11.5.21 | Dear Students: Embracing the "Culture of Critique" to turn reflection into action

Dear Students,

This fall, I’ve spent a fair amount of time walking around CCAD, introducing new people to the college and simply reveling in the joy of having you all back on campus. 

My favorite moments are when I catch a critique in progress—now, I understand for some of you that might sound strange. Critiques are not everyone’s favorite things. But, for me, it’s the essence of an art and design education. 

During a critique, you are putting your work out there for everyone to see. You are making a case, you’re absorbing feedback, spending time in self-reflection, discerning the right next steps for you, and then jumping right back into your work. Though it may not seem like it in the moment, the iterative nature of critique and the creative process are magical! 

I’ve been thinking about all this lately, because the humility needed to truly hear feedback, the ability to be self-reflective, and the willingness to iterate on one’s work—all of the things at the core of our culture of critique—are all crucial not just to personal creative work but to institutional work as well.

I expect CCAD to always be a learning organization comfortable in a culture of critique. This is the only way we’ll grow as an institution, and it’s what we owe you, our students.

And, so, it is in this spirit of self-reflection and not shying away from our culture of critique that I write to you today to share some of the ways we are engaging in critical actions to assess and strengthen our culture, curriculum, and practices. 

This work is the responsibility of everyone, but it is primarily being led by the President’s Commission on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion convened in July of 2020, with an Action Plan designed to help our community grow with intention into a more inclusive and equitable institution. At present, this work includes the following:

  • Curriculum Audit. With the help of external experts, this spring CCAD will conduct a curriculum audit that will comprehensively review all courses to determine where and how we teach about issues of diversity and equity such as: cultural appropriation, intersectionality, and systems of power and privilege. In short, we want to ensure that we’re preparing each of you to be inclusive leaders and culturally competent designers and artists who will help drive positive change in our communities.
  • New Courses Development. Even as we conduct the audit, Provost Julie Taggart and our excellent faculty continue to evolve the curriculum by developing new courses that are designed to increase your capacity to make work that is both aesthetically strong and culturally aware. In spring, some of these courses include The Culture and History of Hip Hop (LIBA 3676) and Cross Cultural Communication (LIBA 3681). Additional courses are in development, such as one focused on Cultural Diversity & Critical Creative Practice that will be piloted in Fall 2022. 

As a community, we all have a role to play. So I ask you to contribute by taking some actions of your own.

  • Attend. I invited Dr. Dori Tunstall, dean of design at Ontario College of Art and Design University in Toronto, to speak virtually on Thursday, Nov. 11, at 6:30 p.m. about decolonizing design education. As the first Black person to be dean of a faculty of design anywhere in the world, she’s a powerful speaker who can help us all purposefully examine which voices and perspectives we prioritize in our lives and practice. The event is free but registration is required. I hope you will join us.
  • Take the Survey. On Monday morning you received a link to the Diversity & Equity Climate Survey in your CCAD inboxes. This anonymous survey will assess the experiences of the entire community. It will encourage us to honestly answer tough questions. Do we truly practice intentional inclusivity as a community? How can we practice it better? In order for us to pave a way forward, we need an accurate and honest understanding of where we are now. Your voice is a very important contribution to this assessment. Please take the brief survey by Monday, Nov. 15. 

Thank you for being part of our community. As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out and share what’s on your mind.

With gratitude on this sunny Friday afternoon,