Social Practice


Connect art, policy and collective action

This unique program is for artists and creative thinkers who want to connect art, policy and collective action. We prepare graduate students who want to take on big issues and complex problems, such as equity, education and emerging technologies, to think critically, evaluate compassionately and create inventively.

Students in our program can take courses across the university, including at the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design and Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration.

Read about our M.A. in New Media Photojournalism or our M.F.A. in Fine Arts for those interested in earning those degrees.

Above image from “Collected Memories, Collective Futures” by Shawn Shafner, Social Practice MFA '24.




Program of Study




The Master of Fine Arts degree in Social Practice is designed for emerging creative thinkers to develop skills in both the arts and public policy sectors during an intensive, two-year, 60-credit degree. Courses are designed to set up dialogues on how creative practices can be used to produce change.

The program brings together artists, designers, organizers, researchers and policymakers to initiate learning opportunities and projects that address the critical questions of our time. It combines study in experimental, relational and performative creative practices with academic research, collaborative work and field-based experiential learning in Washington, D.C. - a global hub for policy makers, tech leaders, NGO's and cultural institutions. In this program, we address the following questions:

  • As artists, how can we better connect our creative actions with our desire for impact?
  • How might artists address problems that other fields either can't see or can't touch?
  • How might we better prepare ourselves to navigate the fields with which our work intersects?

Curriculum Details



Students can take courses across the Corcoran School and the Trachtenberg School at the George Washington University. This program aims to initiate cross-disciplinary projects with public impact, pulling faculty from across GW’s Columbian College. Students have access to academic offerings that support their project goals in areas across the university, including public policy, data and spatial analysis, cultural studies and social theory.

As a part of the Corcoran community, students are provided with world-class professors, newly renovated classrooms and studios and the multitude of resources available to the George Washington University community.




To apply to the program, follow the graduate application process and submit all materials by April 1. For fellowship consideration, the deadline is February 1. All applicants must have an undergraduate degree.

Admission Requirements Graduate Admissions




Silver and Gold


Nao Bustamante is a Chicana multimedia and performance artist; in 2018, she performed and lectured at the Corcoran School. Her work encompasses performance art, sculpture, installation and video and explores issues of ethnicity, class, gender, performativity and the body. SILVER & GOLD is a “filmformance” inspired by queer filmmaker Jack Smith. Bustamante channels his muse, 1940s Dominican movie star Maria Montez, in a bizarre exploration of race, glamour and the silver screen.

students eating on blue blankets outside at mobile mosque


Syrian refugees came up with the idea of a Mobile Mosque - "he should be able to pray anywhere, in the park, in the street..."

In 2017, Ghana ThinkTank returned to the CounterCurrent festival with the Mobile Mosque, an elegant Islamic structure that traveled throughout Houston on flatbed trailers. For one wonderful week, the Muslim community in Houston took over this Mobile Mosque, offering a place for prayer, poetry, music, art, and a fundraiser for Syrian refugees. The steel components will later travel to Detroit to become part of a long-term project focusing on the role of Art in American Islamic relations and housing equity.

Examples of Social Practice in Action



Three Black Wall Streets homepage

Three Black Wall Streets

One of our visiting professors, Paul Rucker, as well as Interaction Design Professor Kevin Patton, Social Practice professors, and Exhibition Design and Interaction Design students, worked tirelessly on this project exploring the Black Wall Streets in America. Featured in NPR, Rucker tells his story of growing up as a Black man in the U.S., and how he is using his experiences to educate others and uplift Black entrepreneurs and innovators. Read the NPR article about Three Black Wall Streets here.







Associate Professor, Art;
Director of Graduate Studies, Social Practice

James Sham
[email protected]



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