Our 2017 open Call for Proposals has ended. OE 2017 schedule and registration information will be available on this website in February 2017. 

Open Engagement (OE) is the largest artist-led conference dedicated to expanding the dialogue around, and creating a site of care for, the field of socially engaged art. Founded in 2007, OE has evolved into an unparalleled hub for practitioners and audiences to assemble. OE employs an inclusive open call model that supports emerging and established artists and organizers, highlights the voices of students alongside professionals, and collaborates closely with national institutions to further the networks of support for socially engaged art. OE is committed to the power of art to enact radical social change.

Local, national, and international artists, activists, academics, cultural producers, administrators, curators, educators, writers, thinkers, doers, and makers of all ages with a vested interest in art and social practice have been encouraged to propose programming for OE 2017 through our free call.

Open Engagement 2017 — JUSTICE will take place April 21–23, 2017 at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a constellation of sites across the city. This year’s conference, guided by the curatorial vision of Romi Crawford and Lisa Lee, will explore the centralized theme of JUSTICE, and will feature presenters including Theaster Gates, Maria Gaspar, Maria Varela, and Laurie Jo Reynolds.

Too often, artists and activists working across a wide spectrum of issues ranging from immigration, food and environmental justice, urban planning, gentrification, police violence, and many other vital and timely reckonings are isolated from one another. How can artists contribute to the work for justice? How can these movements be more effective with the work of artists? This conference is intended to break down these silos, serve as an educational resource, facilitate crucial dialogue, and provide opportunities to highlight successful artistic and community engagements. OE is a site to learn from one another, to examine the state of our field, and to provide opportunities for attendees to access valuable skills and tools that push and support their work in embedded contexts.

OE works to honor multiple ways of engaging in dialogue and to build up the community surrounding socially engaged art. OE is a site that supports multiple forms of knowledge and encourages non-traditional conference forms. Open Engagement is ADA and family welcoming.

It is time for creative communities to collectively forge new pathways toward justice and equity. In close partnership with activists, artists, community members, organizers, and cultural workers in Chicago, we are working to cultivate OE 2017 into a site for practitioners of all perspectives. We are thrilled to welcome OE participants to the contested, resilient city of Chicago for an intimate convergence with the artistic practices and projects of those who are working to make the world less treacherous and more equitable.

OE is working with partners spanning the breadth of Chicago’s neighborhoods to represent the work being done at the intersection of art and activism across the city. Current partners include The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, Hyde Park Art Center, Bad at Sports, Rebuild Foundation, Co-Prosperity Sphere/Lumpen Radio, Smart Museum of Art, National Museum of Mexican Art, Art Institute of Chicago, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Columbia College Chicago / Glass Curtain Gallery / Wabash Arts Corridor, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, 6018 North, Gallery 400/Threewalls/Propeller Fund, ACRE, 3Arts, Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts and The Block Museum. We will be working with local activists to provide intensive trainings throughout the conference. In addition, queer-inclusive nightlife organizers from Chicago will host evening celebrations, guided by the belief that transformative acts of change are deeply indebted to these marginal spaces of collective joy.

Open Engagement 2017 — JUSTICE is presented in partnership with The School of Art & Art History at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and marks the second year of a three-year cycle that situated the conference in the Bay Area (2016 — POWER) in partnership with the Oakland Museum of California and the California College of the Arts, and will complete in New York in partnership with the Queens Museum (2018 — SUSTAINABILITY).

In line with this year’s theme, Open Engagement will implement a new pricing model in line with our commitment to economic justice. Presenters will not be charged to attend, and no one will be turned away for lack of funds.