Jori Brown (BS 13 Environmental Design): You can't ever dismiss the history of being ostracized or oppressed — those factors definitely come into play. I think in some ways we're limiting ourselves in the Black community by what we think our avenues of expression can be. If a Black person says, I'm an artist, people are going to think you’re a rapper or you produce beats or something like that. I don't think young people explore the idea of being a sculptor or a film director or media designer enough. There isn't as much of the glamorized exposure in these other disciplines, but there are so many more avenues to express creativity outside of beats and rhymes.
JB: Don't be so predictable. If you're a Black creative, do your thing. The more creativity we see and the more expression we see, the more exposure we have, the more youth are going to see it. They're going to have questions and be curious.
JB: While I was attending the Illinois Institute of Art. I remember this kid in my class had a book with drawings of characters, little environments, vehicles and props — basically, the development of an idea and a story. When he said he got it in the student store, I ran, I actually ran, and I was just consuming this book, over and over. At the end, I saw that it was student work from a school called ArtCenter College of Design.
If you picture a circle, and if Black people only represent a sliver, that's not enough to be heard. You want to have multiple perspectives — you don't want to just hear one voice.Jori BrownDesigner/Laborer
ArtCenter's Commitment to Black Lives
JB: I flew to San Francisco where my brother was living at the time. Never been to California. We drove down to ArtCenter, and came up through the hills — by the way, there are no hills in Illinois, (Chicagoland) no mountains — and it's just kind of unreal. The student work was phenomenal. I remember I was on the bridge looking toward the mountain, and I told my brother, "Yo, I'm about to go to this school. Watch."
JB: I've never been in a crit where they didn't think it was cool or a good design, that’s just never happened to me. However, there've been multiple times where I did not finish strong and I had to email the instructor like, "Hey, didn't make it." And I think I've learned a lot from those experiences.
JB: I think one — just me and Ini. There were no other Black people on campus in Environmental Design, so that was how me and him became homies.
JB: If you picture a circle, and if Black people only represent a sliver, that's not enough to be heard. You want to have multiple perspectives — more voices, more diversity is better. You don't want to just hear one voice.
JB: It's possible. There will have to be some changes, for sure. More voices heard. When systems are a certain way and they've been established like that for a long time, it's hard to change things. People are reluctant, so if you want to change for the better and be more diverse, then it's going to be challenging.
*This interview was edited for brevity and clarity.
Photo credit: Everard Williams