This course utilizes the principles of academic Service-Learning to introduce students to the theory and practice of the arts as a vehicle for community-cultural development. As part of the course, the students will undertake fieldwork and research in an arts-based community project through direct contact and collaboration with established community based organizations (CBOs) that have within each of their missions explicit goals of community-cultural development.

The instructors have identified and established partnerships with five CBO’s in Chicago, each of which has expressed a felt-need for increased research into the work they conduct to enhance tbe impact their efforts have on their constituents and communities. Students will be introduced to these organizations and the people who lead them, and will conduct site-visits and onsite research to achieve mutual goals of academic learning and advancement of the individual and collecti ve work of the organizations. The research projects that are developed in this class will be presented to the CBO’s throughout the process and at the end of the semester, and will be shaped by the feedback provided by the instructors and the leaders of these organizations.

Readings and class discussions in community psychology, the role of the arts in community and cultural development, methods of community research, creating arts and cultural policy will support the fieldwork. Students will complete a collaborative research project and create personal narratives in their chosen medium reflecting their fieldwork experience.


  • archi-treasures
  • Kuumba Lynx
  • Aurora Arts Alliance
  • Little Black Pearl Workshop
  • Snow City Arts Foundation


Students will:

  • Examine the kinds of work engaged in by arts- and media-oriented community development organizations and by artists working in communities;
  • Develop and activate critical thinking skills to understand the link between cultural policy and community development at local, state and federal levels;
  • Individually and collaboratively conduct research in the field of arts-based community-cultural development;
  • Analyze the field of community-cultural development through the lens of their artistic interests;
  • Develop the process of self-inquiry and the practice of civic responsibility.

Course objectives cannot be met without fulfilling course requirements.


This class offers students the opportunity to investigate and analyze how and why the arts and media impact community-cultural development. Students will collaboratively explore the field of community-cultural development, research various source materials, conduct fieldwork with community based organizations (CBO’s), and analyze their findings through a narrative project in the media/art of their choosing. The principles and practices of Service-Learning are integrated into this process to develop critical thinking ability; communication, collaborative, and leadership skills; increased cultural and racial understanding; and awareness of social responsibility. This investigation will allow students to both consider – and make use of – the arts as tools in the social, cultural, and economic development of communities.


Creative Community: The Art of Cultural Development, by Don Adams and Arleen Goldbard, Rockefeller Foundation, 2001. (

Additional readings will be made available online and as handouts.


  • Active participation in class through discussion, collaborative activities,
  • questions, comments, writing assignments and fieldwork in off-site locations
  • Completion of weekly response papers (typed, 2 page minimum)
  • Individual and collaborative research with a variety of sources
  • Active engagement in fieldwork (attendance at off-site locations is required and a minimum of 15 hours field work over the course of the semester will be necessary to meet the expectations of the class)
  • Participation in group research project
  • Completion of a narrative project in the students’ medium of choice (based on research, experience in the field, and class work)


Fieldwork will consist of hands-on experience and the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of the real-life challenges and successes of community-cultural development. Fieldwork will be structured and coordinated by instructors with community partners and students. Fieldwork will require at least 15 hours of on-site contact with community-based organizations in addition to class time and assignments.


All students must keep a journal for class notes,field notes, research, and personal reflection. A journal with pockets that can be dedicated to this class is recommended as this record of experience and thought will play a critical role in the development and design of the narrative project due at the end of the semester.


Reflection is at the heart of teaching and learning and an integral part of Service-Learning curriculum. It is through critically reflecting upon what we have learned and experienced through research and reading, in-class discussions, site visits, and the collaborative work students will engage in with classmates and CBO’s that we will synthesize and understand the collected information and data that will result from the class and achieve the learning goals set forth in this syllabus. Weekly response papers are required throughout the semester. Response papers should be related to issues discussed in class, fieldwork, readings, and/or thoughts regarding an organization visited. These papers must be two pages typed, double-spaced.


Research of a community-based organization and a variety of text and web-based material is required of all students. Through class work and dialogue we will examine the concepts necessary for students to complete this research. Research will be conducted both individually and collaboratively. Additional information will be provided in class.


Students will work collaboratively in small groups with a community-based organization to organize and present the information they gather through the means identified above. This project will be the culmination and presentation of individual and collective teaming from the experiences of this class. It will demonstrate the students’ knowledge of community-cultural development and analyze in-depth the issues or felt needs identified while exploring this field. The presentation should engage the students’ creative and critical thinking skills through any media or artistic medium of the students’ choice.


  • Class Participation 20%
  • Field work and site visits 20%
  • Response Papers 15%
  • Research 15%
  • Narrative Project 30%

This class satisfies 3.0 of the 48 credits required for General Education distribution. This class is also an elective in the Cultural Studies major and satisfies 3.0 of the 14 credit hour Liberal Education elective requirement.


  • What do we mean by “community”? What is “art”? What is “community-cultural development”? Who does it and why? What impact do artists have on their community(ies)? How do we know? Why do artists get involved in this work’? What are the challenges, rewards, and benefits of this work?
  • We will explore these questions and issues through in-class discussion, collaborative activities, and with a variety of guest speakers from the field of community-cultural development. Methods and modes of research will be explored and site visits to CBO’s will begin.
  • Assignments/Reading: Creative Community, web-based resources, and handouts. Response papers. Online and text-based research.

WEEKS 6-10

  • How are community-cultural organizations created and sustained? What roles do these organizations play in cultural-community development? How is a CBO structured and managed? Where does the money come from and where does it go? How is the impact of this work measured? Why does it matter?
  • We will explore these questions and issues through continued in-class discussion, collaborative activities and research, and with a variety of guest speakers from the CBO’s with which we’ll work this semester. More intensive and comprehensive research will take place, site visits will continue, and fieldwork will begin.
  • Assignments/Reading: Creative Community, web-based resources, and handouts. Response papers. Online and text-based research. Fieldwork.

WEEKS 7-15

  • What do we now know? What are the learnings, best practices, key issues, challenges, and successes of arts-based community-cultural development? What is your personal social or civic vision for what you’ve learned and how can this vision be fulfilled? How do your findings impact and enhance the work of your partner CBO? What steps would take your findings and the work of your partner CBO to the next level?
  • We will explore these questions and issues through continued in-class discussion, collaborative activities and research, and fieldwork. Individual and collaborative research will continue and narrative projects will be proposed, created, and presented.
  • Assignments/Reading: Web-based resources, and handouts. Response papers. Online and text-based research. Fieldwork. Class presentations. Conception, proposal, creation, and presentation of narrative project.