Centering Race Consortium Art Practitioners Gather at CSREA

From May 12-14, CSREA hosted a convening of artists and scholars from the Centering Race Consortium universities (CRC). The CRC is a group of four race centers at Brown University, Yale University, Stanford University, and the University of Chicago – all of whom are partners on a $4M Andrew Mellon Grant. This capstone event convened interdisciplinary artists from across all four universities, working in the visual, literary, musical, and mixed media fields. Through this gathering, CSREA provided a collaborative space to workshop, generate new perspectives, and tackle topics that center race, ethnicity, and indigeneity. 

The theme for this year was Reflection, Resonance, & Renewal, and offered attendees a chance to reflect on the past, identify what resonates with them in the present, and discuss their hopes for a renewed future. Artists from across mediums and from around the country came together to create a generous environment that fostered creativity and solidarity. Learn more about the Practitioner Fellows who attended the Capstone in our Meet the Fellows Lookbook.

The Capstone launched on Thursday, May 12th with a Welcome Reception where folks were able to meet each other and informally mingle. On Friday, May 13th the Practitioners had the opportunity to hear from two keynote speakers – Toby Sisson and Matthew Shenoda. Both are accomplished practitioners and professors. Sisson is an Associate Professor and Director of the Studio Art Program at Clark University. Shenoda is Vice President & Associate Provost for Social Equity & Inclusion and Professor of Literary Arts and Studies at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) where he directs the Center for Social Equity and Inclusion. The speakers spoke about race and the arts broadly, as well as the role of art in challenging times. 

At CSREA's CRC Conference, Toby Sisson (pictured seated) presents with Matthew Shenoda (pictured virtually).

“The artist has to be something like a whale, swimming with their mouth wide open, absorbing everything until they have what they really need,” Sisson noted, quoting Romare Bearden. 

Continuing, Sisson remarked, “by recognizing the intergenerational wealth of collective experience in this very room, we are all richer for it. Freely sharing that wisdom, we are made more human and humane. We are building a more just world.”

In Shenoda’s remarks, he explained how “art becomes an indispensable action in the larger conversation about race and ethnicity. It becomes a practice – a doing that is not simply a privilege but a necessity.” 

Following the Keynote address, the two panelists engaged with the practitioners and reflected on their remarks. Sisson and Shenoda shared their perspectives on the art industry – Sisson through the lens of a visual artist and Shenoda from a literary perspective. It made for an engaging and thoughtful discussion. 

Throughout the two-day Capstone, Fellows were challenged to think deeply about their practice and how their lives have influenced and shaped their work. Three discussion sessions allowed fellows to converse with each other about hierarchies and challenges, as well as hopes and aspirations. Find more information about CSREA’s Spring 2022 Practitioner Fellows Cohort at this link.

Practitioner fellows from the CRC schools join together for a photo during a reception.