On October 8 and 9, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) initiated an ongoing dialogue about diversity and inclusion on campus with a symposium organized by its Diversity Advisory Group titled Reframing Visibility.
The symposium included training on identity, power, and oppression facilitated by the Chicago Freedom School; a conversation with artist Mariam Ghani and Mary Patten (SAIC Faculty); panels and workshops on the concept of visibility; a dance party; and a very special keynote lecture by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and Director of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research.
“Race relations and identity are much more complicated than the history we all learned,” said Gates, who has received numerous awards and honors including the MacArthur Fellowship “Genius Grant” (1981), the National Humanities Medal (1998), and a Peabody Award. He discussed his passion for genealogy and ancestry tracking in the context of influential moments from his childhood, academic experience and career.
The Diversity Symposium continued Friday, October 9, with seminars, training sessions, and student-faculty panels focusing on pedagogy, the politics of visibility, and recognizing identity, power, and oppression. It closed with “Here + Now,” a lecture by Mariam Ghani in conversation with Mary Patten. Ghani is a Brooklyn- based artist who explores the intersections of place, memory, history, language, loss, and reconstruction. Ghani works both with activist groups and as an activist herself to bring attention to social justice issues through films, writing, and participatory public projects.
SAIC is also a recipient of the 2015 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from INSIGHT into Diversity magazine, the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in higher education. This is the second consecutive year the school has been honored with this award.