About the Community Arts Training (CAT) Institute

Powering Positive Social Change through Art

The Community Arts Training (CAT) Institute is an innovative program centered on the belief that art has the power to be an agent for positive social change. The CAT Institute, founded in 1997, is a five-month training that fosters successful partnerships between artists of all disciplines, social workers, educators, community and social activists, and policy-makers with the goal of creating relevant, impactful arts programs particularly in under-resourced community settings, e.g. neighborhood organizations, social service agencies, development initiatives, and after-school programs.


To increase capacity of individuals in St. Louis, including artists and non-artists, to advance arts in community settings.

Selection Process

There are 16 CAT Institute fellows selected for each cohort — 8 artists of all disciplines and 8 community organizers/social service professionals/social activists/policy makers. Fellows are selected through a nomination, application, and interview process and are considered not only for their individual qualifications but also with respect to cohort, as a whole.

Program Structure

CAT Institute Fellows are provided with more than 60 hours of training, which occur during intensive two-day sessions and in lab team assignments. The training takes place over the course of five months.


The rigorous five-month curriculum includes training on partnership and survival strategies, mediation and conflict resolution, learning styles, teaching strategies, public relations, identifying funding sources, legal and liability issues in the arts and social services, assessment techniques and advocacy. Fellows are required to complete homework assignments of extensive reading and the development of lab teams.


The methods employed within the training can include lectures, discussions, critical response to reading assignments, site visits, review of case studies, interactions with community, writing assignments, participating in interactive projects with demonstrations, and viewing performances.


CAT Institute trainings are led by community arts practitioners who come with a broad range of experiences working with communities in a creative capacity. Recent CAT Institute faculty include Jane Ellen Ibur, Bill Cleveland, Renee Franklin, Sue Greenberg, Stefani Weeden-Smith, Shelly Goebl-Parker, Kathryn Bentley, Regina Martinez, Roseann Weiss, Liz Pund, and Lisa Harper-Chang as well as other CAT Institute alumni.

The CAT Institute is a rigorous program that demands a lot from its Fellows. Through a competitive application process, we aim to identify dedicated participants that seek to learn about the use of the arts in community settings, to develop their collaboration skills, and to explore new concepts and ways of working. Successful CAT Institute Fellows are eager to collaborate with their fellow participants and faculty; approach the experience with an open mind; and are committed to collaboration, communication, community, and creativity.

The CAT Institute is fully underwritten by RAC as an investment in the future of community arts. Acceptance to the program is contingent on the fellow’s ability to attend 100% of the class sessions. For those whose schedules conflict with one or more sessions, we invite them to consider applying to a future session.

Questions? Contact us.