Ever since Illustration student Ylandia Braggs became a Creativist for ArtCenter’s Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)—a role she’s held since her first term in Fall 2019—she’s considered the program of student workers focused on diversity and inclusion “like a family.”
That fall, Braggs helped create posters for the October 2019 Afrx Mxr, an African diaspora mixer on the Hillside Campus hosted by DEI and the Black Student Union. The posters featured her painting La Negra Mujer, a portrait of her mother. In Spring 2020, before ArtCenter’s campus shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she and other Creativists helped set up and assist with 90/300, an exhibition celebrating the work of Black alumni. Since moving back to her home state of Texas, to take courses remotely, Braggs meets with other Creativists weekly via Zoom for deep dive discussions into bias and privilege.
These Creativist meetings have really helped us learn to be more caring about other people.Ylandia BraggsCreativist and Illustration student
“These meetings have really helped us learn to be more caring about other people, and I think that’s something that majorly needs to be addressed at ArtCenter,” she says via Zoom. “Some topics we’ve discussed have become very emotional, and the emotion I feel the most as a Creativist is happy,” adds Braggs, who identifies as African American and Hispanic. “With 90/300, I got so much joy seeing everyone come together. It showcased Black artists and Latino artists who I feel don’t get an opportunity to be showcased. It was really exciting.”
Coined by ArtCenter’s Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Aaron Bruce, the name “Creativist” combines “Creative” with “Activist.” The program launched in Spring 2019 and provided students with paid positions as DEI event production assistants, in which they designed digital assets, assisted at events and were given a voice within DEI. During the pandemic, a time in which all of the College’s events are held virtually, the program has transitioned into paid positions more focused on inclusive leadership and fellowship.
This Spring term’s 11 Creativists voted to focus on the experiences of disabled people and unpacking internalized ableism, an effort that began with a discussion of Disability Visibility: First Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century, an anthology edited by activist Alice Wong. Each Creativist has also been tasked with finding and following five educators or influencers on social media who publicly identify as disabled, in order to center disabled creators online.
“As Creativists, students have been able to take off their armor and be their full selves,” says DEI’s Director of Events, Programming and Engagement Liz Lanphear. “They grow in their confidence, and in the way they support each other’s coming out stories, past traumas, dreams, goals. They’re empowered to be changemakers, navigate difficult conversations, act as disrupters in spaces of ignorance and discrimination, and serve as budding thought leaders on campus and in each of their spheres of influence.”
Based in Seoul, multidisciplinary designer and former Creativist Chahn Chance (BS 20 Environmental Design), a South Korean army veteran with dual South Korean and American citizenship, designed DEI’s 2019 Military and Veteran Ally challenge coin. Chance, who came out as gay while he was a student, also assisted with DEI’s National Coming Out Day rainbow flag raising event in Fall 2019. The event was celebratory and intersectional, says Lanphear.
“Being a Creativist was just so beautiful,” says Chahn, adding that he thrived on the energy of the people in the program and that he enjoyed being part of a movement of diversity and inclusion. “There are racial boundaries between students. So I really cherished our meetings and everyone trying to think about how to bring people together.”
Liz Lanphear will present February 20 about Creativists at the online Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD) Academic Symposium A Year Refocused with DEI’s Creative Operations Manager Steven Butler (BFA 13 Film) and Admissions Associate Vice President of Recruitment and Outreach Tim Campos.