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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.
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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: BarbaraDuMetzPhotography.com 1984 Olympics Coca-Cola Advertisement
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.
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: https://americanart.si.edu/artist/charles-chaz-bojorquez-6040 https://lagunaartmuseum.org/artist/chaz-bojorquez/ http://www.sohodh.com/chaz-bojorquez https://sneakernews.com/2013/06/26/chaz-bojorquez-x-converse-chuck-taylor-all-star/
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.
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: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0309357/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1 https://www.1917.movie/
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: https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/face https://designobserver.com/designofbusiness https://designobserver.com/ https://designobserver.com/podcast-the-observatory.php https://www.jessicahelfand.com/
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: https://www.dezeen.com/tag/ini-archibong/ https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/21/t-magazine/ini-archibong.html https://www.vogue.co.uk/article/hermes-watch-launch http://www.artcenter.edu/about/get-to-know-artcenter/people/david-mocarski.html https://www.hermes.com/us/en/product/galop-d-hermes-watch-40.8-x-26mm-W047890WW00/ https://www.ecal.ch/fr/100/homepage
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: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1532413 https://www.filmlinc.org/nyff2019/films/bully-coward-victim-the-story-of-roy-cohn/ http://indianpointfilm.com/ https://www.sundance.org/projects/heir-to-an-execution
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. https://www.aiga.org/design-journeys-saki-mafundikwa https://www.sadieredwing.com http://www.aminamaya.com
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.
Though Phil Gilbert’s official job title is General Manager of Design at IBM, he’s more often referred to as IBM’s very own design evangelist. But ask him to describe his earliest creative impulses and he’ll tell you without hesitation that he was an entrepreneur from “day one.” It quickly became clear that Phil is all these things and more after spending the day with him at IBM’s colorful, post-it-strewn design studio in Austin. In other words, to use a tech-speak term of art: Phil is a unicorn.  Need proof? Look no further than his decision to embed design thinking at scale across a company that spans 387,000 employees and 170 countries. Fast Company recently praised Gilbert’s accomplishment at IBM as “establishing a modern standard for increasing the role of arts in business.”  Under Phil’s leadership, the legacy computer brand has resurrected and expanded its venerable design program and transformed itself into a nimble, forward-thinking company employing a fleet of designers, charged with applying their problem-solving skills to innovative software and B2B infrastructure initiatives, like quantum computing and state of the art digital security. To wit, ArtCenter alum Tina Zeng, a design researcher on IBM’s security team, offers an insider’s perspective on how design is being deployed on a day to day basis under Phil’s leadership. Over the course of a lively Change Lab conversation (conducted in IBM’s employee programmed radio station) Phil opened up about his appreciation for the school busing program in Oklahoma City that first exposed him to the value in a diverse learning environment, his evolution as a leader and the importance of seeing every day as a prototype that can be improved upon.  Related links: https://www.ibm.com/design/ http://www.tinalzeng.com/ https://www.ibm.com/ibm/history/ibm100/us/en/icons/gooddesign/
For thirty years, Father Greg Boyle has made it his mission to heal those afflicted by the epidemic of gang violence. As the founder of Homeboy Industries, Father Greg has been instrumental in turning the tide on violent crime in Los Angeles and beyond. The secret to his success begins with reframing a question. Instead of asking “how can we serve gang members?” Father Greg asks, “how can we stand with them, in awe of the pain they carry, and allow ourselves to be reached by them?”
Rosanne Somerson is an internationally exhibited furniture designer and President of Rhode Island School of Design. Somerson, a RISD alum, sees her parallel roles as a leader and practitioner as complementary parts of her life’s work, which she says began when she was a young girl charged with describing the world to her blind grandfather and “opening doors for people to see things differently.”
Jeff Goodby is an advertising legend, whose humanity and humility have propelled him to the peak of a profession not necessarily known for either. Imagine an ad man as clever and visionary as Don Draper, minus the chain-smoking and cynicism and you start to get a sense of the scope of Jeff’s influence in the advertising industry.
Rebeca Mendez is an artist, designer, educator and ArtCenter alumna whose creative practice defies the bounds of traditional disciplines or descriptions.
Mariana Prieto has made it her mission to use her design skills to improve lives around the globe, human and otherwise.
Fall 2018 ArtCenter Product Design graduate Ari Montanez spent much of his young life equipping himself with the skills and stamina necessary to succeed in a highly competitive arena – The NBA. When it became apparent his hoop dreams might be slightly out of reach, Ari pivoted into performance-enhancing footwear designs.  His determination and dedication paid off with a job offer from start-up sneaker company, No.One. Learn more about ArtCenter and its programs at www.artcenter.edu
Dr. James Hollis is an accomplished Jungian Analyst and highly-regarded author who has published fifteen published books and over fifty articles throughout the course of his career. He currently serves as the Executive Director of the Jung Society in Washington D.C. James co-founded the Philadelphia Jung Institute and began as its first Director of Training. He is also the Vice President of the Philemon Foundation, dedicated to publishing the unpublished works of Jung. He was the founder and first director of Jungian Studies at Saybrook University (in collaboration with Lorne Buchman), and he remains the Director Emeritus of the Houston, Texas Jung Educational Center. His philosophical approach to engaging the relationship between creativity and transformation sets him apart from previous guests on the show. James' thoughts on creativity are invaluable for not only artists and designers; but also for all who strive to find meaning in their careers and lives. In this episode, Dr. James Hollis and ArtCenter President Lorne Buchman discuss the creative potential of entering worlds of uncertainty, the role of dreams in our imagination and how we understand our creativity in relation to the soul. Links Mentioned: http://philemonfoundation.org https://jungstudies.net/maphd-jungian-studies-from-saybrook-university https://www.junginstitut.ch/english https://www.jameshollis.net/hollisBooks.html Learn more about James Hollis's work:  https://www.fcagroup.com/en-US/group/governance/management/Pages/ralph_gilles.aspx Learn more about this episode of Change Lab at www.artcenter.edu.
As Global Head of Design at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ralph Gilles meticulously approves the look and feel of every new Dodge, Jeep, Chrysler, Fiat, Alpha Romeo, and Maserati produced. His astonishing success is the product of an early, unwavering passion for beautifully designed cars and an outsized talent for sketching them. Gilles’ determination propelled him through his undergraduate degree at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, and led him to earn his Executive MBA from Michigan State University. Gilles’ natural humility along with his commitment to hard work and design excellence guide his oversight of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ entire brand portfolio toward an aesthetic that’s both accessible and aspirational. During his tenure, Gilles has been instrumental in the design of some very successful models including the Chrysler 300, SRT Viper, and the Dodge Ram. In this episode, Ralph Gilles and ArtCenter President Lorne Buchman discuss Gilles’ career trajectory at Chrysler, designing cars with human characteristics and his vision for the future of automobiles. Learn more about Ralph's work:  https://www.fcagroup.com/en-US/group/governance/management/Pages/ralph_gilles.aspx Learn more about this episode of Change Lab at www.artcenter.edu.
Well known for her Tony Award-winning play, Fun Home, Lisa Kron is a remarkable playwright and performer whose work reflects and refracts these complex times. Her storytelling straddles the blurry line between fact and fiction, memory and invention, the political and the deeply personal. Lisa Kron developed her craft at New York City’s WOW Cafe, which began as an international women’s theater festival in 1980. During her time at WOW Café, she honed her creative voice, culminating in her breakthrough one-woman show, 101 Humiliating Stories. Her gift for mining humor and meaning from complex family dynamics yielded her next two rave-reviewed plays: Well and 2.5 Mile Ride, which explored her relationship with her mother and father respectively. Her greatest creative challenge arrived in the form of Fun Home, a musical adaptation of Allison Bechdel’s graphic novel about coming out while coming of age. Fun Home took Lisa seven years to complete and went on to earn her Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize nomination. In this episode, Lisa and ArtCenter President Lorne Buchman discuss the contours of her career in theater, the delicate process of dramatizing personal material and her passion for the collective power of performance. Learn more about Lisa's work:  https://www.lisakron.org http://funhomebroadway.com  http://www.wowcafe.org http://www.wellonbroadway.com https://www.dramaticpublishing.com/2-5-minute-ride  Learn more about this episode of Change Lab at www.artcenter.edu.
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Oct 23rd
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