COCA – Center of Creative Arts  seeks to commission an artist or team of artists to create a large-scale, site-specific, participatory installation as part of the celebration of the completion of a multi-year Create Our Future Campaign and opening of COCA’s expanded campus, designed to scale COCA’s impact and serve the St. Louis community as a house of the people.

In place of a traditional ribbon cutting ceremony, COCA seeks a participatory project that ties our community together. COCA will celebrate the opening with an installation, entitled Common Ground, to capture the themes of community ground, gratitude, celebration for how art connects us, and the importance of inclusive and welcoming shared spaces. Common Ground represents our ongoing commitment to ensuring equitable access to the arts for our entire community. The artist(s) will be asked to work onsite and/or virtually with student artists and community participants beginning September 25, 2020 with the exhibition to run through November 15, 2020.

Artistic Goals:

Replacing a single, large celebratory event and in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a reimagined series of activities are planned to take place on site as well as virtually to commemorate COCA’s opening of its expanded campus and launch Art Leads the Way, COCA’s next exciting phase of programming. The renovated mid-century original wing, designed in 1946 by renowned architect Erich Mendelsohn, the new wing, designed by Christner Inc. in partnership with Axi:Ome, and the significance of the location and land, will all be celebrated. The art installation, Common Ground, is envisioned as providing a common thread to connect these varied grand opening experiences, build community through engagement, and use art to recognize the common ground we come from and how it can serve to advance the St. Louis Arts Community.

We believe that the great power and beauty of community arts is that it is very democratic. It’s hands-on, it calls for inclusive participation with others, it reflects what matters to us, and it’s a demonstration of what we hope for the future. COCA’s opening series is intended to establish a “creative palette” of safe spaces for diverse, multigenerational audiences including schoolchildren, artists, community leaders, scholar, architects, and life-long learners to gather, engage, and learn. The series is designed to responsibly celebrate our home, reaffirming our commitment to using arts in community building and inspiring children and families to connect with our culturally diverse world. It is, therefore, important to us that the community is deeply engaged in a broadly accessible participatory aspect of the project – either virtually or in person – as is appropriate to the design. As the COCA community is highly diverse, artists need to consider how children and adults from varied backgrounds might engage with the work.

As our city and country moves forward through the pandemic, it is clear that the community will need opportunities for dialogue, expression, connection, and education. This installation is a chance to innovate and amplify community participation in a time of continued distance. The title, Common Ground, recognizes our commitment to creating a home for all people with gratitude towards all those who contributed to this moment throughout COCA’s history and the long-standing history of St. Louis.

Resources for Questions:

Specific questions about the application process should be sent to Shawna Flanigan, Director of Arts Education and New Program Development, at

About COCA - Art Location Description:

COCA’s mission is to enrich lives and build community through the arts. With a commitment to equity and access, COCA serves as a regional hub for learning in and through the arts for all ages from all backgrounds. One of the most diverse cultural institutions in St. Louis, COCA serves over 50,000 students, audience members, artists and families from over 220 zip codes across the St. Louis region every year. The fourth largest multi-disciplinary arts organization ion the country, COCA is committed to supporting the vitality and creativity of over 200 artists at the heart of the work we do in schools, community centers, local business, cultural organizations and on-site at our campus in University City.

In all the work we do, COCA is committed to actively and intentionally operating as an anti-bias, anti-racist institution. As such, we know art is a powerful instrument for social justice. It is a means for people to share history, culture, and perspectives, celebrate differences, challenge assumptions, and find common ground. As we extend the opportunity for submissions to the public – we seek to strengthen our relationships and continue our commitment to making COCA a welcoming environment for its Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities. We recognize that furthering equity charges us to recognize the land our campus rests on as we open the new building. We encourage this lens of equity to be included in the commissioned artist’s installation, an example of which is giving gratitude to the indigenous people that are a part of the long-standing history of St. Louis. (Read COCA’s full Equity and Inclusion Commitment and review COCA’s values here.)

Site or Art Location Plans:

The installation will be prominently located in a new, two-story, central community gathering space in the new Ferring East Wing – the Centene Commons. Artists will also have access to the Millstone Gallery in the original mid-century Kuehner West Wing.



The total project scope is $15,000: The award is inclusive of artists fees, materials and fabrication. COCA will provide additional support up to $1,500 for installation and participatory elements. Additionally, COCA staff will work with selected artist to provide guidance, marketing, support, and supervision related to logistics of community participation in the project.

Artist Eligibility:

This is a regional opportunity. Artists must reside in the region defined as: Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Application Requirements:

1.Contact Information:

    1. Name (Primary contact if the proposal is collaborative)
    2. Address
    3. Phone Number
    4. Email Address

2. Narrative Description (500 words or less) Including answers to:

    1. How does the imagined work celebrate the theme of common ground with a focus on gratitude, community building and equity in the opening of a new space?
    2. How does the proposed work contribute to a celebration of the history of COCA in St. Louis and the future to come? How is the theme of community connection explored?
    3. What are the participatory aspects?
      1. How specifically will participants engage in the artistic process and contribute to the piece or how might the art be seen as participatory?
      2. Who and how many participants is this designed to engage?
      3. What will you need from COCA to support the participatory process?
      4. Will the piece grow and evolve over project period or will it be “complete” upon installation?

3. Physical Project Description (100 words or less)

    1. What are the literal visual aspects of the piece? What are the materials?
    2. Specific installation requirements must be stated in the submission with directions/devices provided by artist.
    3. Please include final dimensions.

4. lllustrations of proposed work (1-5 sketches or digital designs that reflect the visuals)

5. Budget: a specific itemized budget for the project.

    1. COCA will provide additional support of up to $1,500 for installation and supervision of participatory elements

6. Artist Statement – (description of mission and vision as an artist)

7. Artist CV/Resume (if collaborating, please include all artists engaged)

8. Example Images of the artist’s work (if collaborating, please include all artists engaged)