feature / alumni / diversity / influencing-change
August 18, 2022

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Influencing Change: DEI at ArtCenter – August 2022

Food for Thought

While life seems to move at a slower pace in the August heat, things at ArtCenter are certainly starting to simmer—and I'm not just referring to the extraordinarily creative cuisine at alum Justin Pichetrungsi’s restaurant, Anajak Thai, which the Los Angeles Times named 2022’s Restaurant of the Year. 

Starting August 18, we have a full slate of activities honoring our Summer 2022 graduating class—from open studios to film screenings. We’re also excited to welcome back our graduates from 2020–2021, who were unable to participate in-person because of the pandemic.

August also marks National Black Business Month. So in between graduation events, I encourage you to fill your cup (maybe with something cold in this summer heat) at Sailor’s Brew, a Black-owned coffee shop close to campus, and fill your plate at Alice's Southern Comfort, owned by Kimberly Velazco, an integral member of our Designmatters team. And now for more of what’s on the menu at ArtCenter.  

We recently commissioned Graduate Film student Sean May to create dynamic, visually distinct profiles of diverse students at ArtCenter. 

Aaron I. Bruce, MIBA, Ph.D., Chief Diversity Officer

One to Watch

I’d like to announce that we’ll be launching a partnership with Small Town Animation Studios, which has recently launched Animation TV, one of the first Black-owned television networks. CEO/Founder Jermaine Hargrove is dedicated to carving pathways to success for the next generation of diverse animators, so we’ll be introducing students to the network and the opportunity to gain more global exposure as historically underrepresented animators and visual storytellers.

Lessons in Equity

I’m pleased to share some excellent feedback from our Universal Design Learning (UDL) faculty sessions, in partnership with the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning (CITL), as well as our faculty + staff LGBTQ Ally and Pronoun Presentations workshop, in partnership with Employee Experience and Engagement (HR)—both dedicated to creating more equity-minded classrooms.

Here’s how Jay Sanders, executive director of our Transportation Department, reflected his experience at the UDL event:

"I attended the workshop without knowing much about the topic other than being attracted to the idea of offering different approaches for learning. When I think about some of the students who have struggled in our department, I wonder whether we could have done anything differently that might have helped them to be more successful. We'll be talking with our faculty about this in the months ahead, and we hope to create a program that's more inclusive while still upholding high standards."

Acting Globally

As I announced in July, ArtCenter established The Global Institute for Black Girls in Film & Media (The Institute). Earlier this month, we hosted our first online Think Tank—a first in a series of free public discussions—about the historical impact and current state of Black girls in visual media. Over 85 women RSVP’d for the event, including those throughout the U.S., as well as Nigeria, South Africa and the U.K.

Road Less Traveled

We recently commissioned Graduate Film student Sean May to create a dynamic and visually distinct series of profiles of diverse students at ArtCenter—he opted to start with himself. "When I was 20 years old I got in a diving accident and ended up in a wheelchair. It was a completely new life for me and it really allowed me to prioritize what I wanted to do,” says Sean. “The elements of this project represent the path I took to get to ArtCenter." I look forward to sharing stories from his project All Roads as this meaningful work comes to fruition. 

AXEL Lives

As many of you know, Spatial Experience Design professor James Meraz lost his son. Luke Gabriel Meraz was a unique artist who explored his vision through diverse environments and mediums. AXEL, the main protagonist and Luke’s alter ego, a neo-cybernetic rebel, appeared in many iterations of his graphic novel and now lives on through his legacy of work. In the spirit of AXEL, James started a memorial scholarship that celebrates the self-proclaimed rebel, out-of-the-box thinker, and uniquely multi-disciplinary designer who has no boundaries or edges. I encourage eligible ArtCenter undergrads to apply for the AXEL Lives scholarship before the Aug. 27 deadline, and everyone in our community to listen to James' deeply vulnerable Change Lab interview on pain as a catalyst for creativity.

Thank you for pulling up a seat at the table.

Aaron I. Bruce, MIBA, Ph.D.
Vice President, Chief Diversity Officer
ArtCenter College of Design