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Welcome to the Community Arts Network


Welcome to the Community Arts Network (CAN) Web site!

The Community Arts Network (CAN) supports the belief that the arts are an integral part of a healthy culture, providing both intellectual nourishment and social benefit, and that community-based arts provide significant value both to communities and artists.

CAN’s Web site is an international resource focusing on the work of artists and their community partners – projects and programs that actively promote the arts as part of education, political life, health recovery, prisoner rehabilitation, environmental protection, community regeneration, electronic communication, and more. Here you will find a wealth of data, documentation and criticism about art that is doing important work: improving students’ test scores, reducing prison violence and recidivism, reaching across racial and class barriers, bringing generations together, preserving history and culture that will otherwise be lost.

What Is Community Art?

CAN’s founders chose to identify this work as "community arts" for several reasons. Practically speaking, our Internet audience locates us through search engines, which best respond to the least common denominator. Also, the term "community," though widely overused in a variety of contexts, is the only one broad enough to provide an umbrella for the territory we cover. For us, "community" means any community, whether it’s defined by geography (a little town in Tennessee, a campus in Ohio, a suburb of Phoenix, a village in Brazil) or tradition (the African-American tradition, the Chicano tradition, the farming tradition) or spirit (the gay/lesbian movement, the labor movement, the Farm Workers movement).

Our definition of the term is reflected in our databases, from the narrowest view of community art as art for social change (activist art that intends to cure social ills) to the broadest view that includes public art (art installed outdoors that intersects with daily community life) and public arts policy (from arts funding to political involvement).

How Does CAN Support Community Art?

CAN promotes the growth and stability of the field by developing:

  • Information exchange, research and critical dialogue about and for the field
  • Knowledge sharing and networking among practitioners
  • Extensive training information and materials

One of CAN's most important functions in the field is to act as a central online publishing network for news, documentation and critical evaluation of community arts activities, often written by the practitioners themselves (artists, arts organizations and their community partners, and community participants). Increasingly, they look to CAN as a place to meet and share their experiences.

The main features of the Web site are APInews, Forums, the Reading Room and Resources – and they are constantly growing. Using these tools you can:

  • Learn all about the field in Community Arts 101
  • Read interesting essays written by the people who are creating advances in community arts, and by those who are observing their progress
  • Read the latest news in the field, and subscribe to receive it by e-mail (or receive it through an RSS newsfeed)
  • Read CAN's Special Reports on topics like ensemble theater, community dance, community development, education, organizing, creating change and more
  • Check our international calendar for important conferences and workshops
  • Find links to hundreds of articles, organizations, artists, projects and resources elsewhere on the Web
  • Share what you know through online conversations with others who are interested in the work
  • Find or post opportunities for employment or involvement in the field
  • Find places to study and receive training
  • Browse studies and statistics from the field
  • Shop in the CAN Bookstore
  • Browse everything on the CAN site by arts discipline, population or social context

We see this field as the cutting edge of art today. This work is complex, sophisticated, informed by intense research in multiple disciplines. We believe that it is best viewed through a variety of lenses. Therefore, much of the material in our databases is cross-filed under several categories, and will appear in different searches, in different contexts. We see this construction as a living archaeology. It is our hope that you will be able to find not only the information you seek, but also the context in which that information is framed.

Why have we gone to all this trouble? Because we want to see this information go to work. We want to see practitioners create better community arts projects and integrate this work into community development, into education at all levels and into the public conversation. In short, we want to change the world.

For specific details on how to best use this Web site, see our list of Frequently Asked Questions.

From the CAN Bookstore

Performing Communities
Performing Communities
Grassroots Ensemble Theaters Deeply Rooted in Eight U.S. Communities

By Robert H. Leonard and Ann Kilkelly
Edited by Linda Frye Burnham
Published by New Village Press
Paperback: $19.95


Making Exact Change
Making Exact Change
How U.S. arts-based programs have made a significant and sustained impact on their communities

A Report from the Community Arts Network
By William Cleveland
Published by the Community Arts Network
Printed/bound: $14.99
PDF Download: Free


The CAN Report
The CAN Report
The State of the Field of Community Cultural Development: Something New Emerges

A Report from the Community Arts Network Gathering, May 2004
By Linda Frye Burnham, Steven Durland and Maryo Gard Ewell
Published by the Community Arts Network
Printed/bound: $12.00
PDF Download: Free


The Citizen Artist
The Citizen Artist
20 Years of Art in the Public Arena An Anthology from High Performance Magazine 1978-1998

Edited by Linda Frye Burnham and Steven Durland
Published by the Critical Press
no longer available


CAN Oval bumper sticker
CAN Oval Bumper Sticker


CAN Oval

The Community Arts Network (CAN) promotes information exchange, research and critical dialogue within the field of community-based arts. The CAN web site is managed by Art in the Public Interest.
©1999-2010 Community Arts Network

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