Community Arts Training (CAT) Institute

About the CAT Institute

Founded in 1997, the Community Arts Training (CAT) Institute is an intensive cross-sector training of artists of all disciplines and community activists of all kinds with 225 graduates.

The goals are to create and sustain strong arts-based community programs that amplify the voices of under-resourced communities; regenerate and unite neighborhoods; and create significant vehicles for positive change.

The CAT Institute is an innovative program centered on the belief that art has the power to be an agent for social change: For sixteen years, as the oldest sustained training of its kind in the country, the Community Arts Training Institute has provided a rigorous multiple-month curriculum to prepare artists of all disciplines and their community partners to collaborate in creating and sustaining significant arts programs primarily in under-resourced community settings, such as neighborhood organizations, social service agencies, development initiatives and education programs. Learning to collaborate across borders and boundaries takes discipline and time. The CAT Institute is not a "workshop."

The CAT Institute presents a tested and honed curriculum that includes training on:

  • • partnership, collaboration and survival strategies;
  • • negotiation and conflict resolution;
  • • learning styles and teaching strategies;
  • • diversity, power and privilege; • legal and liability issues in the arts and social services;
  • • creativity and the creative process;
  • • assessment techniques;
  • • public relations and advocacy;
  • • budgeting and identifying funding sources

CAT Institute fellows are provided with 55 hours of training, which occur over 5 to 7 months in intensive, day-long sessions. Fellows are also required to complete homework assignments of extensive reading and the development of team lab projects. The curriculum is designed to engage, provoke and challenge while creating opportunities for each fellow to approach the issues individually and collectively.

Each year, 16 CAT Institute fellows (8 artists of all disciplines and 8 community organizers/social service providers) are selected through a nomination, application and interview process.

Annual CAT 2013-14 will take place on the following weekends: October 4 & 5, November 1 & 2, December 6 & 7, January 10 & 11, and February 7 & 8.

The CAT Institute is a catalyst for socially relevant arts-based programs that are transformative and sustainable. CAT graduates are currently working in areas such as neighborhood organizations, at-risk schools, prisons, homeless shelters, hospices, labor unions, community centers, jobs programs, and daycare facilities. With dedication, creativity and resolute spirit, these artists, community activists, social service workers, educators, policy makers and administrators are a force in the St. Louis area equipped with powerful tools to foster transformation in individuals and in our community.

In March 2010, the Community Arts Training (CAT) Institute at the St. Louis Regional Arts Commission (RAC) presented At the Crossroads - a conference that cultivated innovative strategies in community cultural development. This conference brought together a cross-section of artists, community partners and leaders in a platform for critical dialogue about arts and community.

In April 2012, RAC and the CAT Institute along with Cleveland's Community Partnership for Arts & Culture (CPAC) organized RUSTBELT TO ARTIST BELT : AT THE CROSSROADS, St. Louis - Arts-Based Community Development Convening - This convening attracted about 300 participants from around the country and from as far away as Ireland and Singapore. It placed a special emphasis on the role of artists and their community partners in creating positive, social change. Presentations of new scholarship, workshops, and discussions allowed people in diverse social practices to connect and engage in a forum that inspires new ideas and community collaboration.

Rustbelt to Artist Belt: At the Crossroads was sponsored by RAC and CPAC with support by the Ford Foundation and Leveraging Investments in Creativity and is funded, in part, by the Kresge Foundation and the St. Louis Regional Arts Commission. Special thanks to the Detroit Creative Corridor Center.

Current CAT Institute faculty are Roseann Weiss and Lisa Harper Chang, co-directors, Jane Ellen Ibur, Bill Cleveland, Renee Franklin, Sue Greenberg, Stefani Weeden-Smith, Shelly Goebl-Parker, Kathryn Bentley, and Regina Martinez along with CAT Institute alumni. For more information, contact Roseann Weiss ( or Lisa Harper Chang ( at 314/863-5811.

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