Course:         60280 - Introduction to Contextual Practice


Times:        T/TH 1.30pm - 4.20 pm

Location:         Pedercini: CFA 310 /Mannino: DH B304 / Weleski CFA 303/307

Contacts:        Instructors:         A Paolo Pedercini (
                                B Joe Mannino (
                                C Dawn Weleski (

        GAs:                 B Lee Webster (

                                C Joy Poulard (


For some time now art has moved out of gallery and museum spaces and into all facets of public life, where complex social situations and diverse audiences have become important parts of the work. In the past this might have been called Public Art, but today new strategies are being used that challenge public art's tradition of static sculptures and embrace more dynamic forms of public engagement.

As its name implies, Contextual Practice embraces the context or social conditions in which an artwork exists as part of the material of that work. Evolving out of the history of site-specific, conceptual, and performance art practices, Contextual Practice covers a range of exciting new methods to making art in the public including (but not limited to): street art, interactive social media, environmental art, hacktivism, participatory art, guerilla performance, project-based community art, and urban interventions. Students in this field-based class will create projects that work with the social dynamics of a variety of on and off-campus and online public contexts. We will research new trends in public engagement through art, architecture, and design, as well as politics, ecology, sociology, and economics.

Fundamentally, this class asks students to experiment with how their art practice can intersect directly with the real world (outside of the traditional art venues) and how they can proactively create new sites and audiences for their work.


  1. Identify and apply methods and strategies to aid the development and technical execution of independent work.
  2. Integrate form and content in work via questioning, experimentation, problem solving and invention.
  3. Gather and integrate research and analysis to inform work.
  4. Communicate information, ideas and proposals effectively in visual, verbal and written forms.
  5. Indicate intended and/or potential future directions for your art work.


Attendance is a must! Come to class on time and ready to actively participate. We will cover a lot of material in this semester. More than 3 unexcused absences constitute a full letter grade reduction. Three late arrivals counts as one absence.


Your active participation in class critiques and discussions is also of the utmost importance. Lack of engagement in class discussion will adversely affect your grade.


You are required to document all of your projects and have the documentation posted to the blog at least 8 hours before the start class (on the due date). We will discuss documentation formats in class.


10%        One Shot Performance (project & documentation)

20%        Place Project (project & documentation)

20%        Participation Project (project & documentation)

20%        Change Project (project & documentation)

10%        Sophomore Review

10%         Blog Posts

10%        Class Participation

A – Overall excellent performance. Work demonstrates extraordinary dedication, innovation & execution. Regular class attendance and high-level of participation. Evidences a commitment to learning and art making beyond course requirements.

B – Very good work and execution, but may need some improvement. Regular class attendance and participation. Presents timely completion of assignments and projects. Work at above average expectation for course requirements.

C – Generally meets course requirements. Completes assignments with reasonable execution. Acceptable work, but doesn’t evidence inquiry beyond conventional boundaries.

D – Unacceptable work and overall poor class performance. Improvement required at all levels.

F – Failure

Official university language: Take care of yourself. Do your best to maintain a healthy lifestyle this semester by eating well, exercising, avoiding drugs and alcohol, getting enough sleep and taking some time to relax. This will help you achieve your goals and cope with stress.
All of us benefit from support during times of struggle. You are not alone. There are many helpful resources available on campus and an important part of the college experience is learning how to ask for help. Asking for support sooner rather than later is often helpful.
If you or anyone you know experiences any academic stress, difficult life events, or feelings like anxiety or depression, we strongly encourage you to seek support. Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPS) is here to help: call 412-268-2922 and visit their website at Consider reaching out to a friend, faculty or family member you trust for help getting connected to the support that can help.

Weekly Schedule

Tuesday, January 17th:   

  • Meet in Room 303
  • Class Intro “what is contextual practice?”
  • Using the Blog
  • One Shot Documentation PowerPoint

Thursday January 19th

  • Meet in room 303
  • Lecture: Place: Place as Material part 1
  • Workshop: Context analysis at the Carnegie Library

Tuesday, January 24th

  • Due: One Shot Intervention:
    (documentation in one still image posted to blog)
  • Due: three reference posts related to ONE SHOT DOCUMENTATION, share with class

Thursday, January 26th

  • Meet in individual sections
  • Lecture: Place: Place as Material part 2
  • Section A Due: three reference posts related to PLACE

Tuesday, January 31th

  • Due: Context Analysis: List of 25 physical + 25 social traits of your selected PLACE, and images/drawings
  • Due: Project 1 Proposals 
    (1-page text that covers what+how+when+why, and one sketch)
  • Section C Due: three reference posts related to PLACE

Thursday, February 2th

  • Work / Meet one-on-ones with your faculty member
  • Section C Due: Project 1 Proposals 
    (1-page text that covers what+how+when+why, and one sketch)

Tuesday, February 7th

ALL GROUPS START IN CFA 303 /Participation Workshops

Thursday, February 9th

  • Due: Crit 1: Place 
  • Section C: Individual meetings & work day

Tuesday, February 14th

  • Due: Crit 2: Place
  • Introduce Participation Project
  • Section C: Individual meetings & work day

Thursday, February 16th

  • Meet in room 303
  • Due: students present case study for PARTICIPATION

Tuesday, February 21st

  • Due: Context Analysis: PARTICIPATION
  • Due: three reference posts related to PARTICIPATION
  • Due: Participation Proposals
    (2-minute oral and visual pitch  for your project that covers what+how+when+why using any materials necessary)

Thursday, February 23th

  • Work Day-No Class

Tuesday, February 28rd

  • Due: First iteration of Participation
    (documentation posted to blog)
  • Individual meetings with faculty and GA

Thursday, March 2nd

  • Workshop for Change - Guest Larry Bogad TBC

Tuesday, March 7th

  • Due: Crit 1 : Project 2 Participation

Thursday, March 9th

  • Due: Crit 2: Project 2 Participation
  • Introduce Change Project

Tuesday, March 14th

  • Spring Break - NO CLASS

Thursday, March 16th

  • Spring Break  - NO CLASS

Tuesday, March 21st

  • Meet in 303
  • Lecture: Change

Thursday, March 23rd

  • work day on CHANGE Project (potential workshop by grads?)

Tuesday, March 28th

  • Due: Change Project: DUE Context Analysis 
  • Due: three reference post for Participation
    (break down the issue or problem in detail)
  • Due: Change Project: DUE Proposals (any form) 

Thursday, March 30th

  • Sophomore Review Workshop
    Documentation - Jamie Gruzska, 1:30 - 2:50 p.m. CFA 310 & N. Foyer

Tuesday, April 4th

  • Due: Iteration 1 of Change Project
  • one-on-one meetings

Thursday, April 6th

  • work day on CHANGE Project

Tuesday, April 11th

  • Sophomore Review Workshops 
    Powerpoint and presentation - Paolo 1.30 CFA 303
    Writing - Sarah Eldridge, 3:00 - 4:20 p.m., CFA 303

Thursday, April 13th

  • Due Crit 1: Change Project 

Tuesday, April 18th

  • Due Crit 2: Change Project 

Thursday, April 20th

  • Carnival - NO CLASS

Tuesday, April 25th

  • Due: Group 1 Presents Mock Soph Review

Thursday, April 27st

  • No class / Work Day on Soph Reviews

Friday, April 28nd 

  • Sophomore Reviews I

Tuesday, May 2nd 

  • Due: Group 2 Presents Mock Soph Review

Thursday, May 4th 

  • No class / Work Day on Soph Reviews

Friday, May 5th   

  • Sophomore Review II