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Community Arts Training (CAT) Institute

The Regional Arts Commission supports people who are working at the intersection of art and community through training, professional development, workshops and networking opportunities, and other programs. 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.

Powering Positive Social Change Through Art

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.

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.

CAT Graduation 2020

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 — a combination of artists of all disciplines and 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.

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.


The rigorous five-month curriculum may include training on community arts, negotiation, social justice, identifying funding sources, legal and liability issues in the arts and social services, learning styles, communication and engagement, assessment techniques, and sustaining or sunsetting programs. Fellows are required to complete homework assignments, extensive reading and participate in a collaborative project outside of the designated CAT Institute sessions.


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 Jenny Murphy, 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.

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 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.


Do you work at the intersection of art and community?

Applications are currently closed for the next Community Arts Training Institute. We will share more information as soon as we are able to set a new schedule.

You can nominate a colleague for the CAT Institute. Nominations are encouraged because they are considered during the selection process. (They are not required, however.)

Arts and cultural events are waiting around every corner throughout the St. Louis region. Explore the abundant creativity our area has to offer. From gallery shows and performances to public installations, St. Louis is rich with culture and the arts in all forms. Browse these links to experience our arts community firsthand.


Due to the ongoing financial impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Regional Arts Commission (RAC) has been working diligently to adjust our annual grantmaking programs to ensure alignment with RAC’s strategic priorities, and in response to feedback from the arts community.


We have gathered a variety of news, information, and other resources to sustain the health and vibrancy of our arts community.


As the leading public catalyst for arts and culture in St. Louis, the Regional Arts Commission leverages the power of creativity to strengthen and enrich our community. Read our commitment to diversity, racial equity, accessibility, and inclusion, and see our strategic plan for the next five years.


Covid-19 has impacted us all. But what it hasn’t changed is RAC’s commitment to finding innovative ways to support arts programming, arts organizations, and individual artists through the pandemic, and to resuming these programs as soon as conditions allow.


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