The Design Studio for Social Intervention and Community Labor United are excited to announce a new Boston-based fellowship and residency program for socially engaged artists – The Department of Public Imagination. For our pilot year, which will run from Sept. 2013 to April 2014, three artists will be selected to participate in an interdisciplinary program that builds creative partnerships between artists and member-led community groups in the greater Boston area.

Each artist who is selected to participate in the program will receive a stipend, shared workspace at DS4SI, and will participate in an ongoing training workshop that brings together leaders in the arts and social justice sectors. The cornerstone of the program will be an eight-month residency with a community-based organization, which will serve as the artist’s home base for the duration of the program. Working collaboratively with their group’s members and staff, each artist will be responsible for initiating a creative action team that will design and implement public projects to address the specific challenges and aspirations of their group’s community base.

For our pilot year, artists will be paired with one of three community-based groups: Chelsea Collaborative, Chinese Progressive Association, and Massachusetts Senior Action Council.




Our lineage includes field hollers, ACT-UP, Panther propaganda, El Teatro Campesino. We are informed by the history of movement-building projects from peasant rebellions to the Civil Rights Movement to national independence struggles – movements that created songs, images, and performances that inspired leaders, attracted allies, motivated followers, and created a world that validates resistance and change.

We believe that organizing must recover its innovative, creative face in order to build a movement capable of transforming society. In supporting large-scale public projects, we envision new pathways for artists to work together with communities in struggle.




The program will run from September 2013 - April 2014. Artists will spend 12 hours a week developing projects with their partner organization and 3 hours on Friday for a group workshop. In addition to studio space, each fellow will receive a $8,500 stipend and a $1,000 materials budget.

The fellows will be responsible for initiating ambitious, transformative projects in collaboration with the membership base of their partner organizations. These projects may be developed using any medium or any combination of media. Fellows will not be expected to enter the program with a project or set of projects in mind. Rather, projects will emerge through discussion with their host organization and through the training workshop, which will provide a conceptual foundation for their work.

In the development stage, fellows will initiate creative action teams with members of their host organization. These teams will serve as incubators for projects over the course of the residency. Fellows will present completed work at beginning of May.

Projects will fulfill several key criteria. They will:

  • be research-based, collaborative, and involve the voices of the community group’s various stakeholders;
  • aim to develop leaders, empower community members, and raise visibility for a chosen set of issues;
  • take place in public space, defined broadly, as well as develop new techniques for engaging the wider public using traditional and new media;
  • activate new imaginative possibilities, draw out deep resonances, provoke public dialogue, shift dominant cultural narratives.




A staff member at the host organization will integrate the fellow into the organization’s campaign cycles and planning sessions. Program coordinators at DPI will meet regularly with each fellow, holding one-on-one sessions in addition to regularly scheduled workshops.

Workshops will serve as a platform for developing new models for transformative cultural practice, integrating discussion, case study, readings, presentations. Each fellow will be responsible for leading model trainings themselves, while artists, researchers, activists, and organizers will be invited to present their work and provide feedback on the fellows’ projects.




We have selected our first three artists from an amazing collection of applicants! Thank you to all who applied, and we will keep you posted as we move forward...


For questions, please visit our FAQ or send us an email.