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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.

56 Episodes
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
Storytelling is Dennis Gassner’s mother tongue. It’s the language – and the context -- through which the ArtCenter alum and legendary production designer processes the ideas of a script, and it fundamentally shapes the worlds his characters inhabit on screen. The six-time Oscar nominee is best known for the technically ambitious and artfully realized environments he has created for six Coen Bros films, the last four James Bond movies, Blade Runner 2049 and Bugsy – for which he won an Academy Award. Dennis received his most recent Oscar nomination for his stunning work on 1917, a World War 1 epic for which he designed, built and destroyed French villages and battlefields all, seemingly, filmed in one-take. The film also presented him with the rare opportunity to go to war with his longtime collaborators, director Sam Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins – two major talents with whom he’s found great success in the moviemaking trenches. On the eve of the most recent Academy Awards show, Change Lab’s Lorne Buchman interviewed Dennis in his home, which is steeped in Hollywood history and filled with artifacts from his films and the places they’ve taken him. As we sat facing each other on two art deco couches he used to furnish a lavish set in The Hudsucker Proxy, we discussed his transition from architecture to production design, his discovery (while at ArtCenter) that facing fear is fundamental to creativity and his conviction that successful storytelling is best measured by the heart rather than the head. Related Links: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
It’s not an overstatement to say that Jessica Helfand is a renaissance woman of the design world. She co-founded Design Observer, an authoritative digital publication on the state of visual culture and an oracle of wise and thoughtful discourse on design for many of us. She also co-hosts two podcasts: The Observatory and The Design of Business/ The Business of Design. In all aspects of her work and writing, she asks profound questions about creative practice and challenges our assumptions about how to reconcile an ethical design practice with a successful one. In addition to her thriving art and design practices, Jessica is also a prolific author of numerous books, including her latest work, Face: A Visual Odyssey, recently included on the “new and noteworthy” list of the New York Times. With encyclopedic thoroughness, Jessica examines the cultural significance of the face and its centrality in human experience, from archival mug shots through selfie culture and facial recognition technology. Her academic career has been no less impressive than her literary and creative accomplishments. She has taught design at Yale University, her alma mater, since 1996. She currently serves as the second-ever Artist in Residence at Cal Tech, which is located a few blocks from ArtCenter in Pasadena. Later in the episode, we’ll join her there in the classroom for a fascinating peek at how she’s opening pathways of design to the quantitatively-minded students of science and engineering. A fascinating conversationalist, Jessica readily peppers her answers with cogent insights into social media’s impact on the next generation of designers and a very honest and moving sense of the ways in which personal experience invariably shapes creative practice.   Related Links: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Ini Archibong is a luxury goods designer. He is also a furniture and immersive experience designer and an ArtCenter alum. This is all accurate and incomplete. So we’ll leave it to Ini to describe his creative practice: “Any of the objects I’m making -- all they are is a potential entry point to wonder.” Ini has been accumulating accolades and prestigious commissions from the moment he graduated from ArtCenter’s Environmental Design program in 2012. After earning his MFA in Switzerland from the Lausanne University of Art and Design (ECAL for short), Ini’s furniture began appearing in the pages of Vogue, Architectural Digest and the New York Times. Ini’s iconic works of functional art have made him a rising star in the design world culminating, most recently with his celebrated Gallop watch for Hermes. Over the course of a philosophical exchange with Lorne, Ini explored what it means to design a sacred space, the mythological underpinnings to his work and how he achieves a state of creative flow. Related Links: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Ivy Meeropol is a documentary filmmaker whose emotionally and politically charged films explore social and cultural injustice from the inside out. Her work in TV and film ranges from an exploration of the threat posed by the nuclear power industry to the good, bad and ugly of the American political system, particularly as it relates to her family (more on that in a moment). But what distinguishes her work most is her disarming refusal to judge the characters in her films as heroes or villains– a process Ivy describes as an “active pursuit of empathy.” The result is a deeply nuanced body of work that reverberates with wisdom, intimacy and socio-political nuance. That empathy infuses every scene of her latest film, Bully, Coward, Victim: The Story of Roy Cohn, which recently premiered at the New York Film Festival. Combining archival footage with original reporting, the HBO film explores the complicated, controversial, and enduring legacy of Cohn, the closeted right-wing political attack-dog who was an early mentor to Donald Trump. Cohn launched his notorious career as the young prosecutor who convicted Ivy’s grandparents, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, of spying for the Soviet Union at the height of the Red Scare. Cohn succeeded in his quest to send both of them to the electric chair, leaving their two young sons (one of whom was Ivy’s father) orphaned. Over the course of an intimate and animated Change Lab interview, she explored the personal and political forces at play in her work, her willingness to allow her films the freedom to dwell in ambiguity and her sense of responsibility to ask questions previous generations never could.   Related links: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Sadie Red Wing and Saki Mafundikwa grew up a world and two generations apart. Sadie was born into the Lakota tribe and also considers herself a citizen of the Spirt Lake Nation of Fort Totten, South Dakota—two longstanding American indigenous communities. Saki, on the other hand, didn’t set foot in the United States until he left his native Zimbabwe at age 24 in 1979, almost twenty years before Sadie was born. Despite their different points of origin, their approach to their chosen profession is strikingly similar. They’re both pioneering designers who focus their practices on giving voice and context to underrepresented communities whose rich visual languages have often been subsumed or ignored by mainstream design’s bias toward Western modes of communication. Saki and Sadie joined forces for the first time in a joint workshop at ArtCenter entitled: Finding Our Way Home. The four-hour workshop created a space for students of all backgrounds to visually identify themselves, exhibit pride in representation and come away inspired to allow their heritage to inform their design work. We’ve also included a first-hand perspective on the workshop from participant, Amina Maya, a photographer and designer who works as a Junior Creative Director at Black Girl in Om, and Founder of Naturaliste Apothecary. This thought-provoking episode of Change Lab explores some of the most vital issues facing both design and academia through the lens of Sadie and Saki’s unique but parallel journeys toward better representing their own cultures in their work and encouraging diversity and inclusivity throughout the arts. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
ArtCenter’s Transportation Design program has a type and, at first glance, Vicente Magaña seems to fit it perfectly. A lifelong obsession with cars? Check. A childhood spent sketching every type of vehicle his imagination could conjure? Check. An insatiable desire to land a job designing supercars and road testing them at top speed? Well…that’s where Vicente, a Summer 2019 ArtCenter alum, separates himself from the pack. Vicente is the rare car guy whose driving passion is not to design the ultimate driving machine. Instead, Magaña dreams of designing a public transportation system that turns cars into more of a luxury for weekend joy rides than a necessity for getting from Point A to B. We were particularly intrigued to learn more about the motivating factors guiding Vicente’s unique spin on a quintessential ArtCenter career-path, which is why we selected him for this season’s recent interview.  As the son of Mexican immigrants (and the first person in his family to attend college), Vicente’s upbringing instilled a desire to use his education to improve the quality of life for those who need it most. While attending ArtCenter, Vicente seized every opportunity he could to apply his seasoned problem-solving skills toward the greater good. Nothing illustrates this more than his thesis project, Incog-NEATO, a modular system designed to convert most sedans into a discrete space for living and working out of a vehicle.  Intrigued and impressed by Vicente’s unique combination of courage, empathy, and humility, Lorne dedicated this episode of Change Lab to tracking the journey that brought him to ArtCenter and where he hopes to go from here. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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Oct 23rd
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