OTIS College of Art and Design

Human Centered Design and Socially Engaged Art Practices


Otis College of Art and Design offers an area of emphasis focused on the field of Social Practice, the only program of its kind in a Southern California art school or university.

“Socially engaged practice in arts and design centers around participation, reciprocal relationships and collaborations that promote civic dialogue and investigate pressing issues of our time.”

Social artistry is the attempt to address or recognize a particular social issue using art and creativity. Social artists are people who use creative skills to work with people or organizations in their community to affect change.

While a traditional artist uses their creative skills to express their take on the world, a social artist puts their skills to use to help promote and improve communities. Thus, the main aim of a social artist is to improve society as a whole and to help other people find their own means of creative expression.

Social artists may address issues such as youth alienation or the breakdown of communities. Most commonly, social artists will address these problems by helping people express themselves and find their voice, or by bringing people together and using art to help them to foster an understanding of each other.



Instructor Gina Valona partnered with Painted Brain “to create lasting community-based solutions to mental health challenges and the impact of social injustice through arts, advocacy, and enterprise.” Through an emergent curriculum, students learned how to use Human Centered Design and Socially Engaged Art Practices to facilitate relationships with individuals and organizations within a site-specific community.

The partnership culminated with students implementing several real-world outcomes throughout the course of the semester. These outcomes included a public art Mental Health Awareness poster campaign, which exhibited in the ART on PICO kiosks located in Mid-City Los Angeles.

In addition, there was an interior re-design and re-launch of the Painted Brain Community Center reception area and boutique, a re-design of the Painted Brain storefront signage, and two socially engaged art events that included a photo booth and props, a pop-up boutique and a community mural.



Pascaline Doucin-Dahlke: Artist advising

Kelly Hargraves: REDCAT

Eric Kogler: Artist advising

Anthony Valadez: KCRW and Tune In

Special thanks to Student Mentor Leyna Lightman, Teaching Assistant Annette Nino, and the Painted Brain Community: David Leon, David Israelian, Ashley Payne, Kevin Naruse, James Giaquinto  for their advocacy, bravery and willingness to take risks and play with us during this project!

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