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.

Goals Include

  • Bringing artists and community workers/social service providers together to understand each others’ language and points of view so that successful programming occurs;
  • Creating the space for participants to confront and grapple with unique issues in program planning and adaptability, partnership development, hands-on projects, teaching and situational strategies, and assessment tools;
  • Providing an active, progressive experience through a rigorous mentor-based curriculum;
  • Fostering an ongoing support system for artists and community organizers/social service providers engaged in community-based work

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 and is supplemented by professional development opportunities offered through the CAT Institute.


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. Please click here for a sample curriculum.


The methods employed within the training 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.