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Change Lab: Conversations on Transformation and Creativity
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Change Lab: Conversations on Transformation and Creativity

Author: ArtCenter College of Design, hosted by ArtCenter President Lorne M. Buchman

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ArtCenter College of Design’s bi-weekly podcast features intimate interviews with leading artists examining the ideas fueling their work and how the creative process can be a catalyst for change—personally, professionally and globally. Hosted by ArtCenter President, Lorne M. Buchman, these conversations examine the many ways in which artists and designers are enriching our lives. ArtCenter College of Design is a global leader in art and design education; and our mission statement—Learn to create. Influence change—lies at the center of all we do.

62 Episodes
In the two decades since she graduated from ArtCenter with a degree in Transportation Design, Tisha Johnson has blazed trails for female design leaders in industries dominated by men. Her success has been propelled by her genuine passion for each phase of the design process, from research to experimenting with materials to aligning aesthetic beauty with human need.  The results of her efforts are written into her ever-evolving career, which includes transformative stints heading up design teams at Volvo and Herman Miller en route to her current role as head of global design at Whirlpool. Tisha’s growing list of achievements has done little to dampen her palpable excitement for the fundamentals of a job she views, in its simplest terms, as making things that make people’s lives better. In order to do that well, she’s committed herself to a lifelong learning process as a designer and leader, both in the studio and out. In fact, she’s even been known to use her twin passions for surfing and motorcycling as laboratories for design thinking and doing.  For Tisha, good design is a feeling. And that feeling, in a word, is freedom. It’s part of the purity of spirit and infectious enthusiasm she brings to everything she does. Even now, from her perch atop the upper rungs of corporate America, she speaks of her new role strategizing future generations of home appliances with the reverence and excitement of someone who has just landed her first job.  I was particularly taken by Tisha’s description of the design process as a dialogue between materials and maker, which echoed themes in my book about the discoveries that happen through physical engagement. Over the course of a conversation that felt at times like a masterclass on design strategy, we also covered her thoughts on how research and careful listening guides the teams she leads, the role of empathy in design and how her work at Whirlpool in connection to what she calls “the hearth of the home” can move her to tears. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
For novelist Aimee Bender, magic is not a limited resource. Nor is it something to be feared, coveted, mistrusted or monetized. In her view, rather, magic is an everyday occurrence woven into the fabric of our lives captured in fleeting moments of transcendence all too often overlooked.  No wonderment, however small, seems to escape Aimee’s notice. And as her readers can attest, her comfort with uncanny occurrences can be found throughout her celebrated novels and essays. Whether she’s writing about a child’s ability to taste a parent’s depression in her bestselling novel, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake or a young woman confounded by inanimate objects that spring to life in The Butterfly Lampshade—Amy’s work gives voice and validity to the things we know and feel but can’t explain.  Aimee and Lorne share an interest in exploring the unknown and making sense of it in their writing. For me it’s best summed up by the subtitle of my book: from spaces of uncertainty to creative discovery. Whereas Aimee describes her connection to this terra incognita as a way of acknowledging “the presence of ghosts” and making room for a “different kind of thinking.”  Aimee is the rare artist whose warmth and gregariousness match her vast talents. And as you’ll soon hear, this conversation was no exception. As she sought to illuminate the mysterious and sometimes tortured nature of the writing process, she regularly invoked her students with deep affection. So it should come as no surprise that her creative writing classes at USC are among the most popular in the program. Aimee and I also discussed the way creativity provides a “lab” for experimenting with uncertainty and how, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, writing, on a good day, can feel like dipping a cup into the river of ideas and delighting at the surprises discovered within it. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
To experience one of Ann Hamilton’s installations is to be transported into a world of invention unlike any other. Recognized for her large-scale public projects and performance collaborations, Ann uses space as her canvas and fills it with a sense of mystery and drama that is as inviting as it is provocative.  Though much of her work is, by nature, transitory, its impact and ideas endure. To get a sense of the experiential texture of her work, look no further than her extraordinary 2012 installation, the event of a thread, at New York’s Park Avenue Armory. The hauntingly beautiful piece filled the large space with billowing white fabric panels and an array of swings inviting participants to experience a joy and weightlessness too often relegated to childhood.   In this timely and incisive Change Lab interview, conducted the day before the 20th anniversary of 911, Hamilton explored the ideas animating CHORUS, her public art installation at the World Trade Center Cortland subway station. The piece, visible from the platform and passing trains, consists of a field of marble mosaic weaving the texts of the Declaration of Independence and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights onto a wall beneath the spot where the towers once stood.  Change Lab listeners will recognize her ideas connecting making and exploration as core to the themes explored throughout this show. It’s hard to imagine how anyone could more artfully illuminate the creative power and exhilaration that comes from braving uncertainty and lingering in the mysterious “I-don’t-know.” Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
To call Mike Shinoda a rock star would be technically accurate and yet incomplete. He is the lead singer and driving force behind Linkin Park (one of the best selling bands of the 21st century), Fort Minor (his hip hop project) and a thriving career as a solo artist. But that list of headlining achievements doesn’t even begin to capture the scope of his creative versatility.  He’s always been a creative omnivore since his days as an ArtCenter Illustration student when he divided his time between the painting studio and band practice. Even as Linkin Park soared to stratospheric success, he continued to multitask creatively. He continued to pursue solo endeavors (including a Grammy-winning collaboration with Jay-Z) while cultivating a diverse visual arts practice designing album covers and merchandise and assembling a series of paintings that have exhibited in major museums and galleries. But for all his myriad achievements, what stands out most about Mike is the unique quality of attention and intention that he brings to everything he does. We were only a few minutes deep into our conversation when it became clear that I was in the presence of a rare breed of artist who is uniquely curious about the mysterious forces at play in his own creative process. He gamely expanded upon his challenges and breakthroughs as a songwriter (with a vital assist from producing legend, Rick Rubin), his use of doodling to access certain parts of his creative brain and the twitch channel he’s created to make things from scratch, in real time, often in collaboration with his audience. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
For Diana Thater making art is like oxygen. It sustains and nourishes her. And when her access to it is suddenly limited -- as it was in the spring of 2020-- she figures out a way to create her art. By any means necessary.  Her latest exhibition, Yes, There Will Be Singing, is the captivating result of one such extraordinary pandemic pivot. She conceived the idea for the sound-based installation when her in-person show was cancelled. But what’s most ingenious about this immersive work is not its format but rather its remarkable subject --Whale 52, who is deaf and yet sings into a world of complete darkness and silence.  It’s hard to imagine a more perfect metaphor for resilience in the face of the isolation we’ve all just experienced than Whale 52 and, more specifically, the sensitivity with which Thater represents his plight in her work.  That kind of empathy is the lifeblood running through everything Thater creates. Best known for creating large-scale installation art exploring the tensions between the animal kingdom and mankind, Thater’s studio practice has sent her around the globe to film species in peril in their natural habitats. Her work has been widely exhibited at major institutions worldwide, including MOMA, LACMA and the Guggenheim Bilbao. In this lively and fathoms-deep Change Lab episode, Thater explores the forces animating her creative practice, the role of improvisation in her filming process and her enduring commitment to risking life and limb to transport us there alongside her. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Pop quiz: Do artists and designers create to express what you know? Or do we make things to get to know ourselves and the world we inhabit?  Those are a few of the questions we’ll be grappling with throughout the next season of Change Lab, launching on September 29th, with Lorne’s revelatory interview with Mike Shinoda, artist, musician, ArtCenter alum, and rockstar in all senses of the word. This season coincides with the release of Lorne’s book, Make to Know, investigating the relationship between inspiration and improvisation, artist and artwork, maker and finished product -- themes that will resonate with anyone familiar with this podcast. The book was inspired at least in part by insights derived from Change Lab interviews revealing the many insights into the hows and whys we humans are driven to create.  This new season will take a deep dive into those ideas with a phenomenal lineup of interviews with creative luminaries designed to complement Make to Know and function as a complete guide to accessing and implementing the creative power that lives within us all. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Erika Endrijonas isn’t just an advocate for the pivotal role community colleges play in providing equal access to the American Dream. She is also an alum of Cal State Northridge and direct beneficiary of California’s longstanding commitment to affordable higher education for all. As such, she has an intrinsic understanding of the system’s value to society. And in her current position as the Superintendent and President of Pasadena City College, which is consistently ranked among the best in the state, she is fiercely determined to make sure the system remains a vital engine driving social mobility for generations to come.  Her guiding principle in leading a large public institution is to ensure that PCC levels the playing field for students from all walks of life. In her view, Pasadena City College and others like it are providing singular opportunities to transcend barriers—financial, cultural and social— that might be standing between them and a college degree. Erika’s combination of passion, tenacity and acuity has fueled her remarkable self-made success story. She cleared a set of financial obstacles only to go on and earn a PhD in history culminating in a fascinating dissertation on the ways in which mid-century cookbooks prescribed gender roles to a limited set of separate but unequal stereotypes. Though the segue to college leader isn’t an obvious one, the throughline connecting those dots is Erika’s unmistakable commitment to creating a more egalitarian world and her pragmatic approach to getting there. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
There are many apt metaphors for Carol Christ’s achievements. Most of them have to do with breaking things like glass ceilings or barriers or new ground in Victorian literary scholarship. But none of those do justice to the sheer scope of the professional arc Carol has traversed en route to her current role as the first female Chancellor of UC Berkeley.  Carol has spent the better part of her five decades entering academic spaces and roles previously reserved for men. But she has less interest in reflecting on her own pioneering achievements than in her passion for participating in the collective march toward institutional progress. In fact, from the moment she began ascending through the leadership ranks at Berkeley, and then as President of Smith College, she’s been a vector for positive change through her first-rate mind, her warmth, humanity and passion for the transformative power of education.  She certainly had an effect on Lorne. The two met at UC Berkeley when he was a newly-minted PhD teaching in the Dramatic Art department and she was Dean of the College of Letters and Science. Though Carol might not have known it at the time, Lorne was inspired by her and viewed her as a mentor. He greatly admired her forthright and compassionate approach to leadership and marveled at how she would give equal voice to the many varied factions comprising California’s largest and most prestigious public research institution.  Carol is the rare university administrator who sees her work as an artform. Lorne relished the opportunity to reconnect with her about her trailblazing journey to the Chancellorship of UC Berkeley, her literary approach to leadership and her perspective on the road ahead for all of higher education. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
As President of Fuller Theological Seminary (with more than three decades of pastoral experience behind him), Mark Labberton is more than comfortable dwelling in uncertainty. For him, the space of the unknown is at least one way to access the kind of epiphany familiar to those of us on the creative path.  Mark is far more than just a big picture thinker and leader. He’s a prolific writer and orator with a unique gift for mining the sublime out of a secular idea. He is also someone who embodies the immersive and expansive mindset he brings to his teaching, writing and his wonderful podcast, Conversing with Mark Labberton.   Mark and Lorne first connected years ago as leaders of two important institutions of higher education in Pasadena. From the start, they were both fascinated by the connection between spirituality and creative expression. Lorne was a teacher and theater director curious about the relationship between inspiration (divine or otherwise) and creative flow. Mark was a pastor who has come to see himself as a curator of faith and experience. From there a friendship grew.  Their affinity has continued to expand and deepen. And once we decided to dedicate this season of Change Lab to explore the future of higher education, we seized the opportunity to speak with Mark, knowing all that we can learn from him.  As you’ll hear in this rich and full conversation, Mark understands something vitally important about leading with vulnerability. Perhaps even more resonant, however, is the power he’s found in what he exquisitely describes as a ‘theology of making.’ Please enjoy my conversation with Mark Labberton Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Dan Brodnitz didn’t set out to join a revolution in online education. He saw himself changing hearts and minds through his novels and poetry. Fate, however, had a different plan for Dan’s talents — but one no less transformative. It placed him at the helm of global content strategy at LinkedIn Learning at a time when the entire world migrated into digital classrooms. Never has his expertise in creating meaningful virtual learning experiences been more valuable than it is right now.  Dan found his way into this fertile field through his own natural inclination to understand how things work and, crucially, how to make them work better. He’s applied this iterative mindset far and wide — from his desire to improve his own creative practice as a writer, as well as to the learning process itself.  He began his career in publishing before joining the pioneering online learning site,, which was founded by former ArtCenter faculty member Lynda Weinman and alum and now trustee Bruce Heavin. It was there that Dan honed his skills in this emerging arena and found his passion for democratizing education by making it accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.  His role today at LinkedIn has scaled considerably to keep pace with the growing market for knowledge in today’s information economy. And his enthusiasm for the work is contagious. He sees LinkedIn’s 16,000-plus course library as a resource for nothing short of personal transformation. And his work, as he eloquently puts it, is to “orchestrate the beautiful, thoughtful whole.” Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Harry Elam and Lorne had only met casually before we sat down to record this episode of Change Lab. Interestingly, they had spent much of their early careers as two ships passing in the San Francisco Bay. Harry pursued his PhD in theater at U.C. Berkeley while Lorne earned the same degree at Stanford. They then traded places and Harry became a theater professor at Stanford and Lorne took a faculty position in Berkeley’s Dramatic Art department.  Their mirrored movements continue to this day. With Harry’s recent appointment as president of Occidental College, they now both serve as college presidents for venerable institutions located just a few miles apart in Northeast Los Angeles. This past year, maybe more than any other, has called upon them to draw on skills they developed in the theater. They’ve had to improvise and lean into the unfolding drama, responding to challenges with ‘yes and’ rather than ‘no but.’  Harry has written several books and scores of journal articles on how theater has become a vehicle for social change. He and Lorne discussed how those movements might even serve as a model for progress within the very institutions they both lead. Their conversation shed light on the importance of communal spirit—not unlike that of a theater company—in forging the path ahead.  But, in the end, they were just two theater guys connecting around their shared belief in the power of creativity and education as well as in our conviction that, above all else, the show must go on. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
D’Wayne has a lot in common with Michael Jordan, his former boss. His appetite for excellence has propelled him to superlative success. D’Wayne turned his childhood passion for drawing sneakers into a high-flying design career, moving from L.A. Gear to Sketchers and then eventually landing his dream job at Nike’s Jordan Brand. D’Wayne’s designs have, in total, earned over $1.5 billion. But D’Wayne was determined to leave a mark on the footwear design world that couldn’t be measured in dollars. As one of very few Black leaders in his business, he saw an opportunity to create a pipeline for diverse designers. D’Wayne quit his job at Nike to launch Pensole Footwear Design Academy in order to build career pathways that didn’t exist when he was coming of age. Pensole is now an established force in footwear design education, providing a host of immersive programs in partnership with ArtCenter and other institutions. The results speak for themselves: Pensole had a hand in training over 500 footwear designers working today. In this debut episode of Change Lab’s new season investigating the future of education, D’Wayne reflects on the importance of mentorship, hard work, and hands-on learning in creating a more diverse and sustainable design education model. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
As we begin a new year and a new season of change lab, I think most of us are torn between looking forward with hope and looking back with a kind of weary amazement we've prevailed over enormous obstacles in the last year. But as educators and designers, we know all too well that every challenge we meet offers an opportunity for learning and progress. That was certainly the case here at ArtCenter, where we migrated along with the rest of our colleagues and higher ed to digital classrooms, we then did what we do best experimenting, prototyping, iterating, and inventing until we found what worked best for our faculty and students. Not only has the experience taught us invaluable lessons about the grit and creative adaptability of our own community, but we've also made important discoveries about the nature of education itself. That's why we're dedicating this season of change lab to exploring the future of education. Beginning on February 17th. We'll look at what we've learned, where we're headed and how to get there. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Elle Hearns did not set out to lead movements for social justice. Nor was it her lifelong dream to make the world a better and safer place for Black transgender communities. Growing up in Ohio, she imagined herself as an iconic singer, a chart-topping diva with a voice powerful enough to crack your soul wide open.  In the end, she did end up using the power of her voice to inspire people -- just not in the way she originally planned. As one of the world’s most effective leaders in the movement for social change, Elle has dedicated her life to organizing and advocating for marginalized communities. She began her career working on campaigns for marriage equality and don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy change. She then transitioned to groundbreaking work as a leading voice for the Black Lives Matter Global Network. In her current role as the founder and executive director of the Marsha P. Johnson Institute, she’s dedicated herself to protecting and defending the human rights of Black transgender people.  Under Elle’s leadership, the Marsha P. Johnson Institute has become a vital resource for Black trans women in particular, who have suffered an onslaught of violent attacks resulting in alarmingly low life expectancy rates. Elle has focused on raising awareness, advocating for policy change and marshalling resources to provide pathways to stability. Her work has generated widespread media attention toward the plight of Black trans women in the pages of Vogue and The LA Times. The Institute also recently received a $500,000 gift from Google earmarked for COVID relief.  Among Elle’s many remarkable qualities is her ability to apply a strategic mindset toward affecting change within her own besieged community. But it’s the strength of Elle’s voice -- what she says and how she says it -- that remains her most powerful tool in her efforts to build a better world for all its inhabitants. Links The Marsha P. Johnson Institute Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Last year, Cedric Johnson embedded himself at ArtCenter for a week-long residency. Included in that visit was a talk about the policing crisis as well as a workshop with students exploring what it means to “do good” in the world through art and design.  These issues have only become more timely in the intervening year. But as any good historian will tell you – and Cedric most definitely fits that description – history has a way of colliding with the present if you wait long enough.  As a professor of political science and African American studies at University of Illinois at Chicago, Cedric has dedicated his academic career to studying and writing about the relationship between class, race and social change. These ideas coalesce in rich narrative detail in his award-winning book, Revolutionaries to Race Leaders: Black Power and the Making of African American Politics. Cedric has a gift for communicating complex and sometimes disruptive ideas with warmth, clarity and impressive skill. Throughout his extensive writings (and in his interview with Change Lab), he emphasizes the need for addressing the roots of racial injustice in class inequities, from persistent poverty and the “crimes of survival” committed as a result of “structural unemployment. Our conversation was full of ideas, both grounded and groundbreaking, that are critical to creating sustainable social change. Particularly germane to the ArtCenter community, were his observations on the importance of decommodifying education (i.e., making it accessible to all students regardless of their ability to pay). This, he insists, is an essential stepping stone toward creating more diverse, equitable and inclusive college campuses. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Like the consummate designer he is -- Kevin Bethune has iterated his own job description.  Kevin’s strikingly diverse career-path includes stints as a nuclear engineer at Westinghouse Electric, a financial manager at Nike and strategic design innovator at Boston Consulting group -- all achievements that would stand alone as a high-point on most resumes.  But Kevin still had goals he’d yet to articulate and accomplish. And, as you’ll hear through his deeply introspective reflections in this episode of Change Lab, Kevin takes his dreams very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that they became the driving force behind his current venture, an innovation think-tank called dreams, design + life. Animated by the idea of bringing a child-like openness and imagination to realizing our highest possibilities, Kevin now leads a multi-disciplinary team at dreams, design + life. There, he uses design innovation tools to help businesses plan for an uncertain future.  Kevin is a unicorn even by Silicon Valley standards. He comes to the table bearing a trio of specialized degrees from prestigious institutions – including a Master of Science in Industrial Design from ArtCenter. And, perhaps even more rare and relevant to his success is the kindness, humility and integrity he brings to every layer of his creative process.  Though he has faced his share of obstacles as a person of color. He’s prevailed by remaining true to his commitment to connecting people with their dreams and taking the high road in business and in life. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Throughout her long and distinguished career as a commercial and fine art photographer, Barbara DuMetz has produced images that feel familiar even if you’re viewing them for the first time. Through her lens, even the most ordinary subject matter has a mythic quality. She has a story to tell that reaches far beyond the frame.  That’s her unique creative gift. And it’s one she began cultivating as an ArtCenter student and ultimately deployed to great effect in editorial spreads for glossy magazines and iconic ads for global brands like Coca Cola and Delta. Despite her vast reserves of natural talent, it was hardly a given that Barbara would achieve her lofty creative goals as a Black woman making her way in the predominantly white male field of commercial photography in the 1970’s and ‘80’s. And yet she persisted. Against steep odds, Barbara built a professional photography practice from the ground up and paved the way for a new generation of Black female artists. Her personal journey is nearly as inspiring and captivating as her iconic images of such legendary trailblazers as Maya Angelou, Quincy Jones and Thelonius Monk – the latter of whom she first met by chance as a young aspiring photographer. In this week’s lively, history-soaked Change Lab episode, you’ll hear her describe that encounter with Monk with sheer wonder at his genius. And then, with characteristic humility, she’ll concede, after some prodding, that maybe, just maybe, her work echoes the deeply-felt rhythms of her beloved jazz. As anyone listening to this conversation can attest, Dumetz walks through life to a beat as cool and distinctive as the art she makes. Links from this episode: 1984 Olympics Coca-Cola Advertisement Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
There is something almost poetic about beginning this season, dedicated to amplifying Black voices, with today’s interview with Bob Davidson, who recently stepped down from his post as Chairman of ArtCenter’s Board of Trustees. Bob was instrumental in my decision to assume my current role as President of ArtCenter. And over the past eleven years, our collaboration has been among the most profoundly transformative of my entire career. Our bond transcended our professional roles (for all intents and purposes, he was my boss) and became something much richer and deeper, rooted in our shared values and an almost spiritual commitment to manifesting the College’s mission statement: learn to create, influence change. And change we did. In partnership with Bob, we launched two iterations of a master plan that prioritized long-term sustainability and diversity. The College has grown in many important ways thanks to his contributions. But there’s still much work to be done, which we discuss at length in today’s conversation. Even though we’ve known each other intimately for over a decade, our candid conversation was revelatory. I hadn’t known the extent of the racism he faced growing up in the Jim Crow south. Nor was I aware of the subtle bias he experiences in his daily life now. At the same time, he confirmed many of the qualities and achievements I’ve long admired – his self-made success at the highest levels of business and his steadfast unwillingness to let anyone stand in the way of progress —his or anyone else’s for that matter. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
This episode of Change Lab happens to be the last one of this season and we’ll resume again, as usual, in the fall. And though it wasn’t planned this way, it’s hard to think of an interview more timely or better suited to demonstrating the strength of the creative spirit to transcend expectations, assumptions and challenges than this one with Chaz Bojorquez, aka the Godfather of Graffiti. There are few art world honors as coveted as having a piece of work included in the Smithsonian’s permanent collection. Likewise, in the pop culture universe, not many artists can claim to have their own special edition line of Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers. Chaz can claim both of those achievements and many more. A native of East Los Angeles, Chaz merged his tandem passions for creative forms of socio-political protest, underground comics and the Chicano muralist movement into a signature style that has influenced his widespread popularity and established prestige now, finally, attributed to street art. After Chaz visited ArtCenter last fall to deliver a talk about the role of graffiti in creating cultural unity, Lorne was taken by the power of his wisdom and his work. In fact, we were all so impressed with his accomplishments that we decided to award him an honorary doctorate at our Spring commencement ceremony (which was sadly postponed due to the COVID-19 crisis). But Lorne and Chaz had the opportunity to sit down together in early February to reflect on his remarkable career that blurs the boundaries between high art and street art, calligraphy and graffiti, popular and alternative culture. Related Links: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Diane Luby Lane is the founder and executive director of Get Lit-Words Ignite, a leading arts education nonprofit dedicated to increasing literacy and stemming dropout rates among at-risk youth. Her groundbreaking curriculum, fusing classic literature with spoken word performance techniques, has been adopted by schools around the country. In this inspiring episode of Change Lab, Lorne Buchman sat down with Diane to discuss the redemptive power of poetry her mission to share it with the world. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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Oct 23rd
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