Center for the Advancement of Public Action
Problems proliferate. From income inequality to climate change, from failing schools to failed states, from exiled histories to foreclosed futures, our present is beset by challenges. Many of these entrenched and emergent problems seem just beyond the scope of a liberal arts education. What might it mean to more directly orient the liberal arts around these complex problems, not just in contemplation of them but with a deliberate aim to intervene in them? How can artists, scholars, and scientists collaborate and contribute to finding effective solutions to these problems? How can the classroom be expanded to foster new linkages between thought and action, the classroom and the outside world? What new insights and capacities are now needed to enact meaningful change?
The Center for the Advancement of Public Action (CAPA) at Bennington College responds to the urgent problems of our current world, discovers what one needs to know to understand them, and acts to implement solutions. Rooted in the liberal arts with a commitment to public action, CAPA teaches the essential capacities needed to develop an educated and emboldened citizenry. Through initiatives and curriculum, CAPA leverages the classroom as a new kind of studio for innovation and informed change. With engaged scholarship, community partnerships, and creative problem-solving strategies that draw on the skills of conflict resolution, complex systems analysis, and research and design, CAPA addresses the issues of our time from a novel vantage point: action.
CAPA Initiatives are multi-year programs that respond to urgent problems in the world. The goal of CAPA Initiatives is to build publics—communities of interest and involvement—around pressing concerns. These initiatives creatively assemble the resources of Bennington College around a specific issue and connect them to external stakeholders and organizations. This includes courses from across disciplines at the college; extracurricular and Field Work Term opportunities for students; trainings and workshops for local and college community members; curated exhibitions and engaged social practices in art; conferences that convene stakeholders and advance new solutions; and publications or programs that extend the work of CAPA Initiatives into wider audiences. CAPA Initiatives are designed in collaboration with local, national, and/or international groups and result in public action to foster better infrastructure, enable and create sustainable design, and to promote human rights.
Educating students on what it means to participate in a democracy by understanding and engaging with our governance systems.
Art in the Public Realm
Supporting artists as change agents through the vital role they play in shaping thriving and sustainable communities.
Environment and Public Action
Building healthy environments through developing and enhancing sustainable water, energy, and food systems.
Human Rights and Peacebuilding
Working to resolve conflict, build peace, and establish a just and equitable society through local, national, and global partnerships.
Using the Bennington Plan Process as a model to help the community youth gain ownership of their educational path.
By Izzy Mozer '19
FRIDAY–SATURDAY, MAY 19–20 | Tishman and CAPA
Free and open to the public | More information
FRIDAY–SATURDAY, MAY 26–27 | CAPA Symposium
Free and open to the public | More information
Bennington College’s Center for the Advancement of Public Action (CAPA) hosted a conference on The Future of Higher Education in Prison on April 28-29, the ninth annual convening that forms part of the College’s Incarceration in America initiative, a project established formally in 2014 to address the fact that the U.S. prison population has increased 400% in the past forty years.
Bennington College Faculty Members David Bond, Janet Foley, and Tim Schroeder have been awarded a $300,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to deepen and expand the College’s response to PFOA contamination in New York and Vermont.
Bennington College President Mariko Silver recently joined mayors, governors, other leaders in higher education, businesses, and investors in declaring, via an open letter, that they will continue to support climate action to meet the Paris Agreement.
The Volatile Futures/Earthly Matters Conference at Bennington this spring brought together leading scholars from across the country to examine questions related to climate change and other environmental policy debates that are currently playing out on both national and global stages.
The inaugural Taconic Mountain Student Water Conference: PFOA took place in CAPA on Friday, May 19 and Saturday, May 20. Co-organized by David Bond (Bennington) and Ken Facin (Hoosick Falls Central School Distrct), Friday's events were geared towards educating local high students, while Saturday's were open to the public. The second day of the conference provided an opportunity for residents of both the Bennington area and Hoosick Falls to receive updated information and the results from recent tests. Robert Bilott, who spearheaded efforts to expose PFOA contamination of drinking water supplies, gave the keynote speech.
Bennington College hosted a public meeting on PFOA on Thursday, April 27, 2017. At this meeting, the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) and Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) updated the community about ongoing negotiations with Saint Gobain and reviewed the state’s current analysis of the nature and scope of PFOA contamination in our region. ANR Secretary Julie Moore applauded the “very active” work of Bennington College in responding to this nearby environmental problem.
Bennington College faculty David Bond and Tim Schroeder also provided an update of their ongoing research into PFOA in our environment.
Hydropower developer Bill Scully ’94 is working with Bennington students on two new power generation projects in the village of North Bennington.
Bennington’s Center for the Advancement of Public Action (CAPA) hosted a talk by two United Nations delegates on women's empowerment and the changing role of women in the workplace.
Susan Sgorbati, Director of CAPA, and Vahidin Omanovic of the Center for Peacebuilding, released the following joint statement.
David L. Phillips is director of the Program on Peace-building and Rights at Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights. He served as a senior adviser and foreign affairs expert at the U.S. Department of State during the administrations of President Clinton, Bush, and Obama. He has published many books on the Middle East, including An Uncertain Ally: Turkey Under Erdogan’s Dictatorship, The Kurdish Spring: A New Map for the Middle East, and Losing Iraq: Inside the Post-War Reconstruction Fiasco.
CAPA is housed in a state-of-the-art facility designed by award-winning architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien. It blends the studio of the artist, the laboratory of the scientist, the think tank of the policymaker, and the town square of the citizen.
What kind of world ARE we making? What kind of world SHOULD we be making? What kind of world CAN we be making? – Elizabeth Coleman, President Emeritus, founding director of CAPA