Design Impact MN
Event Branding // Melanie Stovall
Photography // Jay Larson, LineBreak Media, Vincent Night, Ubuntu Media, and Amelia Silbert
During my time on the Board of AIGA Minnesota, I used my position to build the type of creative space I always wanted our organization to have. An event where the diversity conversation went beyond pipeline issues, digging deeper into racial disparities and retention issues, giving people an actionable list of things they can do, not talk about, do. Through four lectures, two poster shows, and one panel, the AIGA Minnesota Design Impact Series forced the conversation to change from debating about whether or not POCI work as creatives, to how unfortunate it is that we lack representation when Minnesota is full of so much amazing talent. It’s time to stop talking and Do Somethin’ ‘Bout It.
The Artist Meetup
Garrio Harrison and I hosted an artist meetup, sharing our goals for the poster show. Artists voted between three themes and the chosen idea was identity. The narrative around diversity in design focuses on a lack of people of color in the industry, ignoring the realities of access issues in a divided city. Creating work about race and ethnicity created by artists, designers, and photographers who are people of color became a critique of visibility in design. Our design community could have representation if we really tried, we have the talent here.
The lecture series addressed common rebuttals that surface when talking about featuring artists of color. For instance, the pipeline argument. In most diversity in design conversations, people conclude that we need to mentor youth so they pursue design — which is true, but can we also feature the creatives already in the field? Our speaker lineup Art Buddies, The BrandLab and Juxtaposition Arts who are already mentoring youth in design talked about the combined efforts we all must do to address this from all angles.
JXTA, a nonprofit organization located in North MPLS, staffs over 70 teenagers who get paid to work on client projects in art and design. DeAnna spoke to the need to create access, she talked about how Minneapolis was designed to keep people in certain neighborhoods and gave attendees a list of things they can do to support JXTA; hire the labs and offer studio tours for the youth. “We are the system. Inequality replicates on its own, so changing things requires you and I to do something different.”
Ellen Walthour & Ingrid Sabah
Ellen and Ingrid of The BrandLab, a nonprofit that connects young diverse creatives to agencies, stressed the importance of creating inclusive spaces. In addition to their internship program, the organization does Fearless Conversations that consist of podcasts, events, and workshops like their microaggression training for design firms. While pipeline initiatives matter because you can’t apply for a job if you don’t know it exists, it’s also crucial to have a retention plan so people want to stay once they get in the door. “We can do all this great work but if workplaces aren’t equitable and inclusive, it’s all for not.”
Scott Mikesh is the President & Executive Director of Art Buddies, a creative mentor program for elementary school kids that pairs them with an industry professional to collaborate on a six-week art project. Scott talked about how their work empowers kids to discover their own creativity as a valuable skill when too often, the arts are the first thing to be cut. “Seeing is believing.”
Conversations on making an impact, being aware of racial issues and having empathy can often to be too vague. While they’re great things to talk about, we need more examples of what it looks like. Otherwise, the conversation itself becomes the accomplishment, and that’s not good enough. That’s why we invited Sarah Hrudka to speak on how she used photography to call out prejudice. Her 30 North project challenged the way her friends and family viewed where she lived in North Minneapolis and inspired other white allies to take action, using their talents to do it. “People are just people, and it’s important that we all remind each other of that often.”
We took advantage of our access to AIGA Minnesota’s mailing list and mailed out 1,200+ 18×24 fold-out posters. That matters because AIGA members are industry professionals. They’re people who make hiring decisions and quite possibly hold the belief, or at least say, that our racial disparities are simply because POCI “don’t work” in our field. They can’t say that anymore, we sent pictures of 42 of us to their house. It’s time to answer harder questions, like, “Why is Minnesota so divided?” “Why don’t people know the names of these talented creatives?” and, “What can we all do differently to change this?”
Following the Lecture Series was our poster show featuring work of creatives in Minnesota using illustration, photography, and design to explore themes around race, ethnicity, and identity. Proceeds were split 60/40 between the artists and an organization of their choice, several of which were groups that mentor youth in art and design. The work featured was a testimony to the amount of diverse talent we truly have here in Minnesota, and it was just a small sample of how many people are actually out here creating good work.
Adja Gildersleve | Aleksandra Gurneau | Ashley Fairbanks | Ashley Tuhy | August Foreman | Austin Nash| Ben Currie | Bobby Rogers | Brandon Werth | Cameron Clarkson | Christopher E. Harrison | Chris Cloud | D.A. Bullock | Darren D. Davis | Den-Zell Gilliard | Donald Thomas | Jasmine Creer | Joél Valdez | Jordan Hamilton | Jasvir Jesse Singh | JaVay Barnes | Kimmy Bartle | Kenneth Caldwell | Leslie Barlow | Luis Fitch | Marla Bonner | Marlena Myles | Nicollazzi Xiong | Rachel Avenido | Riché Effinger | Rubens de Mello | Ryan Stopera | Sonya Nayer | Stephanie Chang | Terresa Hardaway | Uriah Sommerville | Violeta Rotstein | Wing Huie | Victoria Vang | Yahya Rushdi
Terresa Hardaway and Austin Nash
Duality | Bobby Rogers
Third Thursday Panel
Our second display of the show was at MIA Third Thursday, featuring a panel moderated by Chris Cloud with me, Adja Gildersleve, Donald Thomas, Terresa Hardaway, and Joél Valdez. Multiple people came up to us after to point out it being the first time they had ever seen an AIGA Minnesota panel made up entirely of people of color.