Working in partnership with artists, community organizations, foundations, universities, and government agencies, Janeil Engelstad has produced multi-form projects that have addressed concerns such as homelessness, youth and gang violence, social and political histories, metaphysics, and ecology. Her process for this work involves embedding herself in communities, extensive research, and building coalitions between universities, government agencies, NGOs, and others. Valuing the potential of insider / outsider collaborations, her process for this work involves embedding herself in communities, deep listening, extensive research, and building coalitions between community members, arts institutions, universities, government agencies, NGOs and others. These projects often create a place for individuals and groups who do not have access to art making opportunities or a voice in society to express their identity, experiences and points of view. Several of the projects that she has co-produced were featured in her 2014 TEDx SMU talk, “Public Art: From Individual Expression to Community Transformation”.
As an administrator, Engelstad has directed non-profit and for-profit organizations. From 2001 – 2006, she was the Executive Director of Lillstreet Learning Center, one of the leading arts education programs in Chicago. At Lillstreet, she worked closely with the City of Chicago and over 50 partner organizations. She developed an arts-based learning curriculum that had a measurable, positive impact on the participants, including at-risk youth, elders, people with learning disabilities, and recent immigrants to the United States from war torn regions such as the Sudan. Her success at Lillstreet led to her work as a member of The College Board’s National Arts and Education Task Force, which developed an educational plan and recommendations submitted to the United States Congress as part of the national arts based learning initiative connected to STEM and other Pre-K – 12 education programs.
Engelstad’s work has been exhibited internationally and featured in media outlets, such as Art News, The Atlantic, Metropolis, Flash Art, Time Out, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, NPR, NBC Today Show, and NBC Nightly News. Visualizing Violence / Peace Signs, a national billboard project that addressed youth gun violence, which she co-produced with World Studio was selected for the prestigious “ID Forty” award, an annual listing of leading innovators in design by ID: The Magazine of International Design.
In 2009, Engelstad produced the international project, Voices From the Center. Produced in partnership with the United Stated Department of State, Central European Foundation, and others, the project is centered on Engelstad’s interviews with Central-East Europeans about life during and after communism. The people that Engelstad interviewed included former Communist Party chiefs, Olympic athletes, teachers, artists, writers / playwrights, farmers, historians / scholars, homemakers, factory workers, and former dissidents who were central to the overthrow of the communist regimes in the former Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland. The interviews were documented in an interactive web site and exhibitions, panel discussions, and lectures throughout Central Europe and the United States.
Engelstad’s work has been supported by numerous grants and produced in partnership with organizations, including ARTMargins, The Boeing Company, California Museum of Photography, Central European Foundation, Chicago Public Art Group, City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, Dallas Museum of Art, Embrey Family Foundation, The Field Museum, Hyde Park Art Center, International Center of Photography, Kunstalle Stanica Žilina-Záriečie Obroro Montréal, Polaroid Corporation, Trust for Mutual Understanding, US Department of State, and World Studio.
Engelstad has taught and lectured at universities throughout North America and Europe and in 2006-7, she was a Fulbright Scholar at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava, Slovak Republic. A member of the Social Practice Art Research Center at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Englestad has an MFA in Photography from a joint program between New York University and International Center of Photography and BAs in Political Science and English from the University of Washington, Seattle (Dean’s List).