(Image: Victory at Xwe'ch eXen, from Frames for Life, Liberation, & Belonging) 

Arts and culture is a primary way we engage with our work to advance belonging and examine, clarify, and remediate the forces of othering. Our use of arts and culture at the Othering & Belonging Institute does this by expanding the reach—who we engage; the relevance—the urgency, immediacy and relatability of our work; and the rigor—types of knowledge we incorporate in developing policies and practices that support belonging of marginalized communities.*
At its heart, our Arts & Cultural Strategy deeply integrates ways of knowing, seeing, and being that hold great potential to expand our collective, sustainable efforts towards justice and belonging through an ethos of insisting on the inherent humanity of all people and concern for the earth and all living creatures. Our work in belonging does not only center “hard” expertise but uses the knowledge that arts and culture cultivates and produces, alongside, and infused in,  scholarship, research, and advocacy. Our vision of change incorporates an integrative, generative, and dynamic set of strategies and perspectives. Arts and cultural strategy is an important part of the Institute’s work in narrative change, community partnerships, public engagement, and strategic communications.



(Photo: Members of the Staying Power fellowship use photos they took to explore the intersection of belonging and housing)

Field of Practice

In our work, arts and cultural strategy is broadly defined and guided by our efforts to advance belonging through art and culture’s ability to illuminate new stories and ways of  understanding as well as entering the work “experience as a whole.” Arts and culture approach cuts across much of our work, the following are ways we activate this work:


Arts and Culture Community Partnerships

Our fellowships build capacity and leadership through an arts and culture based process that address key topics of our work. We have led in-depth, fellowship projects that result in high-quality artistic and cultural outcomes related to displacement (Staying Power) and voter engagement (Cultural Ambassadors). In 2019, Mina Girgis, the founder of the Nile Project joined us as a Senior Fellow to expand his work that uses cross-cultural music production to address issues of water security.

Public Engagement and Events

The Othering & Belonging Institute leverages its cross-sector and interdisciplinary nature to host diverse and varied convenings and they are public and large-scale expressions of how we weave and infuse culture as part of our work. Our Othering & Belonging conferences have integrated arts and culture as a way to provide an experiential space of belonging from their inception.  In 2019, our most recent conference, we offered dance (Contra-Tiempo, Supaman), song (Melanie DeMore), live music (Aswat Ensemble), social practice (Brett Cook), poetry (Youth Speaks), visual art (Christine Wong Yap) and healing practices (Ashara Ekundayo). Conferences have centered keynote addresses from influential arts and culture workers such as photographer LaToya Ruby Frazier, Academy Award-winning playwright Tarrell Alvin McCraney (Moonlight), NFL star Michael Bennet, Pulitzer-prize winning writer Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, and Queen Sugar actor Dawn Lyen-Gardner, among others.

We host a variety of other public engagement opportunities - from movie screenings and discussions to working with Cal Performances to program artists, discussions and events that address themes and topics of our work, such as the “Citizenship” series.

Artist in Residence Program

In 2018 we launched an inaugural Artist in Residence program with the artist Christine Wong Yap. In 2019 we continued this program with the second Artist-in-Residence, Detroit-based collective Complex Movements.

Multimedia Platform and Learning Tools

In the Othering & Belonging Journal, our reports and other media that we produce, we center artistic work and approaches. We have produced short animated videos that explain key topics in our work and commissioned arts-based educators (Michelle Lee, Mariah Rankine-Landers, JessaBrie Moreno) to design curriculum that can be used in relation to these videos. Our digital campaign produces videos and podcasts that create numerous entry-points for our materials. These include the videos Vote4BlackFutures, California Red to Blue, and the Cultural Ambassadors program video.

Field Building

We engage directly with a wider network of arts and cultural strategists and participate in the larger efforts to build the field. We do this through convening discussion groups, workshops, attendance and speaking at conferences and writing.

Who We've Worked With

We've had the privilege of working with many artists and culture-makers, much of it through commissioned and original work. These individuals and groups create across many types of media and culture. They include, but are not limited to:

For more information on our Arts & Cultural Strategy work, including how to get involved, contact Evan Bissell.


*The "three R's framework" is adapted from work by Carolina Balazs and Institute faculty cluster member Rachel Morello-Frosch for exploring the contributions of community-based participatory research to science. See: Balazs, Carolina L., and Rachel Morello-Frosch. “The Three Rs: How Community-Based Participatory Research Strengthens the Rigor, Relevance, and Reach of Science.” Environmental Justice 6, no. 1 (February 1, 2013): 9–16.