What's Happening

Call for Research Memos: Urban Violence and the Arts

Now As Then:
Events focusing creative attention on the struggle for voting rights

- Workshop with Jane Wilburn Sapp
  September 28, 2:00pm. Watch video.
- Songs and Stories of the Struggle for Voting Rights
  October 1, 5:30pm
Selma ’65: Play by Catherine Filloux
  October 8, 5:00pm

Presentations by Recipients of CAST Grants for Faculty Projects
October 23 &
November 3


Dr. James Thompson in Residence
October 31 - November 2

"Arts and Building Peace: Affirming the Basics and Envisioning the Future" - Paper by Dr. Cynthia Cohen

Announcing Recipients
of Acting Together 
Small Grants

Read updates about their activities.

The new Brandeis minor in Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation (CAST) presents:

CAST 2015 Annual Report

CAST Design Lab Reports

Announcing Recipients of CAST Grants for Student Projects

American Theatre Magazine Features CAST, Peacebuilding and the Arts

Article: New minor brings social purpose to the arts


Broadsided Press-
Call for Submissions: Special edition on the Syrian Refugee Crisis

Due October 25
Published monthly via international vector distribution
Submissions invited September through May
You could be a vector.
You could get Broadsided.

Activate Gala
Theatre of the Oppressed NYC
October 28

Article: CAST-sponsored Ebony Axis debuts

Art With Impact and Movies for Mental Health

Sundance Institute Theatre Program

Kidnap Road - A New Play by Catherine Filloux

The Incredible Ways Art Is Helping Charleston Unite After Church Massacre
The Huffington Post

Srebrenica Quilt Display Will Cap 20 Years of Advocacy and Anguish

Book - Forced to Flee: Visual Stories by Refugee Youth from Burma

OAS Peace Fund Promotes Arts Among Belizean and Guatemalan Children

Use of Arabic cultural arts bring greater peace and understanding

Short Film: Two Faiths One Prayer -- Muslims and Jews Pray Together in LA

2015 Imaginings
In 16 Cities in the U.S.
Hosted by USDAC

Public: An e-Journal from Imagining America

Talk bridges improvisation and justice

Plays by Sean Christopher Lewis: Killadelphia, Dogs of Rwanda, and Rust 

USDAC "HI-LI" Creative Community Database
Accepting Project Submissions

BogotArt Foundation

In Place of War

Featured Theme -
News from the Field: Artists and Ebola: Preventing, Honoring, Grieving, Healing

Featured Theme -
News from the Field: “The Most Important Images of the Year”: Artists Respond to Racial Violence in the U.S.

Article: From exile to performance, activist Gayflor inspires hope
On Fatu Gayflor and Toni Shapiro-Phim's Residency

Video: Paul Smith, Director of British Council, USA on 'Culture and Conflict' at Reception Honoring Fatu Gayflor & Naomi Sinnreich

Forum on Peacebuilding and Traditional Arts

You Reap What You Sow: Crowdfunding for Film by Pakistani Director

Press Release La MaMa Umbria International Spoleto Festival
Summer 2015

 - Music & Film

24th International Festival of Student Theatre
September 28 to October 2
Besançon, France

Featured Theme -
News from the Field: Artistic Responses to the Syrian Crisis 
and Artistic Responses to Other Current Global Crises

Video: The Conference of the Birds

Reflections from IPRA's 25th General Conference

Video: Interview with Catherine Filloux about her new play "SELMA '65"

Listen to a podcast from Arts, Well-being and Resilience: Ideas and Music with Cynthia Cohen and Jane Wilburn Sapp

Video: Liberian Women's Chorus' song about abducted Nigerian girls

Listen to a podcast of a panel on the theme of Resilience, the Arts and Social Transformation at the UBIAS conference that featured Dr. Cynthia Cohen and many more

Press Release Summary from 25th IPRA General Conference
August 10-14
Istanbul, Turkey

View a video from
"Composing Our Lives
Together" song-writing
workshop with Jane Sapp

Don West unveils portrait of Jane and Hubert Sapp at "Seeking Lives of Purpose"

Acting Together short film featured in Culture Unplugged film festival

Read reflection by Cindy Cohen: "Synergy: Women, Creativity & Peacebuilding"

Read review by Anthony Ellis of the Acting Together anthology.

View video: Presentation by the Ulafa’a Visual Artists of Bahrain

“Acting Together” Documentary receives the “Spirit of Place” Award

Ethics Central: Winter/Spring 2013 issue featuring Rose Art Museum Exhibit and From Bahrain to Brandeis and Back Again

Read a review of the Acting Together documentary by Shoshana Zeldner, featured by the Compathos Foundation

Read a Book Review
by Serge Loode of the
Acting Together Anthology 
Vol. I & II

Acting Together Documentary

holding hands

Watch the preview!

Find out about "Acting Together" screenings near you.


Read the latest issue of our newsletter, Peacebuilding and the Arts Now.

Sign up to receive updates about the Peacebuilding and the Arts program and the Acting Together project.


CAST-Sponsored Ebony Axis Debuts
HootBrandeis Hoot
By Karen Seymour | October 2, 2015

"After performing in 'for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is not enuf' last fall, Lashawn Simmons ’18, a Posse Scholar, decided to create a zine, Ebony Axis, that contained poetry from black women on campus. To celebrate the launch of her publication and its contributors, a coffeehouse was held at Chum’s over the weekend, with students watching the performances from outside because it was so crowded. The party was a showcase of poets, dancers and singers who shared pieces on blackness, womanhood and the intersection of both." Read the full article. Read more about the CAST minor.

"Arts and Building Peace: Affirming the Basics and Envisioning the Future"
Paper by Dr. Cynthia Cohen

US Institute of Peace Summer 2015 Insights Newsletter:
Arts & Peacebuilding

USIP Insights offers critical analysis of peacebuilding activities central to USIP's work, like mediation, the prevention of electoral violence or the role of technology in conflict mitigation, while offering guidance on how these fields are developing for the future. The Summer 2015 edition is dedicated to the arts as a field relevant to peacebuilding practice. It features introductions to the "State of the Art" of this peacebuilding field by USIP's Katherine Wood and Cynthia E. Cohen from Brandeis University, a PeaceArena discussion between Arthur Romano and Savina Sirik, and case studies illustrating arts and peacebuilding practice in Burundi and Afghanistan.

"Recognition of the contributions of arts and culture to peace is real and growing. It is fueled not only by artist-peacebuilders and cultural facilitators, who are strengthening their practice through documenting, assessing, and critically reflecting upon their work. Interest is also increasing from practitioners of more conventional peacebuilding approaches, such as mediation, facilitation, negotiation, transitional justice, human rights advocacy, and development, who are acknowledging that rational modes of engagement alone are insufficient to engender the kinds of transformation necessary for interrupting the dynamics of violent conflict..." Read the full paper and newsletter.

CAST Annual Report

ReportThis report outlines the activities of the Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation (CAST) minor in the 2014-2015 academic year. The first sections describe the development of the minor; the support staff; the recruitment efforts; and the opportunities CAST provided faculty and students in its first year. The next section describes the inaugural Introduction to CAST course, covering the assignments and general activities of the class. The final section provides information about the first ever CAST graduates and how they were formally recognized. View CAST Annual Report.

CAST Design Labs

One of the major projects undertaken by students in the Introduction to Creativity, the Arts and Social Transformation course at Brandeis University this past year involved work on design labs. The design labs took form as processes for bringing together various constituencies related to a problem, issue or possibility to think in creative ways and to design structures, processes, or expressions that lead to a more just, peaceful, resilient, and vibrant communities.

Students assisted 4 established organizations with projects whose goals necessitated creative mechanisms. Each student group researched and compiled documents to send to design lab participants prior to the workshops. Some students acted as rapporteurs during the design labs and compiled final reports on the labs’ outcomes. The four resulting reports are below:

Learn more about CAST and view CAST Annual Report.

Call for Research Memos: Urban Violence and the Arts

We would like to enlist your assistance with a timely and important research project exploring the role of municipalities in contributing to, preventing and ameliorating the effects of urban violence. In particular, we are focusing on the arts and culture, including individuals, organizations, institutions, municipal arts agencies, etc. This research is part of a larger project initiated by the Global Institute for Justice in the Hague named City Responsibility: The Role of Municipalities in Conflict Prevention

Our research will follow two trajectories: case studies of 4 – 5 cities where the arts have played important roles in relation to urban violence; and a collection of 1 – 2 page memos that describe particular interventions, institutions, or initiatives in urban zones of violent conflict around the world, with relevant links.

We would like to enlist your help in developing this collection of research memos, which will serve as a source of data for our research, helping us decide which cities to focus on for more in-depth case studies. Summaries of the research memos will be attached to our report, and, with authors’ permission, be posted in the resource library of the Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts at Brandeis

Read the full call for research memos.

Submit your research memo via our online form. Or if you prefer, email your response to Nila Premaratna, research assistant.

CAST Grants for Student Projects Related to Creativity, the Arts and Social Transformation

Brandeis’s interdisciplinary minor in Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation (CAST) offers a coherent curriculum designed to support Brandeis undergraduates with interests in the arts and creative expression as well as commitments to understanding and advancing social justice and the transformation of conflict. Students enrolled in CAST 150b, and students who had previously completed the similar Arts of Building Peace course, were eligible to submit proposals in April for CAST-related projects that would take place over the summer. Of 20 eligible students, 4 submitted applications, and 3 were selected to receive the award and subsequent funding. Recipients were chosen by a subset of the CAST student committee. Student recipients of CAST small grants are:


LaShawn Simmons ’18 - Ebony Axis Zine
LaShawn Simmons plans to invite women within the Brandeis community (primarily undergraduate, and alumnus, but open to graduate students and faculty), who identify as Black, to contribute poetry to a zine entitled Ebony Axis. This publication will showcase the beautiful and varied narratives of Black women on campus through poetry. In addition to the zine, LaShawn will organize and host a coffeehouse event that will be open to all students across campus. Participants will engage in critical conversations and dialogue with Black women, while also creating atmosphere of encouragement and empowerment. The coffeehouse will be open for performers and audience members to sing and ultimately share narratives in a space that is open for all.

Sarah McCarty ’15 and Brontë Velez ’16 - Sound Mapping: Listening for Change
SarahandBronteSarah McCarty and Brontë Velez recognize that the concept of listening has long been insufficient in working towards critical transformation and progress in the world. They believe that listening is the beginning of learning, critical thinking, challenging, creating, producing, and transforming. Active listening in creative transformation and arts praxis can lead to the facilitation of space for all humans to know themselves as creators and to in turn recreate and reprioritize what is valued, appreciated, read, experienced, and understood in the world.

With the support of the CAST grant, the pair travelled this summer to the Venice Biennale, a major platform in the art world for creative discussion and evaluation. The Biennale aims to curate more spaces of dialogue that will question and challenge the elitism and inaccessibility of the ‘art world,’ though Sarah and Brontë believe that its social, economic, and geographical isolation prevents it from yet reaching this goal. Based on their learnings and experience, they will create “soundmapping” works, focusing on sound, movement, performance and video, to critically examine and respond to the historically exclusive and inaccessible institutional spaces of the art world and the historical Western art canon. They believe in the concept of artist as cartographer, choreographing new routes to arrive at a listening that leads to activating and implementing real social transformation. They will present the “Sound Mapping – Listening for Change” project during the residency of Syrian musician Kinan Azmeh and MusicUnitesUS at Brandeis University in the fall semester of 2015.

Read the original call for applications and eligibility guidelines. Learn more about the CAST minor.

Announcing Recipients of Acting Together Small Grants for Course Development in Performance and the Creative Transformation of Conflict

The Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts is proud to announce the recipients of five small grants designed to provide support to college and university educators as well as trainers of theater practitioners support they need to incorporate the resources of the Acting Together Project into their course curricula and workshop sessions. The Acting Together Small Grants for Course Development in Performance and the Creative Transformation of Conflict were made possible by the generous contribution of Elaine Reuben '63.

Acting Together resources will be sent to educators and trainers in Canada, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nepal, and the Oglala Lakota College in South Dakota, USA.

Read more about the recipients and how they will be using the Acting Together resources.

Screening of Acting Together documentary at Songs of my Neighbors
April 2015

Songs Songs of my Neighbors is a collaborative initiative aiming to use the arts, and theatre in particular, to encourage dialogue and social justice between communities that share conflict. As a project of the Center of Performing Arts MITOS, it is co-coordinated by Elena Agathokleous and Diomedes Koufteros (MFA '05, Acting). It is partly funded by the Culture Program of the European Union and takes place in Poland, Italy and Cyprus between Autumn 2013 and Summer 2015.


Participants at Songs of My Neighbors
Photo credit: Pavlos Vryonides

Acting Together Project contributors Dr. Lee Perlman, researcher at the Tami Steinmetz Peace Center of the University of Tel Aviv, and Dijana Milošević of Dah Teatar, both participated in a convening of the project in April 2015 in Limmasol, Cyprus. The convening included live music and narrations with actors, musicians, and artists from partner organizations, as well as a screening of Acting Together on the World Stage. The following is a reflection from Lee Perlman and Dijana Milošević about their experiences.

Read more.

Cynthia Cohen, Co-Chair of the Faculty Committee of the CAST minor and Director of the Program of Peacebuilding and the Arts at Brandeis University, presented at and participating in the follow events in May 2015:

City Responsibility: The Role of Municipalities in Conflict Prevention
May 22, 12:00 - 5:00pm 
Hague Institute for Global Justice
The Hague, Netherlands
This will be the first meeting of research team on City Responsibility. The overarching goal of the Conflict Prevention Program is to improve the theory, policy and practice of conflict prevention by producing knowledge that shapes academic debate and policy discussions within the Netherlands and abroad. The program aims to become a recognized program of excellence for innovative applied research, policy development and professional skills training.

"Art in Conflict" Forum
AICMay 26-28
Zurich University of the Arts
"Art in Conflict" is a practitioners' forum on potential and limitations of arts initiatives in processes of social transformation and peace building hosted by Zurich University of the Arts in cooperation with Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. Cynthia Cohen will be presenting and hosting a screening on May 26 at 8:45 pm of the documentary "Acting Together on the World Stage." Additionally, she will be interacting informally with participants at a table presentation on May 26, 3:30 - 5:30pm, as well as directing a working group on 'Making Results Visible/Options for Evaluation' on May 28 at 9:30am. Learn more and view the forum program.

Art in Mediation: One-day Colloquium at the Villa Frontenex-Saladin
May 29, 2015, 12:00 - 10:00pm
Geneva, Switzerland

Small Grants for Course Development in Performance and the Creative Transformation of Conflict 
Application Deadline: April 30, 2015
Application period is now closed.

ATdocThe Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts at Brandeis University is offering $500 grants to college and university educators to support efforts to incorporate the resources of the Acting Together project into curricula. The resources include a documentary film, a toolkit of resources for teaching and learning, and a two-volume anthology.

Grant recipients will also receive:

Applications are welcome from faculty members teaching in Theater, Performance Studies, Community Art, or any of the creative arts; or in Peace and Justice studies, Development, Conflict Transformation, Trauma Studies, Foreign Relations, Global Studies, Politics, Sociology, Anthropology, etc. We are especially interested in receiving applications from members of the faculty of institutions with limited resources for media acquisition, including:

  • Historically Black colleges and universities
  • Institutions with high Hispanic enrollment
  • Tribal colleges and universities
  • Community Colleges

Learn more about the small grants.  

Thank you for your interest. The application period is now closed.

CAST Grants for Student Projects Related to Creativity, the Arts and Social Transformation

Applications Due: April 1

In the 2014-2015 academic year, Brandeis’s new minor in Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation (CAST) anticipates awarding two grants of up to $500 each for projects proposed by students enrolled in the introductory course, or who have previously taken The Arts of Building Peace. Read more and apply.


Talk bridges improvisation and justice
The Justice | By Brooke Granovsky 

justice"...The talk touched on how improv related to people’s daily lives, to activism and ultimately how improvisation allows people to deal with challenges in a productive way. The discussion focused on the process of improvisation and how it is similar or dissimilar to the way people attempt to enact social change. Prof. Tom Hall (MUS) and Cynthia Cohen, director of the University’s Ethics Center’s Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts, came together to discuss how their departments overlapped and what this could mean in the context of improvisation and social change...

Cohen commented... that in the context of creating meaning or understanding out of the unknown, improvisation allows for many ways of constructing meaning. She explained that, for instance, in a visual medium of improvisation, the meaning is constructed by the partnership between the artists and the viewers. Their analysis of visual works give the works meaning in addition to the meaning the artists create.

Cohen also noted that this process of internalizing another person’s ideas and using them to draw new conclusions relates well with the concepts of empathy and social justice. Just as improvisation requires people to extend their ideas, so too do empathy and social activism require people to extend their thoughts and experiences in order to gain an understanding of new situations..." Read the full article in the Justice.

Video of remarks by Paul Smith, Director of British Council, USA on 'Culture and Conflict' at Reception Honoring Liberian Singer Fatu Gaylor & CAST Supporter Naomi Sinnreich
March 3, 2015, 4:50 - 6:00 pm
Slosberg Music Center Atrium
paulvideoImmediately following presentations by Fatu Gayflor and Toni Shapiro-Phim in an open session of the Intro to CAST course, a reception and informal gathering was hosted as part of their March 2015 residency at Brandeis. Featured guests included Paul Smith, the director of the British Council in the USA and Cultural Counsellor at the British Embassy in Washington, DC. He spoke briefly at the reception about 'Culture and Conflict' more broadly, bringing insight from his previous posts in New Zealand, India and Afghanistan. View the video.

Folklore Project event Saturday examines arts as
Philly.com  |  March 20, 2015


"When the Liberian Women's Chorus for Change performed for soldiers involved in that country's civil war, Philadelphia Folklore Project Director of Programs Toni Shapiro-Phim said that some in the audience were so moved that they handed their guns to the performers as a sign of peace.

The artists from the same group performed in different communities with people of varied ethnic backgrounds as a model for reconciliation in the country, Shapiro-Phim said.

Shapiro-Phim said these are perfect examples of what the PFP's event tomorrow, "Peacebuilding and Traditional Arts: A Forum," will discuss - how traditional arts and social-justice work can combine to create positive change in communities. The event, which will feature a performance by the Liberian Women's Chorus for Change, will run from 2:30 to 5 p.m., at The Performance Garage....

...In addition to the discussions and performances, Cynthia Cohen, of Brandeis University's Peacebuilding and the Arts Initiative, will present the documentary "Acting Together on the World Stage." The film is about artistic endeavors in regions of conflict, and how these efforts can help communities heal after tragedies like mass violence. .." Read more.

From exile to performance, activist Gayflor inspires hope

On Fatu Gayflor and Toni Shapiro-Phim's Residency
hootBrandeis Hoot
March 6, 2015

"Exiled from her home country in the midst of civil war, Fatu Gayflor, renowned vocalist, founder and artistic director of the Liberian Women’s Chorus for Change, spoke to the Brandeis community on Thursday, March 5 to share legacies of loss, violence, resilience and hope. Now settled in Philadelphia, Gayflor stated, 'Telling my story has helped me to be the strong person I am today.'

Gayflor is one of four acclaimed vocalists comprising the Liberian Women’s Chorus for Change, an initiative of the Philadelphia Folklore Project, which seeks to share experiences of domestic violence and post conflict reconciliation through song and performance. Joined by Tori Shapiro-Phim, director of programs for the Philadelphia Folklore Project, Gayflor shared her experiences as a former refugee and survivor of civil war.

In an exclusive interview with The Brandeis Hoot following her performance, Gayflor revealed her incredible journey through war-torn Liberia to her rise as an acclaimed vocalist inspiring hope in her audiences across the world...." Read more.

American Theatre Magazine Features CAST, Peacebuilding and the Arts


American Theatre magazine is featuring the Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts and the new minor in Creativity, the Arts and Social Transformation (CAST) and in a feature of university and college programs that focus on the nexus between theatre and social change.


"Within Brandeis’s International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life is a groundbreaking program called Peacebuilding and the Arts. A leader in social justice programming among university campuses, Brandeis created Peacebuilding and the Arts to give artists working in conflict zones a toolkit for enacting positive change. Students are encouraged to document their work and share their productions with colleagues and peers. The school’s new minor (Creativity, the Arts and Social Transformation) offers students a multivalent education across the arts, humanities and social sciences, combined with internship opportunities with a variety of organizations...." Read more.

CAST Program Grants Support Innovative Work by Brandeis Faculty

The faculty committee of the minor in Creativity, the Arts and Social Transformation (CAST) has just awarded grants of $2,000 each to four members of the Brandeis faculty for research and creative projects. The awards will support creative and scholarly inquiry into theory and practice at the nexus of arts, culture and social change; enhance teaching and advising; and animate an interdisciplinary conversation about creativity, social justice and peacebuilding through the arts. Read more about the inaugural projects.

These awards are possible through generous funding from the Max and Sunny Howard Memorial Foundation and the vision of Naomi Sinnreich P ’13.


CAST Faculty Award REcipients. Left to Right: 
Prof. Adrianne Krstansky, Prof. Judith Eissenberg,
Azlin Perdomo, and Prof. Ilana Szobel. 

New Minor at Brandeis: 
Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation

CASTThe Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts is proud to announce a new interdepartmental minor in Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation at Brandeis. The minor offers students the opportunity to explore theory and practice at the center of arts and culture, peace and justice, and creativity. It is designed for students in the arts who want to connect their creative talents to their concerns for social change, and for students in the humanities and social sciences to explore music, theater, literature and visual arts as resources for justice and peace.

Why Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation?

Throughout the world, artists, cultural workers, educators and organizers are incorporating the arts into efforts to strengthen relationships across differences and contribute to more just, less violent communities. They engage with a wide array of art forms – music, literature, theater, visual arts, storytelling, digital art and broadcast media, architecture, conceptual art and folk expressions of all kinds.

Artists and cultural workers are nourishing, restoring and strengthening the capacity of communities to live creatively, sustainably and ethically.

Creative and artistic approaches to social transformation involve people as creators, performers, producers, participants, audience members, witnesses and critics. Some initiatives operate in single neighborhoods; some are international in scope. Some are one-time events, others create institutions and processes that last for decades.

Dr. Cynthia Cohen will be teaching the introductory course, Introduction to Creativity, the Arts and Social Transformation (CAST 150b), starting in spring 2015. Read more about the objectives, learning goals, and requirements for the minor. Read the description in the 2014-2015 list of courses (page 18), and read an article about CAST in the Ethics Central newsletter. Visit the CAST website. Students who are interested in signing up for the minor can email Jennifer Cleary or call 781-736-3377. 

Call for Faculty Proposals - CAST Minor

The faculty committee of the new minor in Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation announces awards of $2000 for research and creative projects related to the new minor will be available to members of the Brandeis faculty during the next two academic years. Proposals are due October 27th. The stipends are designed to:

  • Support creative and scholarly inquiry into theory and practice at the nexus of arts, culture, and social change.
  • Enhance teaching and advising related to the educational objectives of the new minor.
  • Animate an interdisciplinary conversation about creativity, social justice, and peacebuilding through the arts.

For more information, see the call for proposals and contact Cynthia Cohen, co-chair of the CAST faculty committee.


Read about CAST in State of the Arts 
by Cynthia Cohen
in Brandeis' State of the Arts Magazine 
Fall 2014 issue

Read about CAST in the Brandeis Hoot
New minor brings social purpose to the arts
BHootThe Brandeis Hoot
October 16, 2014

Visit the CAST website

With generous funding from the Max and Sunny Howard Memorial Foundation, the minor will sponsor grants for faculty research and creative projects, and host conversations and events that will invite affiliated students and faculty into an interdisciplinary community of inquiry. We also express gratitude to Naomi Sinnreich P '13 for her vision and support.