Mission, Vision, Values, Language

Our Mission

The Center for Art and Public Life believes engaging communities is the foundation of a practice focused on changing the world.

We integrate this within California College of the Arts by facilitating and supporting mutually beneficial partnerships with the college and outside organizations.

Our Vision

We envision a future in which creative practitioners collaborate with a diversity of communities to manifest equitable and sustainable change.

Our Values

Creative practitioners have engaged communities in myriad ways over the past 70+ years, referring to their approach as “community engagement”, “participatory practice”, “public interest design/practice” and more. Recognizing these diverse histories, the Center grounds its work in core values and processes drawn directly from our own experiences, as well as inspired by those of peer educational programs like Stanford’s Haas Center for Public Service and revered community practitioners like Data Center: Research for Justice.


Creativity | Accessibility | Co-Ideation | Accountability | Cultural Humility | Diversity | Equity | Reciprocity


Active Listening | Developing Shared Expectations | Engaged Research | Personal + Professional Reflection | Collaborative Making | Responsive Iteration | Assessment

Our Language

In support of our work, we continually develop, refine and clarify the language that we use.  We are happy to share a small, but growing list of terminology gathered, adapted, and defined by Center staff:

Community Engagement

The development of relationships with collaborators/community members that are grounded in:  Shared expectation; open communication; and mutual investment.

To do this, the Center believes we must each know who we are, and what we bring – our personal history and socio-political dynamics, as well as our technical skills and disciplinary expertise – into our relationships with collaborators.

Identity Literacy

Capacity to identify, acknowledge and discuss the intersectional power dynamics of one’s own identities and the identities of others, including, but not limited to racialization, gender, documentation status, and class.


The capacity to control circumstances such as material, human, intellectual and financial resources. The control of these resources becomes a source of individual or social power. Power is dynamic and relational, rather than absolute, and is exercised in social, economic and political relations between individuals and groups. It is also unequally distributed, some individuals and groups having greater control over sources of power and others having little or no control.” (From Intergroup Resources.)


“A set of advantages and immunities systemically conferred on a particular person or group of people. People can be disadvantaged by one identity and privileged by another; for example, white people are racially privileged, even if they are economically underprivileged.” (Adapted from Race Forward’s Race Reporting Guide​.)


“The acknowledgement that multiple power dynamics/’isms’ are operating simultaneously—often in complex and compounding ways—and must be considered together in order to have a more complete understanding of oppression and ways to transform it.” (From Race Forward’s Race Reporting Guide​.)

The Center believes that for all creative practitioners, knowing who they are is a key step toward building authentic relationships with community collaborators. And depending on the context and the practitioner, this means acknowledging and actively pushing back against the imbalances of power and privilege amongst themselves and their community collaborators.


“An active, consistent, and arduous practice of unlearning and re-evaluating, in which a person [with] privilege[s] seeks to operate in solidarity with a [group of people who have been marginalized].” (Adapted from The Anti-Oppression Network.)