Ohio Valley Center for Collaborative Arts at OU

ATHENS — Ohio University’s College of Fine Arts announced the establishment of the Ohio Valley Center for Collaborative Arts (CoArts), the first and only arts-based research center at OHIO that creates research models for community development through arts engagement and social practice. The center utilizes resources within the College of Fine Arts to assist regional communities with their cultural and creative priorities, while creating applied learning opportunities for faculty and students.

“I am pleased that OHIO has implemented a strategic arts-based research center that will help address the needs of our surrounding community with a unique, creative approach,” said President Nellis. “Through numerous collaborations and partnerships within the region, CoArts will allow students and faculty to use their artistic talents to advance vital issues that exist within the area.”

CoArts is founded on the principle that place-based, collaborative arts and design are essential to regional development efforts, where they can assist in addressing vital issues and building culturally inclusive and resilient communities. It acts as a central engagement hub focused on building strategic partnerships across the college, campus and Ohio River Valley while addressing the region’s priorities in the areas of public health, education, housing, job training, environmental sustainability, and cultural production.

“This center is a vital new link within OHIO’s growing engagement ecosystem,” said Samuel Dodd, Director of CoArts. “As the university’s first research center devoted to arts engagement and social practice, CoArts will ensure that artists participate alongside planners, social workers, healthcare providers, primary educators, and other engaged professionals in addressing our region’s challenges and priorities.”

Since its inception in January 2018, CoArts has been committed to building partnerships and projects in creative placemaking and health and wellness, generating several projects such as:

30 Mile Studio, a network of regional artists, educators, students, and community members interested in co-creating local art and design projects. Each year, a college-wide course matches undergraduate and graduate students with a community partner; together, they investigate and implement social practices and placemaking methods off campus. Current community partners include Passion Works Studio and the National Alliance on Mental Illness Athens chapter.

Healthy Village: Immersive Healthcare Theater, a curricular initiative applying techniques from live theater, visual thinking, virtual reality, and narrative medicine to train healthcare professionals in communication and patient advocacy skills. Project Partners include Division of Theater, Division of Film, Kennedy Museum of Art, College of Health Sciences and Professions, and the Scripps College of Communication.

Arts + Medicine Initiative, a partnership between the College of Fine Arts and the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine developing a new regional initiative at the intersection of arts, public health, and medicine.

Appalachian Recovery Project, as part of the Ohio Alliance for Innovation in Population Health, CoArts is creating arts programming within addiction treatment and recovery services at the Hocking Recovery Center in Nelsonville, Ohio.

“The Ohio Valley Center for the Collaborative Arts builds on the College of Fine Arts’s history of excellence and unique approach to community transformation through the arts, offering a robust and distinctive community-engagement hub that focuses on partnership and cross-disciplinary work,” said Matthew Shaftel, Dean of the College of Fine Arts. “CoArts will allow us to achieve the full range of the OHIO agenda: building an engaging ecosystem, enhancing OHIO’s public service mission, student learning from diverse others, supporting outstanding faculty and staff, and engaging alumni. The center will also support a huge infrastructure of community networking that will open the doorway to external funding and service learning opportunities for our faculty and students, while enhancing the branding and recognition of the University and the College of Fine Arts.”

This spring, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) will participate as the 30 Mile Studio partner, spearheaded by CoArts Assistant Director, Angela Sprunger who will be teaching a studio art course that in part takes place at Appalachian Behavioral Health.

“The CoArts partnership with NAMI raises awareness about support, education and advocacy for mental health conditions available in the community,” said Andrea Frohne, a professor of Art History at Ohio University and a local and state board member of NAMI. “The partnership is also a pathway to break the stigma of mental illness, which can stand in the way of treatment for loved ones. The center’s partnering with NAMI illustrates an important interconnecting of the arts with the community’s influential and historic mental health presence in Athens.”

Information provided by the Ohio University College of Fine Arts.