Center for the Advancement of Public Action

The Challenge

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 Response

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

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.

Art in the Public RealmArt in the Public Realm creates innovative public art practices and new forms of direct engagement and exchange.

Environment and Public ActionIn advocacy, policy, and scholarship, the environment has become a potent site of meaning and action.

Human Rights and PeacebuildingIntractable conflicts are found in many parts of our contemporary world, and communities across the globe are searching for non-violent, just, and constructive solutions.

Incarceration in AmericaThe Incarceration in America initiative is dedicated to reforming the United States prison system. With its partners, it convenes stakeholders to affect public policy.

CAPA graphic

By Izzy Mozer '19

Community Development in VermontCAPA provides a space for reflection and collaboration around the many challenges and opportunities facing Vermont communities, including economic development, education, healthcare, and governance.

Quantum Leap img
Quantum Leap
Prison Education Initiative img
Prison Education Initiative
Oslo Img 1
Art in Embassies—Oslo Project
CAPA Leadership Institute img
CAPA Leadership Institute
Vermont Legislative Series img
Vermont Legislative Forums
Student hanging flyer about LEDs on door
LED Project
Incarceration TaskForce img
Bennington College Incarceration Taskforce (BCIT)
PFOA building
Understanding PFOA
Since 1999, Quantum Leap has reconnected over 2,000 students to their education. More
The Prison Education Initiative is a collaboration of CAPA, New York State, and Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Comstock, NY. More
Bennington students, working in collaboration with the State Department's Art in Embassies program, are creating a public artwork... More
The CAPA Leadership Institute is founded on the premise that the most effective solutions for sustainably resolving conflicts emerge out of... More
CAPA hosted three Vermont Legislative Forums that addressed policies and recent bills passed in the Vermont legislature... More
Born out of student response to community need, supported and informed by study with faculty, GANAS brings... More
Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are increasingly used in streetlights in the US and around the world... More
The BCIT is a nonpartisan, evidence-based student group looking to increase public safety in Vermont by implementing smart-on-crime reforms. More
In 2014, the chemical Perfluorooctanoic acid (C8 or PFOA) was discovered in the drinking water in the Village of Hoosick Falls, NY... More

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


CAPA courtyard

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.

North Bennington Train Station Student Research to Inform Local Hydroelectric Decisions

Representatives from a class gave a report to the Village Board of Trustees on Tuesday about their ongoing research to generate a feasibility study on local dams and waterway privileges. 

Dado, Nejla, Amina, Ajsa, Inas Our Way Is Peace

This summer five Bennington students from Bosnia explored the intersections between peacebuilding and theater through their work with The Center for Peacebuilding (CIM) in Sanski Most, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Now, they are bringing what they’ve learned back to Bennington. They will present their work at the Peacebuilding in Action panel on October 1 at the Center for the Advancement of Public Actions (CAPA).

PFOA Event Vermont DEC Community Meeting on PFOA

The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation held a meeting of community member and local legislators from Vermont on September 28 in at Bennington College to answer questions from the community, and communicate further information about PFOA as it unfolds. 

Rio Olympics logo Ibarra Collaborates at Rio Olympics

Musician and faculty member Susie Ibarra is working with David Hertz, a Brazilian chef and a World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leader, around the launch of Refettorio Gastromotiva, a food and cultural center that will repurpose 12 tons of food from the Olympics to turn it into nutritious meals for the neediest of Rio.

incarceration in america logo Women's Community Justice Project

Panel Discussion

Date | Saturday, September 17, 2016
Time | 2:00 - 4:00 pm
Location | Bennington College, CAPA Symposium
Registration | Free and open to the public
Contact |

Bennington Selected to Participate in Dept of Ed’s Second Chance Pell Pilot Program img Bennington Selected to Participate in Dept of Ed’s Second Chance Pell Pilot Program

The Department of Education announced today that Bennington College was among the colleges and universities selected from a competitive national pool to participate in the Second Chance Pell pilot program.

Will Buchanan '16 shares his research with DEC commissioner Alyssa Schuren Meeting Held to Update the Community on PFOA Information, Research

On Wednesday, June 29, the Vermont state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) hosted a community meeting at Bennington College to discuss the ongoing PFOA issue in the region. David Bond, associate director of CAPA and principal investigator of the College's research on PFOA, provided an update on the work thus far.

Redefining Justice poster Incarceration in America: Redefining Justice

Spring 2016 Conference

Dates | May 6–7, 2016
Location | Bennington College, CAPA Symposium
Registration | Free and open to the public
Contact |

David Bond Talks to VPR About NSF-Sponsored Class on PFOA Bond Speaks About Class On PFOA

David Bond, associate director of the Center for the Advancement of Public Action, spoke with Vermont Public Radio about a course being taught at Bennington College about PFOA. 

National Public Radio Foley Speaks with NPR about PFOA

Faculty member Janet Foley recently spoke with NPR about about PFOA. She, David Bond, and Tim Schroeder are teaching a course beginning next week.