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ASU Herberger studio gives students permission to dream

ASU art students given opportunity to innovate for the future.
February 23, 2017

Steven J. Tepper embraces the notion that building a better future starts with dreaming a better world; the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts dean also recognizes that visions require time and space.

To that end, Tepper and an array of partners created a special incubator for futurist thinking at Arizona State University that allowed design and art students to investigate, research, interview, brainstorm and prototype ideas about technology, philanthropy, education, training and business models.

It was exactly the result he was looking for.

“We need artists and designers who have passion and energy and ideas and want to shape the world,” Tepper said at a presentation conference marking the end of the six-week/three-credit collaboration between the Herberger Institute, Vermont’s Bennington College and the L.A.-based Center for Cultural Innovation that was funded in part by a $40,000 grant from the Ford Foundation. 

Tepper’s remarks kicked off two days of Studio for the Future of Arts and Culture charrettes, intense planning sessions where a lineup of students gave short presentations that sought to advance a radical idea for innovation in our culture — 50 years into the future.

In true Herberger Institute fashion, the discussions were wide-ranging and big-picture.

Bennington grad student Lauren Roshan said that in the future “art can truly save the life of a young black man or woman. The future of arts and culture does not alienate black artists and audiences from art.”

She said the conclusion came in part from her own experience as a black woman who found salvation through expression. 

ASU graduate student Mitch Miller, meanwhile, said that “in the future the need for public spaces will be greater than the need for intellectual spaces” because observing and interpreting the world is at the root of creating art.

“Nobody brought the word ‘no’ into the room, and that’s part of the idea,” said Bennington President Mariko Silver, who helped develop the partnership. “It’s also not about making each other feel good, but how the team, bringing all of our perspectives together, can solve the issue.”

The charrettes, included all 13 participants — nine ASU and four Bennington students — as well as representatives from the two universities and fellows from the Center for Cultural Innovation.

Quiroz discussion

Digital media junior Andrea Quiroz presents her vision the arts and culture in 50 years, at the Studio for the Future of Arts and Culture, in the ASU Art Museum, on Wednesday, Feb. 15. Quiroz sees the Art Delegate as a governmental attaché or translator for culture to facilitate mediation for both domestic and foreign issues. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

 

As part of the studio program, students traveled to California to participate in the Center for Cultural Innovation’s Future Arts Forward conference, meeting with 250 other young artists and art leaders to discuss whom the arts should serve and how the arts sector might shift to serve a changing America.

Cyndi Coon of Tempe-based Laboratory 5, a creative consultant for the university, designed the course.

“I wanted (students) to understand they had permission to embody new ideas and put them forth into the world,” she said.

“I designed the course so that students would have a tool kit when they left this class.”

ASU music student Nicolette Zillich, said she thinks the course is a good start on her journey toward problem-solving.

“There are so many artists who are trying to make a difference somehow in some way, and even though that path isn’t clear yet, I’ve met so many brilliant people who’ve told me they’re looking for the same things,” Zillich said.

She added that by working together and sharing ideas they could “propel ourselves forward just by talking to each other and meeting.”

Tepper, meanwhile, is considering the future himself.

“I’ve had many students come up to me and say, ‘This is one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in college,’” Tepper said. “That has inspired me to think this shouldn’t be a one-time thing.

“The best studios, historically,” he said, “have been ones that have persisted over many, many years.”

 
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Everyday people just as much a part of black history as Martin Luther King.
ASU professor's yearlong project looks at everyday lives of blacks in America.
February 23, 2017

'Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers' helps create more complete picture of U.S. history

We’ve all heard of Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and Malcolm X.

But what about Juanita Blocker, Bayard Rustin, Chrystal Tulli, Ralph Bunche, Francois Andre, Connie Morgan, Toni Stone, Mamie “Peanut” Johnson, Eddie O'Jay, Arna Bontemps, Marsha P. Johnson, Victoria DeLee, Henry Armstrong, Sam Hose, Shirley Chisolm, Audre Lorde, Hazel Scott, Lorraine Hansberry, Marian Anderson, Benny Mason, Claudia Jones, Darwin Turner, Welford Wilson, Dollree Map, Pat Parker, Coleman Hawkins, Claudette Colvin, Irvin C. Miller, Marcus Garvey, Amy Ashwood Garvey, Ken Pressley, Ora Washington, Blanche Thompson, George Wilson Becton, Robert S. Pious, Clara Luper, Satchel Paige, Melba Moore, Josh Gibson and Phillis Wheatley?

These lesser-known — and in some cases even ordinary — people are just as much a part of black history, and each played a role in shaping the narrative of black life in America.

“Absolutely you should know about Rosa Parks, absolutely you should know about Martin Luther King,” but the fact is that there are and were amazing black people and communities everywhere, Arizona State University history professor Matthew DelmontMatthew Delmont was recently named the director of ASU’s School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies. said. Making an effort to learn more about what that looks like on an everyday basis, he added, “can help you re-envision what American history looks like.”

That was the impetus behind Delmont’s yearlong digital history project, Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers. Each day for a year, beginning on Martin Luther King Day in 2016, he posted a historical article from a black newspaper on the project website, sometimes tweeting them out as well. The articles featured everyday stories of black people in America.

The idea was to treat black history as a yearly subject — as Delmont put it, “black history 365.” One of his goals with Black Quotidian was to address how relegating black history to a single month makes it difficult to change the mainstream narrative of black life in America.

“You can only do so much in a month, but if you treat this as something that we should be approaching daily, it allows you to talk about everyday stories of black history and everyday stories of African-American life,” he said.

ASU Foundation Professor of English Neal Lester agrees. In his American literature course, Lester teaches black writers, including Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston and Richard Wright, as part of American canon, instead of separating them into their own category. To do that, Lester said, would suggest to him “that people don’t quite see this as a necessary part to be integrated into the fabric of the everyday. That somehow, it still needs to be teased out and separated.”

Before there was Black History Month, there was Negro History Week, established in 1926 at the behest of historian Carter G. Woodson. It was a “groundswell” movement, Delmont said, with black newspapers encouraging readers to write to Woodson for pamphlets on black history.

The reason behind Woodson’s and other historians’ and intellectuals’ push for the holiday was two-fold: First, at the time, there was almost total exclusion and distortion of black history being taught in schools — exclusion in that there was no mention of black people with any agency, like Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglas, and distortion in that slavery was presented as having been beneficial for black people.

Second, Delmont (shown below) explained, “There was a sense that history brings power. That if you have a more fully-formed sense of pioneers of black history – in terms of sciences, in terms of agriculture, in terms of business — that that can empower young people, and can empower any community member to envision different possibilities for their own future.”

ASU professor Matt Delmont

Each day for a year, beginning on Martin Luther King Day in 2016, ASU history professor Matthew Delmont (pictured in May) posted a historical article from a black newspaper on the Black Quotidian project website — stories that featured everyday people in America in an effort to help change the mainstream narrative of black life. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

 

From there, it spread through communities and across the country as teachers, religious leaders and parents took it upon themselves to share black history with their students, congregations and children. Fifty years later, in 1976, it became a month-long celebration following the civil rights movement, and schools began incorporating it into their curriculum.

Today, Delmont said, “We’ve come a long way in terms of presenting black history more accurately in mainstream textbooks — almost everyone who’s been through the American high school system knows Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks — but beyond that, there’s not really a deeper sense of what African American history has been about.

“It isn’t just about civil rights; it isn’t just about wonderful leaders or horrible things happening. It was very ordinary.” That was another thing Delmont hoped to do with Black Quotidian: “I wanted to reclaim the ability of black people to be ordinary.”

One story he came across through the project was that of Juanita Blocker, the first professional African-American bowler. “She’s not someone who’s going to get attention in most Black History Month retrospectives,” Delmont said, but her story is still one of the many threads that make up the fabric of American history.

“Any textbook you take, you should be able to thread through some aspect of African-American history,” he added. “And you could say the same thing about women’s history, and Latino history, etc. There’s no one single version of American history. It’s a story of different threads that you’re trying to pull together.”

Some of those other threads include the stories of Welford Wilson, a young boy from Harlem who took home the championship at the New York City Junior High School’s Oratory competition in 1929; Chrystal Tulli, a teacher at Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis, Tennessee, who made the paper for directing a school play in 1932; and Francois Andre, who directed fashion shows and theater performances in L.A. during the 1950s.

“Exposing people to these histories can open up different perspectives,” Delmont said. A lack of exposure, however, can lead to the perpetuation of misunderstanding and stereotypes. “If you don’t have these sort of inter-personal relationships to understand people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds, it’s hard to get a sense of what life might look like, what America might look like through their eyes.”

 

Top photo: Newspaper articles and headlines from ASU professor Matthew Delmont's digital history project "Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers."