A wealth of of challenging questions arose when I first started the diversity dialogs at MECA in 2008. The questions ranged from humorous, to solemn, to angry and heartbreaking. For one student, approaching the complexity and scope of questions became so big and unmanageable she earnestly asked, “how do you eat an elephant?” For this student, taking on the issue of diversity felt like an insurmountable task. I experienced my own moments of anxiety in the process and often wondered how do I responsibly open up dialog and put forth significant questions such as, what is diversity? What is racism? What gets privileged? The list goes on. My anxiety was soon quelled by the intelligence and creativity of my students. The process of opening up stimulated rich discussions that challenged our assumptions and led to the creation of artworks that shifted perceptions on the most complex issues of representation, power, and oppression.
The process of opening up continues in projects like The Other Side of Shade, and similar to the first dialogs, the impact of the exhibition extends beyond the timeline and physical scope of the project. Opening up has stirred up bigger and better questions to wrestle with and has positioned the college community to take new risks, and to move the work of diversity beyond events and exhibitions. The Other Side of Shade became a platform and a launching pad for the next series of critical conversations and questions on diversity for the college.
These new questions move the dialog out into the larger learning community and elevates the issue of diversity within the institution. Diversity is now placed within the context of institutional change and has become one of the key themes of MECA’s new strategic plan. The work of moving a diversity plan forward is now taking place across all constituencies of the college-faculty, staff, students, alumni, and board members. The energy and ideas being generated from this work is palpable and represents the best of MECA’s creative capacity. I believe strongly in the power of art as a force for social change and I am inspired by my students in the Public Engagement Minor and their ability to create significant responses to the world's most pressing issues. I am also extremely proud of my college community for the bold steps we have taken to create a more inclusive, socially engaged art and design institution. I know we will continue to co-labor and co-create the beloved community we imagine.