Czech Republic

Arts and Social Change

Explore the Czech Republic’s contemporary art scene and the role of art as a social change agent throughout the country’s history.

At a Glance

Credits

16

Prerequisites

None

Language of Study

Czech

Courses taught in

English

Dates

Feb 8 ‎– May 23

Program Countries

Czech Republic

Program Excursion Countries

Slovakia, Poland, Germany

Program Base

Prague

Critical Global Issue of Study

Education & Social Change

Education & Social Change Icon

Overview

Why study social change in the Czech Republic?

Studying in formerly communist Czech Republic, you’ll learn how art and creative dissent have played a decisive role in shaping social and political change. You will live in picturesque Prague and explore the country’s rich artistic heritage and contemporary art scene and consider the relationship between art, politics, and society. You will also take part in workshops on ceramics, stop-motion animation, or architecture, and in civic initiatives for building local communities. You’ll travel to Germany, Slovakia, Poland, and Bohemia or Moravia, to explore mountain villages, visit arts centers, meet activists, and create traditional art.

Your two homestays—in Prague and in the rural villages of Moravia or Bohemia—will allow you to observe diverse social realities and learn about the country’s communist history and post-socialist transition.

During the program’s final month, you will complete an Independent Study Project (ISP) on a topic related to the program theme. You may also opt to produce creative work, such as visual arts and photography, or a short story or theater script inspired by your experiences.

Highlights

  • Study with a dynamic community of visual, performing, and literary artists.
  • Explore the challenges artists and communities face today in Central Europe.
  • Live in Prague and visit Germany, Slovakia, Poland, and Bohemia or Moravia.
  • Choose to do either an arts-based or field-based research project.

Prerequisites

None. For visual arts, physical theater, and creative writing, a background in the area of study is highly recommended. For all students, previous survey courses in European history or arts history are recommended but not required.

Excursions

Bohemia and Moravia

You’ll spend a week in rural villages in Moravia or Bohemia to learn about art culture and life beyond Prague. You’ll stay with host families or regional NGOs and interact with residents, community leaders, and artists involved in cultural revival, community development, and environmental conservation. You may also conduct interviews and take part in community activities. You’ll also visit the former Sudetenland to discuss Czech-German relations and Slovakia, and Poland to compare their arts and civic initiatives.

Slovakia

In an excursion to Slovakia, Germany, and Poland, you’ll visit Slovakia’s stunning central mountain region and explore contemporary and traditional art forms. Witness the region’s confrontation of the past and present through visits with NGOs devoted to independent culture, political action, and cultural and ecological sustainability. You’ll attend a performance or participate in a photography or theater workshop. You will also take part in traditional crafts and activities and observe community members’ efforts to save the landscape and cultural monuments.

Germany

In an excursion to Slovakia, Germany, and Poland, in Berlin, you’ll learn about the social and political context of the fall of the communist regime and visit civic initiatives and contemporary arts spaces. You’ll consider communism in Central Europe more broadly and the different social and political contexts for Czech, Slovak, and East German artists before and after 1989. You’ll also visit the former Sudetenland on the Czech-German border to learn about cultural relations and new reconciliation efforts through arts and educational programs.

 

Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.

Academics

Coursework

Access virtual library guide.

This program’s interdisciplinary coursework focuses on the complex history of the Czech lands and communism’s lasting impact on Czech society. Students participate in intensive language instruction and field-based activities that offer unique insight into 20th century Czech society and culture and the challenges facing the Czech tradition in the visual and performing arts. Students spend the final month leveraging their field experience and research skills to complete an Independent Study Project (ISP) critically examining a topic related to the program theme. Students may opt to produce creative work for their independent study.

The following syllabi are representative of this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term.

Required courses are Czech History, Arts, and Civil Society I, Czech, Research Methods and Ethics in the Arts, and the Independent Study Project. For your final course you can choose either Arts Studio or Czech History, Arts, and Civil Society II: Creativity in Context.

Please expand the sections below to see detailed course information, including course codes, credits, overviews, and syllabi.

Key Topics

  • Artists’ and civic leaders’ transformative role in a new democracy
  • Critical challenges within a liberal democracy in Central Europe
  • Legacy of communism in the Czech Republic and Central Europe
  • Art and Europe’s open borders, consumerism, and free market
  • Relationships between art, politics, and society in the Czech Republic

Czech History, Arts, and Civil Society I

Czech History, Arts, and Civil Society I – syllabus
(EURO3000 / 3 credits)

This seminar examines Czech society and national identity in historical and contemporary contexts through visual and performing arts, film, and literature. The seminar is built around the rich and well-known intersection of arts, politics, and social change in Czech post-war history and the legacy of communism as it plays out in cultural expression and institutions today. The seminar includes required readings and lectures, as well as discussions, film screenings, music and dance performances, and site visits to artist studios, theaters, NGOs, and community centers.

Czech

Czech – syllabus
(CZEC1003 / 3 credits)

Emphasis on speaking and comprehension skills through classroom and field instruction. Students are placed in beginning classes.

 

Research Methods and Ethics in the Arts

Research Methods and Ethics in the Arts – syllabus
(ANTH3500 / 3 credits)

This seminar introduces arts-based research (ABR) methods in which the creation and analysis of art are utilized as the primary modes of qualitative inquiry. Students review the different kinds of arts-based research methods (narrative, poetic, dance, and visual forms of inquiry, for example) and the surrounding debates to gain practical experience for integrating creative work in a social science research context, which may be used in the Independent Study Project; field study ethics and the World Learning / SIT Human Subjects Review Policy; developing contacts and finding resources; developing skills in observation and interviewing; gathering, organizing, and communicating data; and maintaining a work journal.

Independent Study Project

Independent Study Project – syllabus
(ISPR3000 / 4 credits)

The Independent Study Project is conducted in Prague or in another approved location appropriate to the project in the Czech Republic, Germany, or Slovakia. Projects may include a creative or artistic component in the visual and performing arts or creative writing. Sample topic areas: alternative theaters in the Czech regions; Czech cubist architecture and design; legacy of Czech underground music; Roma ethnic and cultural identity; sustainable development in North Bohemia; the former Sudetenland today; Slovak weaving traditions.

Sample topic areas:

  • Alternative culture spaces in Prague today
  • Memory and memorials to the 1989 Velvet Revolution
  • Creative alternatives to institutionalized care for citizens with mental disabilities
  • Civic initiatives and the Prague public transport system
  • The socialist-era legacy of community centers for children and youth
  • The impact of education in secret from members of the Czech Underground at Charles University
  • Methods and mechanics of dissent through underground literature
  • Legacy of the Czech Underground music scene today
  • Czech perspectives and reactions to Putin’s warfare tactics in the Ukraine

Creative projects have included:

  • Sculpture and ceramic vessels inspired by the Celts of Central Europe
  • Drawings and sculptures inspired by interviews with Czech artists on the topic of public/private dichotomies
  • Contemporary dance inspired by Slovak traditional dance
  • A CD of Czech folk songs produced with a Czech musical trio
  • A theater performance based on contemporary Czech mime and circus acts
  • A screenplay inspired by Czech absurdist literature
  • A graphic design project inspired by Czech cubist architecture
  • Fashion designs using traditional Slovak weaving traditions

Browse this program’s Independent Study Projects / undergraduate research.

Course Options

Choose one of the following two courses.

Arts Studio – syllabus
(ARTS2000-3000 / 3 credits)

This seminar is geared toward students in the visual and performing arts and literature and requires independent studio work in inter-media visual arts utilizing digital photography, collage or other experimental techniques, physical theater, or creative writing. The objective is to connect students more deeply to artists and projects related to their field of study through a combination of studio work, critiques, and personal discussions with Czech artists. Creative writing students work under the guidance of a Czech writer. Inter-media visual arts and theater students work in a studio setting with established artists and theater instructors and conceptually in the field, developing ideas for possible in-depth exploration during the ISP period. Depending on the student’s area of focus, attendance at theater or dance performances, visits to visual arts exhibitions, or completing readings in contemporary Czech literature will be required. The seminar culminates in a presentation of student work in progress, including a visual arts exhibition, a performance, and literary readings. The choice of focus for the seminar must be requested at the time of application. For inter-media visual arts, theater studio work, and creative writing, a basic course or background in the area of study is highly recommended.

OR

Czech History, Arts, and Civil Society II: Creativity in Context – syllabus
(EURO/ARTS 3005 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)

This seminar provides an emphasis on the nexus of contemporary politics and civic initiatives where the arts and creativity are key components for impelling social change. The seminar includes readings, lectures, and roundtable discussions on the evolution and defining characteristics of civil society in the Czech Republic today as well as visits to NGOs and festivals and discussions with former dissidents and activists engaged with topics such as youth support, alternative culture, human rights, or the integration of socially and ethnically marginalized groups. The class provides firsthand observation and analysis of the social legacy of communism and critical issues in Czech and post-socialist European society today.

Homestays

Prague

You will live with families in Prague (both urban and suburban areas) for eight weeks in order to experience the Czech lifestyle, culture, and language. Families are chosen based on their interest in the program theme, and many are affiliated with the Prague arts scene as artists or social activists. Students often cite their homestay experiences in Prague as the highlight of their semester, and relationships between host families and students often last long after the program’s conclusion.

If you are conducting your Independent Study Project (ISP) in Prague, you will remain in your Prague homestay for a total of 12 weeks. If you are conducting your ISP in another location, you will be placed in a homestay at that location or have accommodations with a local organization.

Bohemia/Moravia

As part of the excursion to rural towns and villages in Bohemia or Moravia, you will live with local families or at NGO facilities. You will interact with NGOs and arts centers and learn about the challenges to social and economic development in the former Sudetenland of Bohemia, regional industrial centers, or historic towns such as Olomouc and Brno. This regional experience will expose you to grassroots social initiatives and arts projects outside of Prague.

Other Accommodations

Hostels, small hotels, private homes, and arts and NGO centers.

Career Paths

A diversity of students representing different colleges, universities, and majors study abroad on this program. Many of them have gone on to do amazing things that connect back to their experience abroad with SIT. Alumni are currently working:

  • for museums, visual arts centers, and theater festivals.

  • for NGOs devoted to social issues and education.

  • for small presses and literary magazines.

  • as independent artists, actors and dancers, copy editors, and graphic designers.

  • as a Watson Fellow doing arts-based research.

  • as Fulbright teaching assistants at schools in Central and Eastern Europe.

Faculty & Staff

Czech Republic: Arts and Social Change

Sarah Brock, MA
Academic Director
Lenka Krenková
Program Assistant and Homestay Coordinator
Lída Holá, PhD
Czech Language Instructor

Discover the Possibilities

  • COST & SCHOLARSHIPS

    SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.

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  • ACCESSIBILITY

    Prepare for an accessible educational experience with SIT Study Aborad! In-country conditions and resources vary by site. Students with disabilities are encouraged to contact disabilityservices@sit.edu for more information.

    Accessibility Overview
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  • SIT Students Presenting Their Art in Prague

    Students get to study with a dynamic community of visual, performing, and literary artists, where art and creative dissent have played a decisive role in shaping social and political change.

    Video