Practices for Change Fellows at Arizona State University

November 27, 2019

By: Deborah Sussman, Communications and media specialist, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts

This article was originally posted on on May 17, 2019, but was updated for the purposes of this blog post. 

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The National Accelerator for Cultural Innovation at Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts welcomed seven Practices for Change fellows from around the country to ASU’s Tempe campus this summer.

The Practices for Change fellowship is funded in part by an Our Town/Knowledge Building Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The fellowship supports individuals with experience using arts, culture and design within other sectors — like housing, transportation, planning, justice and the environment — in order to build stronger, more equitable communities.

“Increasingly, across the nation, artists and designers are working outside of studios and stages in order to deploy their creativity and imagination in other spaces to help drive positive change,” said Steven J. Tepper, dean of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. “This fellowship is intended to lift up and support this non-traditional way of working across the cultural sector.”

“We launched the National Accelerator for Cultural Innovation, with our partner ASU Gammage, precisely to do this important work and be the national space for prototyping, incubating and scaling critical use-inspired practice, policy and peer networks,” Tepper said. “The Practices of Change fellowship will help us shift how people see the role of artists and designers — placing them at the center of solutions for public good.”

“Creative practices have the ability to transform non-arts systems,” said Jen Cole, director of the National Accelerator. “We are thrilled to support a cohort of leaders using creative practices to advance their work in sectors beyond the arts. This type of creative equitable work, embedded within community development, is still largely invisible and under-supported — we aim to be a part of the movement of changing how this work can be supported and recognized.”

Practices for Change is one of only a handful of opportunities that support the work that takes place between artists/designers and non-arts partners. Through the fellowship, the National Accelerator hopes to spotlight this essential intermediary role and expand this field of practice. The fellowship is intended as a peer cohort, so that ASU, the NEA and others can better understand how to support artists/designers working in non-traditional ways with new partners to transform practice and public policy for public good.

During the yearlong program, fellows will work in tandem with ASU faculty and staff as well as mentors with the Center for Performance and Civic Practice to expand their own practical work, as well as document and share learning from their experiences.

This month, fellows Tara Mei Smith and Carrie Christensen co-presented a workshop at the National Creative Placemaking Leadership Summit, held in Phoenix, Arizona Nov. 14 - 16. Their interactive workshop explored “time travel” as a foundational tool for creative placemaking, emphasizing placekeeping and placerevealing instead of placetaking. Using case studies such as Durham Belt Line for Everybody and the Minneapolis Park System and Creative Citymaking Timeline, they creatively guided arts leaders to investigate their own communities 28 generations in the past and 28 generations into the future with the intention to thoughtfully influence public policy and create plans for a more sustainable future.

“We are always looking for new ways of gathering and creating space for effective participation with intentional outcomes,” said Estrella Esquilin, program manager for the National Accelerator for Cultural Innovation. “Getting to participate in Tara Mei and Carrie’s workshop was an embodied creative and sensorial experience that was also surprisingly replicable.”

Additionally, fellows Rukhsana Nezam and Nella Young collaborated on a conversation with ASU graduate students, faculty staff, and several Phoenix Valley stakeholders to address tools they are developing for artists and designers entering work in non-traditional residency contexts (e.g., municipal departments). Exploring processes for embedding equitable contracts, innovating impact funding streams, and developing open source professional development and self-care resources for under-represented creatives were just a few of the topics addressed.

Each fellow is slated to visit ASU’s campus in the late fall and early spring semesters. These visits are meant for fellows to spend time with sector-peers, as well as sharing their work with staff, students and faculty members. The fellows will document their work and contribute to case studies and a developing Herberger Institute creative placekeeping podcast, and participate in a convening of national peers in May 2020, where they will connect with others working in the “middle ground” between artistic practice and public policy.


Meet the fellows here.

Interested in connecting with one of the Practices for Change Fellows? Contact Estrella Esquilin at Estrella.esquilin [at] at ASU for more information.