Parsons Challenge: The Dearth of African-American Artists, Designers
Last weekend March 26 Parsons School of Design presented Black Studies in Art and Design Education addressed arguably the the disproportionate number of students and faculty of color in Design Schools not just in the United States but across the globe in countries likes England, Canada and South Africa. This major event was organized by Coco Fusco and Yvonne Watson professors at Parsons School of Design. I was not only in attendance, but I also spoke on a panel addressing the troubling gap that persist within the classrooms of design and art schools. Bill Gaskin, of Parsons moderated my panel Curricular Reform in the Foundation and Advanced Studio Courses presenters included Janice Cheddie, from UK, Van Dyke Lewis from Canada, Mabel O. Wilson of Columbia University and myself. It was such an exhilarating experience for me to interface with some of the best black scholars in design, architecture, art history and fashion, it is not often that such opportunities happen in one setting. I must commend Coco Fusco and Yvonne Watsons for taking a strident position and challenging the needs for an overhaul in the academe of design and art schools which is seriously long overdue for revision. Many of the big design and art schools had major showing of faculty and administrators from Pratt Institute, Yale University and MICA.
As reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education by By W. Ian Bourland
Why are there so few black artists and designers? The conference, Black Studies in Art and Design Education: Past Gains, Present Resistance, Future Challenges, held last weekend at Parsons The New School for design, investigated both the causes and possible solutions for what is arguably a disproportionate paucity of students and instructors of color in the fields of art, architecture, and design.
Although many of the themes discussed by panels composed of veteran educators and practitioners were not new, Black Studies was notable for its emphasis on concrete and pragmatic solutions for educators. The timing, moreover, could not be better: On the one hand, humanities and arts budgets within higher education have been roiled by recent economic challenges; on the other, the wider marketplace has capitalized on work by black and other minority practitioners during the past five years. The Phillips de Pury’s 2010 “Africa Auction” was highly lucrative for the auction house, and artists such as Glenn Ligon, Kara Walker, Yinka Shonibare, and Julie Mehretu have been the subject of marquee exhibitions in major global institutions, including the Whitney and Smithsonian museums.
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