The Arts of Urban Transition

This course uses texts and methods from history, theatre, performance studies, and dance to examine artists and works of art as agents of change in New York (1960-present) and contemporary Detroit. Issues addressed include relationships between artists, changing urban economies, and the built environment; the role of the artist in gentrification and creative placemaking; the importance of local history in art interventions; and assessing impacts of arts initiatives. Fall break trip to Detroit, and visits to key sites in New York and Philadelphia, are included. Students will use data and methods from the course to produce final projects.

Sample reading list:
Thomas J. Sugre, The Origins of the Urban Crisis
Brent D. Ryan, Design After Decline: How America Rebuilds Shrinking Cities
Aaron Shkuda, The Art Market, Arts Funding, and Sweat Equity
Dora Apel, Beautiful Terrible Ruins: Detroit and the Anxiety of Decline
Anne Markusen and Anne Gadwa, Creative Placemaking (2010), Executive Summary
Jan Cohen-Cruz, The Problem Democracy is Supposed to Solve

Reading/Writing assignments:
Probes: 2 short papers or performances on specific texts, art works, dances or other materials from class. Audio Walking Tour: 5-10 minute text, recorded as audio to be listened to on a walk through an urban setting. Grant Proposal: create proposal for an artistic intervention that addresses the politics, culture, history or future of post-war Detroit. Final project: an ethnographic performance derived from our work in class, created with 1-2 collaborators, and running 10-15 minutes.

Prerequisites and Restrictions:
ENROLLMENT BY APPLICATION OR INTERVIEW. To apply, send a paragraph detailing your reasons for taking the course, including any experience(s) that make you interested in investigating relationships among art, artists, and the redevelopment of deindustrial cities, to Professor Judith Hamera,, with “Arts of Urban Transition” in the subject line.

Other Requirements:
No prior dance or theater experience is necessary. United States travel required.


Headshot of Aaron Shkuda

Aaron Shkuda

Program Manager, Princeton-Mellon Initiative in Architecture; Lecturer in Architecture



Fridays, 1:30 - 4:20 p.m.