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.

Upcoming Events

CAPA Newsletter

The CAPA Newsletter is a student-run project with the mission of developing the CAPA community.
Subscribe here if you'd like this monthly publication delivered to your inbox. 

April 2017     |     May 2017     |     June 2017     |     September 2017     |     October 2017


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.

Activating Democracy

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.

Progressive Education

Using the Bennington Plan Process as a model to help the community youth gain ownership of their educational path.

izzy mozer graphic

By Izzy Mozer '19

Prison Education Initiative img
Prison Education Initiative
PFOA building
Understanding PFOA
Quantum Leap img
Quantum Leap
Oslo Img 1
Art in Embassies—Oslo Project
CAPA Leadership Institute img
CAPA Leadership Institute
Vermont Legislative Series img
Public Policy Forums @ CAPA
Student hanging flyer about LEDs on door
LED Project
Incarceration TaskForce img
Bennington College Incarceration Taskforce (BCIT)
Paran Creek Dam
Paran Creek Dam
The Prison Education Initiative is a collaboration of CAPA, New York State, and Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Comstock, NY. More
In 2014, the chemical Perfluorooctanoic acid (C8 or PFOA) was discovered in the drinking water in the Village of Hoosick Falls, NY... More
Since 1999, Quantum Leap has reconnected over 2,000 students to their education. 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
This series invites guest speakers from the private and public sectors to address a range of important topics in the current national dialogue... 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
The mission of the Paran Creek Watershed Project is to support the Village of North Bennington’s long term stewardship of renewable water resources... More


IA poster Incarceration in America

Fall 2014 Conference

Dates | October 10–11, 2014
Location | Bennington College
Registration | Free and open to the public
Contact |

Bennington College CAPA CAPA Leadership Institute

Twelve young professionals from the Middle East will be coming to Bennington College for 10 days in mid-September to work on environmental sustainability.

Glenn Martin poster 40 Years Later: Rightsizing the United States Criminal Justice System

Date | April 17, 2014
Time | 7:00 pm
Location | Bennington College, CAPA Symposium
Contact |

Bennington College CAPA CAPA Architects Earn Top AIA Honors

Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, the team behind Bennington's Center for the Advancement of Public Action (CAPA), has won the American Institute of Architects' 2013 Architecture Firm Award. The annual award recognizes a practice that has produced distinguished architecture for at least 10 years, and is considered the highest honor the AIA bestows on an architecture firm.

Rebecca Tinsley's 'When the Stars Fall to Earth' Tinsley Pens Novel Based on Experiences in Darfur

Former BBC journalist and human rights activist Rebecca Tinsley—a member of the Advisory Council for Bennington's Center for the Advancement of Public Action—has penned a new novel based on the stories of genocide survivors she met while doing humanitarian work in Darfur.

Vermont Public Radio logo Coleman Discusses Plans for CAPA on VPR

Bennington President Elizabeth Coleman was a guest on Vermont Public Radio's Vermont Edition on February 12 to discuss plans for the Center for the Advancement of Public Action, a building that will embody Bennington's new curricular initiative. Construction on the project is expected to begin this spring. 


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.

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