Artists and Scholars Changing Culture, Creating Change: Findings from an Imagining America Research Initiative

Feb 23, 2023 3:00-4:30pm Eastern/noon-1:30pm Pacific

We invite you to Part I of a two part webinar series, co-hosted by Imagining America and a2ru.

The words ‘culture change’ are commonly used by those who aim to hold academic institutions accountable to supporting and recognizing public artmaking and scholarship. But what does it actually mean? Tune in for Part I of a two part webinar series co-hosted by Imagining America (IA) and a2ru. In this first session IA Faculty Director Erica Kohl-Arenas and IA National Advisory Board chair Kal Alston will share findings from their three year research project funded by the Mellon Foundation designed to answer this very question. Through case studies, over 100 national stakeholder interviews, and organizing institutes with leading thinkers and doers, the research revealed that the most lasting academic culture change is led by public, activist, and community engaged artists, scholars, students, and community based culture keepers themselves. These are the people that forge new spaces to radically expand how we understand research and creativity and to nurture a new generation of artists and scholars in public life. Join us to learn from our research findings and prepare to activate them in your own local contexts. 

Stay tuned for updates on Part II of this discussion, led by a2ru in spring 2023.

View the Webinar Recording


Erica Kohl-Arenas

Dr. Erica Kohl-Arenas is an Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of California, Davis and the national director of Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life. She is a scholar of grassroots community development and the radical imaginations and deferred dreams of social movements that become entangled with the politics of professionalization, institutionalization and philanthropy. Kohl-Arenas is the author of book “The Self-Help Myth: How Philanthropy Fails to Alleviate Poverty” (UC Press, 2016) and is currently working on a book about radical world building projects from the 1960s and today in rural California and beyond. She is the co-organizer of two action research projects, including one on transforming higher education to better support activist and public scholarship, and another on the reclamation of land and agriculture in building self-determined futures in rural Black Mississippi as a co-conspirator with the Mississippi Center for Cultural Production (Sipp Culture).

Kal Alston

Kal Alston is professor in Cultural Foundations of Education and in Women’s and Gender Studies at Syracuse University. She is Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the School of Education and previously served as Senior Associate Provost and Senior Vice President. In all her appointments, she has been invested in helping academic units leverage all resources and create fruitful collaborations, inside and outside of the University, to broaden the academic impact on and for faculty and students. As a philosopher of education, Alston’s scholarly interests center on intersections of popular culture/media with American experiences of race, class, and gender. She is currently working on analyses of the history of civil rights in US education as it connects to other cultural institutions. Her most recent publications have focused on ethics and higher educational leadership, the phenomenal experience of race in philosophical practice, and the relevance of truth in educational practice. She is currently chair of the Imagining America National Advisory Board and the president-elect of the Philosophy of Education Society.