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Artist in Residence

Artist in Residence Program Worked to Find Creative Ways to Address Homelessness

In 2018, the City of Tacoma engaged two artists, Susan Robb and Roni Chelben, to fulfill an Artist in Residence (AiR) position. The artists were embedded within the City, working collaboratively with staff to find creative ways to address homelessness and related issues in Tacoma. This residency was meant to be both proactive and responsive, and address issues of Creative Site Reclamation and Community Engagement.


This project was funded by the City of Tacoma’s Neighborhood and Community Services Department, in partnership with the Office of Arts & Cultural Vitality.


View the Artist in Residence Summary Report


Creative Site Reclamation

The AiR worked as an on-call artist and designer to help develop solutions for creative placemaking and site reclamation, to reclaim areas as positive community space. Susan Robb was the lead on Creative Site Reclamation.


Community Engagement

The AiR worked on creative solutions to address issues in the lives of people who are experiencing homelessness practically, emotionally, socially, or otherwise; and lead community engagement to create a more empathetic relationship with community members who are not experiencing homelessness.


Roni Chelben was the lead on Community Engagement and developed In Our Backyard, a series of traveling community events that brought people together for a conversation about homelessness, its causes, challenges, and possible approaches.


Get to know the Artists

Susan Robb Bio

Susan Robb’s work is an ongoing, process-driven investigation of people, place, and our search for utopia. It takes its form as sculpture, photography, video, and the orchestration of temporary, site responsive, and socially engaged projects. In 2013, Robb received a Creative Capital grant to produce Wild Times a work that combined new media, social engagement, and a 2,680-mile hike Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail. Other awards include a Pollack Krasner Fellowship, an Artist Trust Fellowship, a CityArtist Project Grant, a Stranger Genius Award, support by the Joan Mitchell Foundation, and an Americans for the Arts/Public Art Network Award. Robb has exhibited at museums and galleries nationally and internationally. From 2003 – 2008 Robb was an adjunct professor in the Photo Media Department at the University of Washington School of Art. From 2005 – 2007 Robb was a teaching artist at Gage Academy of Art working with LGBTQ and homeless youth. Robb is currently the Artist Residence with Seattle Office of Arts creating the Public Arts Master Plan for downtown Seattle. https://www.susanrobb.com/   


Roni Chelben Bio
Roni Chelben is an Austin based artist from Israel. Born and raised in Tel Aviv, she got her MFA from the University of Texas at Austin in 2016. Chelben creates works that are a direct conversation with the social reality around her, on a personal and political level. Deeply influenced by her experience in Combatants for Peace, a Palestinian-Israeli organization that promotes a resolution of the conflict through non-violence, and Theatre of the Oppressed, Chelben has developed her practice as a facilitator of theatre for social change. She is the founder director of Am I Invisible, a theatre advocacy group made of people who are experiencing homelessness in Austin. https://www.ronichelben.com/