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about public culture

The Office for Public Culture is a platform for research, public dialogue, and the creation of cultural productions that motivate public discourse. The Office enacts these functions with the involvement of artists, scholars and residents.

The Office is organized in the Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies at Grand Valley State University.

This page is a compilation of concepts and examples that inform the development of the Office for Public Culture.

Domains of Public Culture

The interactive bubble diagram floating at the top of this page shows the working model for the domains of public culture: our concept map of the subject matters of particular interest to the work of the Office for Public Culture.

About Public Culture

The term public culture comprises all that takes place in public space and in public life: involving the ways in which lives are structured and enacted. It asserts a differentiation of that which is "public" and that which is "private", both in terms of economic structures and in terms of issues of access and privacy. In current society it specifically addresses issues around the privatization of public institutions and functions. For more on the terms "public" and "culture" see the entries in the Keywords for American Cultural Studies. The entry for public is by Bruce Robbins. The entry for culture is by George Yúdice.

Here are a few more public terms that help expand on the prevalence of conceptions of "the public":

Public Accountability
Public Access
Public Accountant
Public Address
Public Adulation
Public Affairs
Public Administration
Public Appeal
Public Art
Public Assembly
Public Auction
Public Auditorium
Public Awareness
Public Bathing
Public Beach
Public Body
Public Broadcasting
Public Capital
Public Census
Public Citizen
Public Choice
Public Company
Public Consultancy
Public Consumption
Public Corporation
Public Course
Public Debt
Public Defender
Public Development
Public Display
Public Diplomacy
Public Domain
Public Economics
Public Education
Public Employee
Public Enemy
Public Entity
Public Eye
Public Event
Public Facility
Public Finance
Public Figure
Public Float
Public Funding
Public Garden
Public Gathering
Public Good
Public Hanging
Public Health
Public Highway
Public History
Public Holiday
Public House
Public Housing
Public Humiliation
Public Image
Public Imaginary
Public Indecency
Public Indiscretion
Public Information
Public Inquiry
Public Integrity
Public Intoxication
Public Institution
Public Instrument
Public Intellectual
Public Interest
Public Land
Public Ledger
Public Leadership
Public Lecture
Public Liability
Public License
Public Library
Public Limited
Public Market
Public Management
Public Media
Public Meeting
Public Member
Public Menace
Public Museum
Public Notary
Public Nudity
Public Nuisance
Public Offering
Public Office
Public Official
Public Opinion
Public Order
Public Park
Public Performance
Public Phenomenon
Public Phone
Public Place
Public Policy
Public Pool
Public Practice
Public Pressure
Public Proofs
Public Property
Public Pulse
Public Radio
Public Relations
Public Record
Public Restroom
Public Road
Public Safety

Public Scene
Public School
Public Sector
Public Security
Public Service
Public Servant
Public Space
Public Spectacle
Public Speaking
Public Sphere
Public Square
Public Street
Public Subsidiary
Public Television
Public Telephone
Public Theater
Public Thing
Public Toilet
Public Transportation
Public Trail
Public Trial
Public Trust
Public University
Public Welfare
Public Works
Res Publica

Where is public?
What we do in public?
What is owned by the public?
How do we regard public?


Selected Examples

selected examples

   This is a list of selected example projects and organizations relevant to the concept for the Office for Public Culture.

Index (click the links or scroll down the page to browse all of the examples)
Virginia B. Ball Center for Creative Inquiry - Ball State University
Provisions: Research Center for Art and Social Change
Project Row Houses, Houston
Arts + Public Life, UChicago
Institute for Public Knowledge at NYU
Grand Central Art Center - Cal State, Fullerton
Arts Research Center - UC Berkeley
Institute Without Boundaries
Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life
Michigan ArtsEngine
EARN: european art research network
Ghana ThinkTank: Developing the First World
Slought Foundation
Experimental Station
Design 99/ PowerHouse
Waffle Shop
Conflict Kitchen


Virginia B. Ball Center for Creative Inquiry - Ball State University

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Located at Ball State University, the Virginia B. Ball Center for Creative Inquiry provides distinctive, rigorous, and transformative immersive learning experiences for Ball State students. Each year, four faculty members are chosen to lead teams of 15 students in interdisciplinary, immersive seminars.
The comprehensive Center supports a range of activities for students and faculty, though the primary projects are more student-centered than the focus of the Office of Public Culture concept. While projects incorporate creativity in the process and products, the Office of Public Culture's work would be more centrally focused on studio inquiry as a consistent context for it's supported work.


Provisions: Research Center for Art and Social Change

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Provisions Learning Project is a research, education and production center investigating the intersections of arts and social change. Provisions is a leading voice advancing knowledge and promoting understanding of a wide-range of social topics, and producing innovative models to critically investigate issues surrounding these topics. With its extensive library, public programming, and research opportunities, it supports artistic, intellectual, and activist endeavors that explore the social dimensions of contemporary culture. In 2011, Provisions opened a research center for arts and social change at George Mason University’s School of Art


Project Row Houses

Project Row Houses is a non-profit arts organization established by African-American artists and community activists in Houston's Third Ward.
Project Row Houses was built around five pillars established by artist John Biggers: art & creativity, quality education, relevant architecture, social safety nets, and economic sustainability. The project was founded in 1993 by artist and community activist Rick Lowe, who is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and Creative Time's Annenberg Prize for Art and Social Change.


Arts + Public Life, UChicago

Arts + Public Life builds creative connections on Chicago’s South Side through artist residencies, arts education, and artist-led projects and events. Many of the programs were envisioned by artist Theaster Gates. Gates is busy developing multiple cultural projects that mix urban planning, studio practice, community development, and innovations in the forms of public culture. These include the Dorchester Projects, the Stony Island Arts Bank, and the Rebuild Foundation


Institute for Public Knowledge at NYU

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Photograph by Takashi Morizumi from the IPK exhibit: "Fukushima 3.11: After One Year,”
The Institute for Public Knowledge (IPK) brings theoretically serious scholarship to bear on major public issues. The Institute supports numerous ongoing projects and working groups including the Journal Public Culture, an interdisciplinary journal of transnational cultural studies. It nurtures collaboration among social researchers in New York and around the world. It builds bridges between university-based researchers and organizations pursuing practical action.
The scope and scale of the Institute are much broader than the Office of Public Culture concept, though the topics they focus on represent viable areas of inquiry for the Office of Public Culture.


Grand Central Art Center - Cal State, Fullerton

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Grand Central Art Center is dedicated to the investigation and promotion of contemporary art and visual culture: regionally, nationally, and internationally through unique collaborations between artists, students, and the community. Center is the result of a unique partnership between the university and the city of Santa Ana. Located ten miles south of the main campus in the heart of downtown Santa Ana the art center is a mixed residential, commercial and educational complex. The art center is a 45,000 square-foot, half-city block deep and full city-block long, three-level structure and houses: live/studio spaces for visual arts graduate students, the Grand Central Gallery, the Project room, the Grand Central Theater, Watermark Press, the Gypsy Den Café, a Sales Gallery, classrooms and computer lab, and a studio and living space dedicated to the center’s international artist-in-residence program.
Innovative design and fiscal planning resulted in unique academic-public-private partnerships and a sustainable operations budget. Again, Grand Central operates at a huge scale compared to the Office of Public Culture concept, but the Center's organizational strategy and contemporary curatorial focus are exemplary.


Arts Research Center - UC Berkeley

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Directed by Shannon Jackson, The Arts Research Center is a very good example of a comprehensive arts-centered research approach. The Center supports a range of effective programs.
The Research Teams represent a range of areas of focus for OPC projects. They also develop charrettes, salons, seminars, symposia, and conferences, and have fellows and artists in residence. Again, much more comprehensive and broad in scale, but the focus of programs and mix of public and institutional objectives is exemplary.


Institute Without Boundaries

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Founded by Designer Bruce Mau, the Institute Without Boundaries is a Toronto-based studio that works towards collaborative design action and seeks to achieve social, ecological and economic innovation.
Recognized for the exhibition Massive Change the Institute exemplifies many of the features of the Office of Public Culture idea; interdisciplinary inquiry leading to broadly legible results. They are also have a unique institutional structure with affiliations to educational, cultural, and commercial partners. Their current project is the World House Project The Institute without Boundaries is affiliated with the School of Design at George Brown College.


Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life

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Imagining America is a consortium of universities and organizations dedicated to advancing the public and civic purposes of humanities, arts, and design. It was founded in 1999 at University of Michigan and is now housed at Syracuse University.


Michigan ArtsEngine

Michigan ArtsEngine (at University of Michigan) drives transdisciplinary collaborations among the professional arts, architecture, and engineering units on University of Michigan’s dynamic North Campus. In 2010 With the support of the Knight Foundation, they hosted a national gathering to advocate for the integration of artmaking throughout America's Research Universities. The Keynote presentations by Shirley Tilghman, President of Princeton University, and Nancy Cantor, Chancellor of Syracuse University were particularly relevant to the benefits of University-generated cultural projects that engage civic life. Many of the programs and resources are applicable to engaging new publics with new ideas about culture. The work started at the Michigan Meeting continues on the website Arts Practice at Research Universities
Michigan Arts Engine was recently awarded a $500,000 Mellon Foundation Grant to continue the work that was initiated at the Michigan Meeting and "create the first comprehensive guide to best practices in the integration of arts practice in U.S. research universities."


EARN: european art research network

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The european art research network was established to share and exchange knowledge and experience in artistic research; foster mobility, exchange and dialogue among art researchers; promote wider dissemination of artistic research; and enable global connectivity and exchange for artistic research.


Ghana ThinkTank: Developing the First World

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African Immigrants hired to attend the mostly white ZKM opening, based on El Salvador's solution for lack of diversity.
Founded in 2006, the Ghana ThinkTank is a worldwide network of think tanks creating strategies to resolve local problems in the "developed" world. The network began with think tanks from Ghana, Cuba and El Salvador, and has since expanded to include Serbia, Mexico and Ethiopia. In a recent project, they sent problems collected in Wales to think tanks in Ghana, Mexico, Serbia, Iran, and a group of incarcerated girls in the U.S. Prison system.


Slought Foundation

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Photo:Teddy Cruz, Manufactured Sites: Housing Urbanism Made of Waste, 2008 participating artist in the project Mixplace Studio
Slought Foundation ('Sl-aw-t') is a non-profit organization that engages the public in dialogue about cultural and socio-political change. We occupy a unique place in the institutional landscape, one that is positioned in relation to the changing status of public culture and the public sphere. The organization has an inherent flexibility that enables it to move from the margins to the center as it undertakes collaborations with a range of partners including artists, communities, universities, and governments.
The "values" page of their website says, "We aim to foster a new form of institution, one that imagines culture as a forum for advocacy as well as the exchange of ideas, images, and events. We aspire to rehabilitate trust in institutions by moving beyond preservation or display, engaging the public in intimate dialogue about topical issues and shared concerns."
One of their programs Mixplace Studio is an experiment in the Mantua neighborhood of West Philadelphia that brings together non-profit organizations to develop new approaches to housing and public culture.



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SUPERGAS, The Land, Cheing Mai, Thailand
SUPERFLEX is an artists' group founded in 1993 by Jakob Fenger, Rasmus Nielsen and Bjørnstjerne Christiansen. SUPERFLEX describe their projects as Tools. A tool is a model or proposal that can actively be used and further utilized and modified by the user.



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The Yes Lab ia a series of brainstorms and trainings to help activist groups carry out media-getting creative actions, focused on their own campaign goals. It's a way for social justice organizations to take advantage of all that we Yes Men have learned-not only about our own ways of doing things, but those we've come in contact with over the decade and a half we've been doing this sort of thing. The Yes Lab has offices and workshopping space at NYU's Hemispheric Institute in New York.


Experimental Station

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The Experimental Station is an independent, not-for-profit incubator of innovative cultural projects and small-scale enterprises. Its facilities provide essential resources enabling vulnerable initiatives to stabilize and flourish. Areas of primary interest include, but are not limited to, art, ecology, cultural criticism, independent publishing and alternative models of education. The station includes Blackstone Bikes project, 61st Street Farmers Market, and the Invisible Institute.


Design 99/ PowerHouse

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Erik Jutten Powerhouse design rendering
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under construction/powerhouse
Detroit Artists Mitch Cope and Gina Reichert founded Design 99 to investigate new modes of contemporary art and architectural practice. They have inhabited storefronts and currently are reclaiming and rehabbing various houses in their neighborhood. This includes the Powerhouse that is completely off the grid and has been the site of the beginnings of a collaboration with the Dutch arts organization Fonds BKVB to bring international artists to the neighborhood. Erik Jutten from 2012 Architects from Rotterdam blew out a side of the roof to make room for alternate living and studio work in the Powerhouse.
Mitch Cope lectured at the Civic Studio project in the Creston neighborhood in 2006.
This model of slow progress and collaboration using multiple material and capital resources could be deployed in the implementation of space use for the Office of Public Culture. Grand Rapids has seen a significant share of foreclosures and many of these structures are in disrepair.


Waffle Shop

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The Waffle Shop is a neighborhood restaurant that produces and broadcasts a live-streaming talk show with its customers and operates a changeable storytelling billboard on its roof. The shop is a public lab that brings together people from all walks of life to engage in dialogue, experimentation and the co-production of culture. The project functions as an eatery, a TV production studio, a social catalyst, and a business. Our customers are our funders, audience, and participants as we film during open hours, inviting interested patrons to express their unique opinions and personalities.
The Waffle Shop is supported by the School of Art at Carnegie Mellon University and operates with the labor of Work Study students from the University along with other capital and in-kind support.
The waffle shop is an example of a full-fledged cultural project that operates between the university and the public. Similar projects might be possible in the mix of projects and facilities with the Office of Public Culture.


Conflict Kitchen

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Conflict Kitchen is a take-out restaurant that only serves cuisine from countries with which the United States is in conflict. The food is served out of a take-out style storefront, which rotates identities every 6 months to highlight another country. Each Conflict Kitchen iteration is augmented by events, performances, and discussion about the culture, politics and issues at stake with each country on which we focus.
Another site-based, ongoing cultural project in Pittsburgh.


For more examples see the more examples page.


More Examples

more examples

   This is an expansive list of links to projects and resources relevant to the concept for the Office for Public Culture. Selected Examples is an annotated list of 17 relevant examples.

Temporary Services
Theaster Gates
Not An Alternative Not an Alternative – at CREATIVE TIME SUMMIT
Rhizome | Interview with James Voorhies
LOT   Experiments in Urban Research, LOT   Public
Peter Fend - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
SRL - Survival Research Labs
Let's Re-Make | Groups & Spaces
Environmental Health Clinic
walking as knowing as making
Atomic Light in the Public Light
MARY MISS: City as Living Laboratory
The Yes Men
Lee Walton
Pruitt-Igoe Bee Sanctuary - A Project by Juan William Chavez
Applied Aesthetics Index
not an alternative
Whitney Museum of American Art: Andrea Fraser

Groups and Spaces 2.0

Positively camp - the Hirsch Farm Project | ArtForum, Frieze Magazine | Archive | Archive | Hirsch Farm Project

What Attaches People to Their Communities? | Knight Soul of the Community
Platypus New York » About
Project for Public Spaces
NY: Festival of Ideas
Project H Design | About Us - The People of Project H
mixplace | an experiment in housing and public culture
Grand Rapids Study Club - National Issues Forums

Creative Time
Institute for the Unstable Media V2 Institute for the Unstable Media
The Lab at Belmar | Welcome to the Lab at Belmar, The Laboratory of Art and Ideas at Belmar - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This Week at Eyebeam |
Slought Foundation
Institute for Applied Aesthetics | Groups & Spaces
The Center for Land Use Interpretation
Innovation Story Studio | Business Innovation Factory
co-prosperity sphere
PLAND: Practice Liberating Art through Necessary Dislocation
About Us | Shedhalle Zürich
About Us | Institute for Sustainable Living, Art & Natural Design [ISLAND]
BMW Guggenheim Lab
LABoral Art and Industrial Creation Centre
Artangel | Home
el instituto
SKOR - Stichting Kunst en Openbare Ruimte - Foundation for Art and Domain
The Institute For Figuring
Welcome to CUP!
About | SKOR
Eyebeam Art+Technology Center |
Public Engagement - Hammer Museum
machine project
Home | Appalshop
public culture lecture series :: threewalls
Picture This
Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy | ZKM
Jane Addams Hull-House Museum
Center for Artistic Activism | making political art work
Hearth + Shelf
Summer Forum for Inquiry + Exchanges
Artist As Citizen : Home
Art and Civic Engagement — Education & Community Programs — Walker Art Center

SFAI’s Urban Studies program
Arts and Public Life - U Chicago
Land Arts of the American West
Cultural Agents Initiative - Harvard Cultural Agents is an inter-face between academic learning and civic engagement.
American Communities Project: Census Data and Analysis Pages
Welcome to Spatial Structures in the Social Sciences (S4)
Welcome « Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities, University of Illinois
Arts of Citizenship | Public Scholarship at the University of Michigan
UCIRA: The University of California Institute for Research in the Arts
The Curb Center | Vanderbilt University
STUDIO for Creative Inquiry
Center for the Arts in Society - Carnegie Mellon University
Research at MICA
Public Culture: Public Culture Program Initiative
Public Culture: Thinking About Public Culture: Teddy Cruz
The New School | The Vera List Center for Art and Politics
UW Simpson Center : Human Rights Public Culture: Toward a Translocal Digital Humanities Resource
The Freedom of the City: Models of Urban Engagement & Creativity in the 21st Century - Meadows School of the Arts - SMU
Ball State University - About Virginia Ball
Injured Cities, Urban Afterlives
Introduction | Public Humanities at Yale | American Studies | Yale University
Art Making in Research Universities | A Source of Strategies, Research, Policy, and News
Provisions | Arts for Social Change
The Center for Place, Culture, and Politics
Institute for Advanced Studies In Culture: Who We Are - Our Vision
The Hiphop Archive | Build. Respect. Represent.
Portland State Portland Center for Public Humanities | Welcome
The ASA, American Studies Association
Master Artistic Research
Grand Central Art Center
The Centre for Public Culture Studies at Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design, and Technology

the Think Tank that has yet to be named
Critical Spatial Practice
EARN | European Artistic Research Network
fieldwork marfa
The Buckminster Fuller Challenge Finalists | The Buckminster Fuller Challenge
Research Catalogue - an international database for artistic research
Create Equity - exploring the intersection of the arts with a wide range of topics including politics, economics, philanthropy, leadership, research, and urban planning

Taking Art Seriously: Understanding Studio Research - Art and Education
Extradisciplinary Investigations
The Crossroads Nation -
Nato Thompson, Contractions of Time: On Social Practice from a Temporal Perspective / Journal / e-flux
Art Practice as Research
ArtPractice as Research book
Art as a Way of Knowing Conference | Exploratorium
Natalie Jeremijenko: The art of the eco-mindshift | Video on
John Maeda: Yes, art does have a role in science and technology. | Business Innovation Factory
Art & Research : Sarat Maharaj
Milton Curry: Nixon in China and the American City: Radical Urban Revitalization Needed
Creative Migration
Stichting Kunst en Openbare Ruimte - OPEN
The Creativity Crisis - Newsweek
All power to the free universities of the future : Edufactory
Handbook of Public Pedagogy: Education and Learning Beyond Schooling (Paperback) - Routledge
Dr.Henry A. Giroux-Online Articles
Let Knowledge Serve the City: A Social Education « Jen Delos Reyes
Free Soil
Flooded McDonald's
Next American City » Buzz » Power Meets the Arts in Detroit
Why Democracy Is Public: The American Dream Beats the Nightmare | Truthout
Main : publicadcampaign
Ixia | Art & the Public Sphere Journal
Socrates Cafe
Prof. Elliot W. Eisner: "What Do the Arts Teach?" - YouTube
Grantmakers in the Arts Conference 2010 | Art and Social Justice
Critical Moment | Detroit by Detroiters
AREA Chicago
The Practice of Everyday Life - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Making Things Public. part 2 (with eng sub) - YouTube | The Web Issue Index
Open Editions
Space and Culture › What’s Academia Got To Do With It? Looking for Community-Scholarly Balance in Co-developing Community-driven Research
Claire Bishop: Post-Discipline? Contemporary Artists and Research
The Global Square: an online platform for our movement | Reflections on a Revolution ROAR
Brian Eno’s 1995 Opening Speech for the Turner Prize Publics and Counterpublics (9781890951283): Michael Warner: Books
Poetry, Plasticity, Philosophical Activism
Work with John Thackara
TZK NR. 82 "Artistic Research"
The Meaning Organization | design mind
AAC&U Publications : home
De Meent | SKOR
Networked Public Culture
Public Seminar Online publication platform, and offshoot of the General Seminar at The New School




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