The Concentration in Sustainability and Social Practice-the first of its kind among art colleges-prepares students to engage their creative practice with the social and ecological issues facing the world today, earning the knowledge, language, and skills necessary to excel in this emerging field.
Artists and designers wish to be cultural contributors; for many, this means acting as agents of social change, often through a proactive involvement with sustainability, climate change, and social responsibility-issues which are also the primary drivers of many professional fields. And while higher education has seen a rapid growth of programs in these areas, until recently, these have been largely restricted to the fields of science, engineering, and medicine. This new concentration allows visual artists to connect their practice with these global issues and prepares them to become professionally engaged in the areas of sustainability and social practice as artists, designers, entrepreneurs, or scholars.
Sustainable practice has practical results, and students in the concentration will find pragmatic solutions that reflect the three pillars of sustainability-environment, economy, and social justice. The social practice aspect gives students the opportunity to contribute to a fine arts discourse around environmental and urban issues, and to pursue new knowledge as they discover ways to engage the concepts of sustainability through social engagement. Because students move seamlessly between applied, fine, and liberal arts, they will also form hybrid models of study between disciplines, becoming better prepared for recent changes in the professional fields of art and design. The skills and knowledge that students will gain can be applied to many fields, both preexisting and emerging. Arts and social organizations, government and the business community will require participation and creative problem solving from artists and designers as they move toward ecologically- and socially-responsible practices. Students in the program can go on to work for architectural and urban planning firms, form socially-engaged collaborative art groups, or work in urban agriculture, among many other possibilities.
The issues of sustainability and social practice are not specific to any one field, material, or discipline, and, as such, this 15-credit concentration is a cross-departmental program open to all majors. Students must take one required studio course, as well as two studio electives and two academic electives, and they have access to courses throughout the MICA curriculum that focus on ecology, sustainability, urban studies, and social engagement. The menu of electives is designed to be flexible and will adjust to new course offerings; this gives students the opportunity to design a progression of courses that accurately supports their respective backgrounds and developing interests, a necessity in such a rapidly changing field. Students will also participate in a year-end colloquium session involving student presentations, discussion, and project exhibitions.