gard Award


For 21 years, the Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis (RAC) has implemented the Community Arts Training Institute (CAT Institute) to develop a robust regional network of community leaders and artists trained to use the arts as a tool for social change. Today, a cohort of more than 350 social workers, educators, community activists, policy-makers, and artists of all disciplines have completed the cross-sector, five-month curriculum and are putting their learning to use. The CAT Institute is unique in that its impact is measured not by what one singular program can do, but by the collective good that happens when hundreds of people share the values of art and social change and deploy their skills for change. The CAT Institute is the oldest sustained training program of its kind and RAC is humbled to know it is a model for similar programs across the country.The CAT Institute has for years trained artists in St. Louis on activism and social justice. To better identify well-defined and measurable outcomes in the field of art and social change, the Regional Arts Council of St. Louis commissioned an evaluator to study the program, define the “CAT Way of Working,” and identify how it empowers alumni to make a difference. The results of this study suggest multiple ways that CAT Institute training is manifested in the lives of graduates: among them a greater appreciation and respect for diversity, the adoption of a “with - not for” approach to community engagement. The same study revealed that 74% of respondents directly attribute their work success to CAT Institute training and cited concrete examples as evidence. The examples included successful projects that increase participant access to the arts, advance 21st century learning skills among youth, and promote life skills among other marginalized groups. Other examples of success are found within organizations where CAT Institute graduates work – from community development corporations to juvenile justice centers to museums and theatres. A rich web of connections exists among CAT Institute alumni, spanning the entire St. Louis region and growing exponentially with each class.

Partners: Lead Partner: Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis. Partners: CAT Institute Faculty: Renee Franklin, Director, St. Louis Art Museum; Kathryn Bentley, Actor, Teaching Artist, and Assoc Professor at Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville; Stefani Weeden-Smith, Asst Dir for Campus and Community Partnerships, Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement, Washington University - St. Louis; Shelly Goebl-Parker, Art Therapist and Program Dir/Assoc Prof of Art Therapy Counseling Program at Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville; Sue Greenberg, Exec Director, Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts; Bill Cleveland, Director, The Center for the Study of Art and Community. Lab Team Advisors: Claire Wolff, Community Development Specialist at University of Missouri Extension; Amanda Colon-Smith, Exec Director, Dutchtown South Community Development Corporation; Dannie Boyd, Writer and Photographer; Sukanya Mani, Art Specialist at Chesterfield Parks, Recreation and Arts Department; Jessica Eiland, Project Manager, Rise Community Development Corporation; Jacqueline Thompson, Asst Professor of Theater at University of Missouri St. Louis; Dionne Ferguson, Founder and Exec Director at Good Journey Development Foundation; Kaveh Razani, Local Business Owner; Dail Chambers, Artist, Activist, Founder of Yeyo Arts Collective. CAT Institute Faculty – Neighborhood-based: Robert Ketchens, Visual Artist, Teaching Artist; William Burton, Visual Artist; Regina Martinez, Community Impact Artist, Organizer of The Pink House; Dail Chambers, Artist, Activist, Founder of Yeyo Arts Collective; Kaveh Razani, Local Business Owner; Con Christeson, Artist, Educator, Community Arts Practitioner; Emily Hemeyer, Teaching Artist, Founder/Director at SPORE Projects; Jennifer Callen, Community Arts and Movement Project (CAMP); Bryan Walsh, Screwed Arts Collective, 9th Ward Committeeman; Julia Allen, Neighborhood Organizer, The Ville Neighborhood; Thomasina Clarke, Neighborhood Organizer, The Ville Neighborhood. Presenters: Tabari Coleman, Education Director, Anti-Defamation League; Kaytlin Reedy-Rogier, Program Coordinator, Integrated Health Network; Stephanie Gutierrez, Co-Founder, Hope Nation Consulting; Con Christeson, Artist, Educator, Community Arts Practitioner; Sarah Paulsen, Animator, Visual Artist, Teaching Artist; David A. N. Jackson, Soundscape Artist; Joan Suarez, Community Organizer, Director of Bread & Roses Missouri; Ed Reggi, Actor, Television Host, Storyteller, Teaching Artist; Prison Performing Arts Alumni Theater Company; Rachel Tibbetts, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble (SATE); Jason Vasser, Poet, Program Specialist at Missouri Arts Council; Robert Ketchens, Visual Artist, Teaching Artist; Antionette Carroll, Creative Reaction Lab; Leslie Scheuler, Researcher, President of LS Associates; Liz Kramer, Asst Director at the Office for Socially Engaged Practice at Washington University in St. Louis. CAT Institute Funders and Organizational Partners: Creating Whole Communities / Community Builders Network of Metropolitan St. Louis; The US Department of Arts and Culture; The Center for the Study of Art and Community; National Endowment for the Arts; Kresge Foundation; Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement, Washington University; Brown School of Social Work, Washington University in St. Louis; Sam Fox School of Design and Architecture; Northside Community Housing.