Jan Cohen-Cruz is a scholar, practitioner, and teacher of grassroots, socially-grounded, and activist art.
She wrote Engaging Performance: Theatre as Call and Response; Local Acts: Community-Based Performance in the U S; edited Radical Street Performance, and, with Mady Schutzman, co-edited Playing Boal: Theatre, Therapy, Activism and A Boal Companion: Dialogues on Art and Cultural Politics.
As a professor at NYU Tisch School of the Arts from the late 1980s until 2006, Cohen-Cruz produced community-based arts projects with students including one on community gardens, directed by Cornerstone Theater’s Sabrina Peck, and another on gentrification, co-directed by Urban Bush Woman’s Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and NYU Experimental Theatre Wing’s Rosemary Quinn.
In the mid-1990s, Jan co-directed Tisch’s AmeriCorps (President Clinton’s domestic Peace Corps), on violence reduction through the arts. She co-ordinated the Drama Department’s minor in applied theatre and directed Tisch’s Office of Community Connections. She is among the founders of NYU’s Department and Center of Art and Public Policy. In 2006-7, she co-conceptualized and co-initiated HOME, New Orleans, collaborating with Xavier, Dillard, and Tulane Universities, local artists including the VESTIGES Project, and residents of four neighborhoods, experimenting with art’s role in the revitalization of “home” as dwelling, neighborhood, and that city itself. Cohen-Cruz has been a freelance practitioner of Boal’s “theatre of the oppressed” for 25 years.
Her current research involves assessment of fifteen community-based visual arts projects to take place in countries around the world, sponsored by the Bronx Museum and the US State Department. In addition to serving as the founding editor of IA’s new e-journal, Public, Jan is a University Professor at Syracuse University.