Community Arts Training (CAT) Institute

CAT Institute Fact Sheet

The Community Arts Training (CAT) Institute is an innovative program centered on the belief that art has the power to be an agent for social change. Founded in 1997, the CAT Institute is a five-month curriculum fostering successful partnerships among artists of all disciplines, social workers, educators, community activists and policy makers with the goal of creating relevant arts programs particularly in underserved community settings such as neighborhood organizations, social service agencies, development initiatives and after-school programs.


  • To bring artists and community workers/social service providers together to understand the others' language and points of view so that successful programming occurs;
  • To allow participants to confront and grapple with unique issues in program planning and adaptability, partnership development, hands-on projects, teaching and situational strategies, and assessment tools;
  • To provide an active, progressive experience through a rigorous, mentorbased curriculum;
  • To provide an ongoing support system for artists and community workers/social service providers engaged in community-based work

Selection Process

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

Program Structure

CAT Institute fellows are provided with more than 55 hours of training, which occur during intensive, two-day sessions and in lab assignments for five months; ongoing professional development programs are offered to CAT Institute alums.


The rigorous five-month curriculum includes training on partnership and survival strategies, mediation and conflict resolution, learning styles, teaching strategies, public relations, identifying funding sources, legal and liability issues in the arts and social services, assessment techniques and advocacy. Fellows are required to complete homework assignments of extensive reading and the development of team lab programs.


Include lectures, discussions, critical response to reading assignments, site visits, review of case studies, interactions with community, writing assignments, participation in interactive projects with demonstrations, viewing performances.

2013/2014 Sessions

The CAT Institute convenes in October 2013 and will run through February 2014; sessions are held at the Regional Arts Commission's Cultural Resource Center.

In 2011, an advisory committee of CAT Institute alums, faculty and community partners designed a year long graduate training program for CAT Institute alums (TIGER) as well as an additional model for Community Art Training as a placed-based Institute. This significant expansion of the Institute's scope is being funded by the Kresge Foundation.


  • Roseann Weiss, Director, Department of Community & Public Arts, St. Louis Regional Arts Commission
  • Lisa Harper Chang, MSW, Education Programs Manager, Dept. of Community & Public Arts, St. Louis Regional Arts Commission

Core Faculty

  •  Jane Ellen Ibur, Lead Faculty, writer and arts educator
  •  Renee Franklin, Head of Community and School Programs, Saint Louis Art Museum
  • William Cleveland, Director, Center for the Study of Art & Community
  • Sue Greenberg, Director, Volunteer Lawyers & Accountants for the Arts
  • Emily Kohring, Theater Instructor, Grand Center Arts Academy
  • Shelly Goebl-Parker, MSW, LCSW, ATR-BC, Director, Art Therapy Counseling, Dept. of Art & Design, SIU-E
  • Kathryn Bentley, Actor, Assist. Professor, Dept. of Theatre & Dance, SIU-E
  • Regina Martinez, MSW, Coordinator-in-Residence, The Pink House, Rebuild Foundation
  • CAT Institute Alumni and a variety of guest lecturers


Considered a national model, the CAT Institute began in 1997 under the leadership of Executive Director Jill McGuire and Ann Haubrich. The concept was expanded by the initial core faculty: William Cleveland, director of the Center for the Study of Art and Community; Porter Arneill, former RAC staff, Maggie Hourd Bryan, social worker; and Jane Ellen Ibur, writer and educator.


Uncommon Experiences, Common Ground: Collected Works by Graduates of the Community Arts Training Institute, 1997-2003 was the inaugural exhibition in The Gallery at the Regional Arts Commission. The exhibit focused on the theme of the community artist in the studio and strived to demonstrate how an artist's creative process is impacted by his or her work in nontraditional settings.

Summer Session

In 2004, the CAT Institute held its first Summer Institute in an ongoing effort to support CAT Alums as they continue to work on community art projects. Summer seminars are often intensive day to week long workshops to foster professional development, integrative thinking and reenergizing the creative process.

CAT Cafés

In 2005, CAT Institute alums began meeting quarterly for an informal exchange of ideas, collaborations and problem-solving. The alums choose various topics to discuss and examine, as well as "meet and greet."

At the Crossroads: Arts-Based Community Development Convenings

The 1st Convening in St. Louis of community arts practitioners and partners took place March 2010 and was funded, in part, by the Nathan Cummings Foundation. In April 2012, RUSTBELT TO ARTIST BELT : AT THE CROSSROADS, St. Louis was funded, in part, by the Kresge Foundation.

Programs & Initiatives

To date, there are about 225 graduates of the CAT Institute living, working, creating and collaborating in the St. Louis area. The following is a sampling of initiatives (all of which received direct funding from the Regional Arts Commission) where CAT alums have been integrally involved in creating, enhancing or expanding community arts programming:

  • Arts CollaboARTive, a program that works with the clients of the Peter & Paul Community Services, a transitional housing program, to document through art their personal journeys from homelessness to independent living.
  • South City Open Studio and Gallery for Children (SCOSAG), a program that provides a safe and educational environment for children to explore the arts and also to strengthen the ties within the St. Louis neighborhood, its families, and its youth.
  • Arts Programs at the St. Louis City Juvenile Detention Center is an opportunity for the Center's young residents to participate in hands-on art workshops such as African drumming, leather crafting, hip hop poetry and circus performance.
  • Project Common Ground was a consortium of Community Health-in-Partnership Services, Metro Theater and Center for Survivors of Torture and War Trauma; brings together refugee teens from Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Bosnia with African-American teens to explore their similarities and differences through artistic expression.
  • In addition, CAT alums have contributed to various programs at Craft Alliance, St. Louis ArtWorks, Gya Collective, PPRC Photography Project, the Urban Arts Program at the Center for Creative Arts (COCA), The Learning Tree Intergenerational Center, Beyond Housing, America Scores St. Louis, Neighborhood Houses and Critical Mass for the Visual Arts.
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