Questions of Practice: Cohabitation Strategies on the Role of the Arts in Fostering Social Change

Urbanists and cultural activists Miguel Robles-Durán and Lucia Babina of Cohabitation Strategies develop unique community-based projects that use art as a platform to engender social change. Here, they discuss how their collaborative artistic practices empower urban communities “to imagine a new world.”

Cohabitation Strategies’ Lucia Babina and Miguel Robles-Durán on the role of the arts in fostering social change. Filmed at the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania on September 8, 2015.

Cohabitation Strategies brought their approach to Philadelphia with Playgrounds for Useful Knowledge, working in South Philadelphia with Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. The pair designed a series of “interventions” intended to galvanize community members to work collaboratively through the use of play, games, and performance.


Lucia Babina is a cultural activist and founding member of Cohabitation Strategies, an innovative urban design and performance group based in New York, Rotterdam, and Ibiza. Babina’s research focuses on reactivation of sustainable ways of cohabitation and coexistence. She is the co-founder of iStrike and iStrike.ultd in Rotterdam, an environmental organization aimed at creating multidisciplinary platforms of international exchange. With Miguel Robles-Durán, Babina is participating in the Center-funded project, Playgrounds for Useful Knowledge, presented by Philadelphia Mural Arts Program.

Miguel Robles-Durán is an urbanist and founding member of Cohabitation Strategies, an innovative urban design and performance group based in New York, Rotterdam, and Ibiza. He is a faculty member of the graduate program in design and urban ecologies at The New School/Parsons, and serves as a senior fellow at “Civic City,” a post-graduate program based at the Haute École d’Art et de Design in Geneva, Switzerland. With Lucia Babina, Robles-Durán is participating in the Center-funded project, Playgrounds for Useful Knowledge, presented by Philadelphia Mural Arts Program.

Grants & Grantees

British artist Tacita Dean created a 26 1/2-minute work, in 35mm anamorphic film, in homage to the writer J.G. Ballard.

The Quay Brothers’ Through the Weeping Glass received media mentions from the New York Times and NPR’s All Things Considered.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Jan Ramirez has served as chief curator and director of collections for the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City since 2006.

The Michener Art Museum presents a series of lectures and gallery talks exploring the connections between Sheeler’s experimentations in fashion and the industrial paintings and photographs that established his career.

Grants & Grantees

Located in Chinatown North in Center City Philadelphia, Asian Arts Initiative fosters social change through art.

In this excerpt from the publication for Temple Contemporary’s Funeral for a Home, Sue Bell Yank offers a first-person account of the “home going” memorial for the house at 3711 Melon St.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Amy Sadao is the Daniel W. Dietrich, II Director at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) at the University of Pennsylvania.

A program of Philadelphia University, The Design Center presents exhibitions, tours, programs, college courses, and special events that demonstrate how design shapes everyday life.

Grants & Grantees

People’s Light & Theatre Company mounted a highly physical production of Shakespeare’s play with Guy Hollands of Glasgow’s Citizen’s Theatre and the National Theatre of Scotland.

Pennsylvania Humanities Council launches the Chester Made Cultural Exploration Zone with a reception that offers a chance to tour a new pop-up “makerspace” created by Chester artists, and learn about opportunities to participate in upcoming Chester Made programs.

Grants & Grantees

Philadelphia Mural Arts Program commissioned an impermanent public art project by artist Katharina Grosse: a massive episodic painting along a five-mile stretch of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Elizabeth Smith is the executive director of the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation in New York City.