Profile | Marie Cieri

Marie Cieri




Marie Cieri (Ph.D., Rutgers University) is a social/environmental geographer, cartographer, arts producer, writer and artist based in Cambridge, MA. She is Director of The Arts Company, a non-profit organization whose most recent project (2009-2014) was Artists in Context. Dr. Cieri teaches geography and related subjects in the HPSS department at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD); and, in recent years, has done consulting and evaluation work for such organizations as The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Brown University, RISD and the State of Maine’s Department of Education. In her own work, she combines geographic techniques and perspectives with ones from the arts and popular culture to create representations of space and place with and for populations who have little access to tools and forums of the public sphere. Her geographical/artistic work has been shown in the past several years by art spaces in Brooklyn, Boston, Providence and Los Angeles. Among her publications is Activists Speak Out: Reflections on the Pursuit of Change in America (co-authored with Claire Peeps, 2000, Palgrave/MacMillan), a book of edited interviews with activists from a variety of fields, including the arts and health.





Change Healthcare by Design

RISD Industrial Design Studio Course


Funded by a RISD Kyobo grant, I will be co-designing and co-teaching this two-semester ID course with Claudia Rebola and guest lecturers during the 2016-2017 academic year. This multi-disciplinary studio will be based on the idea that healthcare delivery across populations in the future will require and integrated approach of design innovation and cultural understandings.


Social Geographies of Art, Design and Community Practice

RISD HPSS Seminar Course

Spring 2016

In Spring 2016, I will teach this course for the fourth time in the RISD HPSS department. In this seminar, students and I take a social geographical approach to investigating the seeming merger of art/design with the broad-ranging social, economic, political and environmental interests of global capitalism. We also, however, through a number of case studies, recognize forces within contemporary art, design and community practice, paralleling ones within society at large, that countervail this trend. Learning and applying concepts and methodologies of social geography (the study of social relations within specific spaces and places) to these conditions help us gain the insight and understanding we need to examine and evaluate the roles that art, design and community practice have and continue to play in our “aestheticized world.” Social geographies of health, among others, are addressed in the seminar.


Introduction to Globalization

RISD HPSS Seminar Course

Spring 2016

Using a geographical perspective, in this course, we go beyond globalization’s more obvious manifestations, (such as the Internet’s vast reach and the place of foreign cuisines in everyday lifestyles), to investigate the role globalization plays in the most significant challenges facing the world today, from natural resource/species depletion and climate change to armed conflicts, terrorism, migrations, persistent poverty and disease. As we do this, we see how the global is, in fact, still linked to the local and how globalization has been a major factor in the production of “unevenness” in general well-being around the world. I will be teaching this HPSS 101 course for the second time in Spring 2016.


Illuminating Futures: Ashland, Massachusetts


As director of The Arts Company, I have been working with artist/designer Dan Borelli for several years on this project which focuses on the still-active Nyanza colorant plant Superfund site in Ashland, MA, his hometown. The project is aimed at helping the townspeople come to grips with the severe effects water and soil contamination from the plant and its predecessors at the site have had on public health in the area. As Dan has worked on the project, he has been able to establish a network of creative partners and supportive local institutions that has allowed him to expand it from a one-person project commemorating friends who died from cancer caused by the contamination to a much larger “distributed institution” that is creating an oral and visual history of the community’s relationship with the Superfund site to be housed at the local public library; changing the hues of the streetlights in relationship to the contaminants that are still in the soil; designing and creating a polychromatic public garden that will reference the chemical dye pollutants while further remediating the soil; and creating a teaching unit for a course at the Harvard School of Public Health. The Arts Company has secured grants from ArtPlace America and the NEA for Dan to fully realize his plans.


Artists’ Prospectus for the Nation


As director of The Arts Company and producer/curator/editor of the online Prospectus cited above, I raised funding, guided, and/or presented 10 health-related collaborative artistic projects from 2010-2014. These projects dealt with such subjects as diabetes, autism, environmentally related diseases, environmental and “creative” determinants of health, childbirth, food production and consumption, chemical hazards in art-making, lead contamination in urban soils, and ill effects of ICU confinement. [Read More]


Geographies of Health

RISD Graduate Studies Seminar Course

Spring 2012

Through readings, discussions, contributions from course visitors and a field trip (to Dan Borelli’s Ashland, MA, project cited above) students gained broad knowledge about health geographies, the related field of public health and how social and environmental factors affect health. Among the topics we addressed along the way were environmental goods and ills, cultural foodways, access to health care, living situations, cultural histories, social behaviors and beliefs, income levels and the role of business, politics and policies at various geographical scales. Students engaged in “environmental goods and ills” mapping as well as proposing and making preliminary designs for products that addressing specific health conditions.



with theater artist Robbie McCauley


From 2005 until 2012, in various guises, I worked with McCauley on this solo theater production, most intensely when I brought her to The Ohio State University (OSU) in 2006 for a 12-day residency to do community-based research for and make two work-in-progress presentations of “SUGAR,” which “examines [Robbie’s] struggle and survival with diabetes as connected to slavery, work, romance and food.” Approximately 535 individuals participated in the residency, for which I enlisted six on-campus co-sponsors and nine on- and off-campus entities that provided additional assistance, including OSU’s Medical Center and School of Public Health, the Central Ohio Diabetes Association, the Columbus (OH) Health Department and the Near East Health Partnership.


Best Not to Be Here?


I completed this visual/textual “Investigation of the Data Set “Known Contaminated Sites in New Jersey” in 2004. It is an example of the artistic geographical work that I do, and in large part relates to the anxiety and confusion an ordinary citizen can experience because of over-/under-/mis-reported government information about environmental contamination. A visual excerpt from this project appears above.



Contact Marie Cieri