The Vera List Center for Art and Politics is an idea incubator and a public forum for art, culture, and politics. It was established at The New School in 1992—a time of rousing debates about freedom of speech, identity politics, and society's investment in the arts. A pioneer in the field, the center serves a critical mission: to foster a vibrant and diverse community of artists, scholars, and policymakers who take creative, intellectual, and political risks to bring about positive change.
We champion the arts as expressions of the political moments from which they emerge and consider the intersection between art and politics the space where new forms of civic engagement must be developed. We are the only university-based institution committed exclusively to leading public research on this intersection. Through public programs and classes, prizes and fellowships, publications and exhibitions, which probe pressing issues of our time, we develop and support new roles for the arts and artists in advancing social justice.
The center identifies a topic of particular urgency and broad resonance and convenes artists, scholars, activists, public intellectuals, and political and cultural leaders to examine this theme in a variety of programs. The first annual theme, for 2004–2005, was Homeland, followed by Considering Forgiveness in 2005–2006, The Public Domain in 2006–2007, Agency in 2007-2008, Branding Democracy in 2008-2009, Speculating on Change in 2009-2011, and Thingness in 2011-2013. The theme for 2013-2015 is Alignment.
The Vera List Center (VLC) organizes panel discussions, lectures, workshops, and online programs that are created in consultation with the center's Advisory Committee and with current and former fellows. VLC publications feature transcripts of events as well as newly commissioned texts. Occasionally, the VLC produces exhibitions. The VLC directs the Vera List New School Art Collection Writing Award and, in collaboration with students, produces a self-guided tour of select pieces from the collection.
As of 2013, the Vera List Center has its own website listing live programs and documentation, exhibitions, publications, the Biennial Prize, writing awards, and a searchable archive of all programs since the founding of the center.