Art for Social Change: Creativity, Belonging, and Transformation

Program Structure

Class meets twice a week for seminar-style discussion and in-class creative workshops. Tuesday's class is held at a meditation center in Saint Paul, while Thursday's classroom locations rotate to different arts-based spaces around the Twin Cities. Students begin work at their internship placement sites during the second week of class, and can expect to spend 15-20 hours per week at their site.

Topics & Themes

Public art, creative community engagement, art and equity, increasing access and deepening connections using the arts.


Pillsbury House + Theatre, Minneapolis, MN

Terms & Dates
Spring 2021: February 1 - May 14

16 credits


Program Overview

What is art for? How do our identities influence the art we make? How do we create work that examines systems of power, oppression, and liberation? Art for Social Change students seek answers to these questions in galleries, museums, street corners, and artist studios. They meet artists whose work creates spaces for healing and reconciliation, and join a growing movement of artists pushing the boundaries of what creative expression does, where it unfolds, and whose voices it amplifies. Guided by practicing artists, students create new work informed by the study of systemic oppression in the Twin Cities. Art for Social Change meets in innovative centers for creativity and community throughout the Twin Cities. Time spent with leaders, arts organizations, and funders equip students with grant-writing techniques, professional pathways, and inspiration for building a more equitable future. All students complete an individual internship with a local arts nonprofit. Past internship sites have included Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center, Two Rivers Gallery, Pangea World Theatre, Mia, The Loft, and GoodSpace Murals.

Staff and Faculty

Program Director, Art for Social Change

Marcus Young 楊墨 is a behavioral and social practice artist making work for the stage, museums, and the public realm. He is the founding artist for Don’t You Feel It Too?—an ongoing participatory street dance practice of social healing and inner-life liberation. From 2006 to 2015, he was City Artist in St. Paul, where he helped redefine the role of the artist in government as daily collaborator. His project Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk transformed the city’s sidewalk maintenance program into a publishing entity for poetry. In his work With Nothing to Give, I Give Myself Young lived ten days around-the-clock at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts to foster the understanding that people are the great overlooked works of art. Born in Hong Kong, Young has a BA in music from Carleton College and an MFA in theater from the University of Minnesota. He is a recipient of awards from the McKnight, Bush, and Jerome Foundations, and he received the 2016 Forecast Public Art Mid-Career Grant, given to one artist a year. Recently, Young was in residence at UC Irvine and St. Olaf College, and he is currently an artist in the creative collaborations program at the Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota. He is ongoing stage director for Ananya Dance Theatre, a contemporary Indian dance company working in the social justice movement. Born in Hong Kong, Young grew up mostly in the Midwest, and has been in the Twin Cities area for more than three decades.

pronouns: he/him/his


In this course, students combine new learning from field speakers, books, articles, guest speakers, and field trips to gain a deeper understanding of the need for and approach to effective community-based artistic engagement. They participate in or facilitate engaged conversations with their peers to grapple with the themes of the course and have the chance to create artistic projects that help students integrate new learning and awareness.

The goal of this course is to immerse students in the creative community in the Twin Cities. Students learn more about who they are, what social justice issues they are passionate about, and how they want to address those issues as an artist or arts advocate. Each student works with professional artists who mentor them through creative projects that allow them to interact with the communities surrounding Pillsbury House + Theatre.

Internship The internship is concentrated practice, and facilitates student learning on many levels. Students integrate and refine their theoretical understanding, build and develop skills, gain a greater understanding of methods of social change, and grow in their understanding of vocation. The program deliberately integrates these experiences with themes and experiences from the other courses in the program. Students work a minimum of 200 hours at their placement, approximately 20 hours each week for the duration of the program.

Integration Seminar This seminar integrates theoretical and experiential work in the other seminars of the program with internship work, and provides further theoretical frameworks for making meaning from the internship experiences. Students analyze the operation of organizations, learn how, when, and why organizations collaborate, and explore the perspectives that internship organizations and staff bring to individual and societal change. Assignments ask students to articulate and assess worldviews on social change and movement­building, including their own, those in texts discussed in the classroom, those expressed by field speakers who visit the program, and staff at their internship sites. Through guided examination of the assumptions they bring to interactions with practitioners and communities, students see how those varying worldviews play out within organizations and in processes of social change. Finally, students reflect on the impacts their classroom training and lived experiences have in real-world work and community environments, and articulate plans for their future engagement.


Below are details of a few recently completed internships and projects. Note that internship sites can change semester to semester in response to the needs of local organizations, and when possible, in response to the specific interests of students in the program. Internship sites are either community partners with Pillsbury House + Theatre or work directly on social justice issues as an arts organization. Students will get to know the work of their internship site and design and complete a project with the staff of that organization.

Website: CAFAC is located just down the street from Pillsbury House + Theatre. Local artists, community members, and local representatives who saw an arts space as a cornerstone of revitalization for the block founded the organization. HECUA students interning here learned many technical skills including welding and fabrication. They also curated a gallery show, wrote grants and social media copy, worked with local artists on the SEED project – a public art installation in North Minneapolis – and helped plan community events at CAFAC.

Website: Open Eye Figure Theatre is a locally and nationally recognized hub for experimental works of theater. A recent HECUA intern worked primarily with the Driveway Tour Program at Open Eye, learning about puppet design and craftsmanship and refurbishing many of the puppets for the summer shows. Students also have the opportunity to help build the sets for the main stage productions and prepare for the May fundraiser.

HECUA students at Pangea have participated in many Pangea events and community discussions related to social justice, art, and identity. Students take on individual projects related to database management, designing promotional flyers and other promotional materials, and helped out at many events throughout the semester. A large focus of the Pangea internship is on building and sustaining relationships, so interns became accustomed to treating every day conversations with other staff and community members as an integral part of their work and learning.

HECUA interns at Washburn work with three acting classes at Washburn High School. The Black Box acting program is modeled after Jan Mandel’s Central Touring Theater in Saint Paul rooted in the work of Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed. Crystal Spring, the Washburn supervisor, trained with Jan for years before starting her own program. HECUA interns help youth create and practice their own work.