Teaching

Back to School

The semester has started with histories of the New School: presentations at various orientations and the latest version of a university lecture course on the subject that I teach with Mark Larrimore. A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education outlined reasons why universities should offer courses about their histories. But it neglected to include the reasons I think are the most important. Read more…

Fortune

Designing the exhibit component on Rikers Island is crashing to an end, full speed. There are many, many details to be attended to before the opening of the exhibition States of Incarceration on April 1, 2016. What slowed us down in finalizing details is what also has been the most profound part of the project: our conversations with men from the Fortune Society. Read more…

Objects and Space

My class on “Arts and Social Engagement” ends with a look at institutions and policy. Bricks-and-mortar and intellectual property laws seem destined to stultify conversation on the arts. But both institutions and policy structure channels of access (or not), value (or not), and innovation (or not). Read more…

#SeeRikers

We are moving in on Rikers. Students have decided upon the theme of the visibility/invisibility paradox of the island. For some, Rikers is hypervisible. They work there, they know people confined there, they’ve been locked up there. For others, it is largely invisible from their New York. An island in a city made up of islands, connected by one lone long bridge, one public bus, and guarded by patrols on water and land. The closest some come to the place is in flying right over it as the plane charges off the runway at LaGuardia. Even then, you have to know what you’re looking at to see it. Read more…

Critiquing Critics

In class recently we discussed the role of critics. Much like a curator (our previous week’s topic), critics mediate an artwork for an audience. If a curator has multiple concerns, taking care of artwork, artist, institution, and audience, a critic is more solely concerned with the artwork, how it works, whether it works, for whom. Read more…

Prison Was…

Photo: Rikers Island, ca. 1915, Museum of the City of New York

Incarceration will occupy much of my fall semester. With Radhika Subramaniam, I am teaching the course that will build the New School’s contribution to the exhibition on the history of incarceration overseen by the Humanities Action Lab. Twenty universities will be teaching a similar course, each contributing a piece to the exhibition based on a local site. Ours is Rikers. Read more…

West Side Story: A Life

A writing experiment: to describe the book as a biography.

Biography (A Life). Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow. James Joyce: A Life by Edna O’Brien. West Side Story: A Life by Julia L. Foulkes? That is the central idea. Read more…

The Carceral City

I walked through Crown Heights a few days ago and came across this odd mobile police unit. Students in my class knew exactly what it was: a M.U.S.T. – a mobile utility surveillance tower. It can be moved to a “place of interest,” a platform elevated from the base, flood lighting, infrared cameras – all monitored by one officer in the lifted hub, the driver’s seat of the van, or, I believe, remotely. If chaos ensues below, that person can call in extra troops with the push of a button from the encased hub, without having to exit to the street. The 21st century version of Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon, on a city corner near you. Read more…

Creative Justice

For two intensive weeks that covered 40 hours of class time, students in Piper Anderson’s “Creative Justice” class read materials on the criminal justice system and the transformative justice movement, conducted interviews with people about their views on policing, and worked together to lay out how a community arts project might intervene in the issues. They came up with fundamental questions to ask themselves and others: Read more…

What Did We Do?

The final class of “Arts and Social Engagement” included group presentations of a diorama of an exhibit about advertisements, a multi-case investigation of the intertwining of art and politics, and a proposal for changes to the new University Center to highlight more art and expression from students (which we started off in class, above). The occasion of the ending of the class invites the question: what did we do?
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Rappin’ on Education

Rather than talk about Creative Arts Therapy in my class in Arts and Social Engagement, we did some. We decided on a social problem to tackle in a rap song, and the overwhelming choice was education. (I was worried.)

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The First Day: Two Truths and a Lie

I have eaten at a diner in all 50 states; I helped start a company; I have jumped out of plane. Two truths and a lie: it’s a common “icebreaker,” an informal game used to create connections and foster familiarity. In this one, a person comes up with two truths and a lie about herself and the group has to figure out which one is the lie. Read more…

Aims of Education

Convocation address, The New School, September 2009.

I am on my fourth career. I think it’s going pretty well, but I’m not ruling out a fifth, or a sixth. I got started on careers early. As family lore has it, I told my parents at age three that I wanted to take ballet classes. A random class at the YMCA around the corner became five times per week with multiple performances by age ten. At fourteen, I was auditioning for the prestigious summer program of the New York City Ballet. This entailed hiding my mother who barely topped five feet to maintain the illusion that I might just reach the short end of the range of a City Ballet dancer at five feet four inches. (I continue to live in hope.) I graduated from high school at sixteen with the intention of never going to college. After a woeful year at Cleveland Ballet, I landed at a small liberal arts college, hours from a major city or any ballet company. I told my parents that I was just going to see how the year went, that I might return to the world of dance. Instead, I never brought up the prospect of leaving college again. Read more…

Democratizing the Archives

Co-authored with Claire Potter

What’s in an archive? This was the question that brought Claire Potter’s class, “New York Activists and Their Worlds, 1968-2000,” to the Manuscripts and Archives Division at the New York Public Library (NYPL) on February 19 for the first of several workshops. After a few lessons on how to behave—checking our coats, washing our hands, and keeping things in order—Thomas Lannon, Assistant Curator, began to dip into boxes. During this first workshop, students were able to view a photo album of gay writer and activist David Feinberg. Preserved for their enduring value, photos in the album are as Feinberg left them, unlabeled and undated. The class also looked at clips of ACT-UP oral histories, and learned how to navigate the Library’s finding aids as guides to additional archival collections. Read more…

A New School Minute (or Two)

For Alumni Day on May 11, 2013, the Alumni Office asked twenty faculty and staff to give a 60-second lecture. Tasked with the topic of “New School History,” it was quite a challenge! The results are available here. I started off with a longer version that better encapsulates my theme — I hope we’re still a school rather than just a university. Here is that longer version. Read more…

Arts and Social Engagement

A poem can change the world. Or just one person’s life. What explains the connection between an artwork and an individual, a wider public, a world? This course serves as an introduction to a pathway of courses that investigate this question by examining the variety of ways in which the arts make and meet people.

Read the syllabus here.

Art + City

Cities are hubs of artistic activity. People are drawn to cities because of their artistic offerings and they are the place where the majority of artists live and work. But how and why did this intertwining of art and cities come about? And what effects has it had on cities and on the arts? This course investigates the art of urban life (such as the development of bohemia); genres of art that arose in and of the city (photography, the Broadway musical, hip hop); spaces of the city that become identified as an arts enclave (SoHo, “museum mile”); and the municipal policy and politics that both support and confound the arts in cities (public art). We read first-hand and historical accounts of artists in the city and analyze artworks for their portrayals of the ties between urban life and artistic vision.

Read the syllabus here.

New York City: Past Present Future

New York City exists as a physical and imaginary place, both a dense concrete maze and a blowzy personality. This course examines the many contours of this phenomenon by looking at the city across time; we explore specific historical moments for the intertwining force of politics, economics, social struggles, and artistic and cultural flowering, and consider those dynamics in planning for the future.

Read the syllabus here.

U.S. History in 13 Acts

Most of us learn a straightforward narrative of the history of the United States that begins with the arrival of colonizers from Europe and ends with the current presidency, presented with a coherence that obscures the messiness and contradictions experienced by the historical actors. This cohesive story omits consideration of possibilities that could have led to very different outcomes and also the contested interpretations of what happened and what it means. This survey course offers an alternative approach to U.S. history by organizing the subject into 13 “acts” and investigating each in depth.

Read the syllabus here.

Who New? A History of The New School

In 1919, the New School for Social Research opened with courses in the social sciences, social work, and public affairs. The school was not quite a university: it did not offer formal degrees. The founders thought that people would come to the school for “no other purpose than to learn.” It sought to make education relevant to the issues of the day, to remain ever new. In this course we look at what ideas defined learning here, from psychology and the arts to politics and design.

Read the syllabus here.