CCAD alum is a Forbes “30 Under 30” (and so much more)
Who gives Forbes (and everyone else) “reason to hope?” Columbus College of Art & Design graduate Cameron Granger (Cinematic Arts, 2016) and the other young entrepreneurs represented in the Forbes “30 under 30” for 2021.
Granger is part of an impressive list of gifted and driven North American entrepreneurs, activists, scientists, entertainers, and creative thinkers under age 30 who are represented in the list. Trailblazers, says Forbes, who “are proof positive that ambition and innovation can’t be quarantined.”
In the short few years since graduating from CCAD, Granger has racked up no small amount of notable accomplishments, including being named to the named to the renowned Studio Museum in Harlem Artists in Residence program, curating a short film program at the internationally acclaimed Wexner Center for the Arts, having one of his video works acquired by the Columbus Museum of Art, and working on a COVID–19 mask–wearing campaign—along with Tosha Stimage (Fine Arts, 2011)—for the Bay Area Rapid Transit system in California. Granger’s work has traveled around the world to such places as India and Finland, and Granger himself has lectured at such institutions as Oberlin College; University of Illinois, Chicago; and California Institute of the Arts. He is the Fall 2021 Columbus Creative in Residence at Denison University.
We recently spoke with Granger about his time at CCAD and his artistic practice. Read what he said:
On making Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list
Granger received an email in fall 2020 alerting him that he’d been nominated for the recognition. He submitted the information they’d requested and then didn’t hear anything for months. “I figured I didn’t get it. And then the day they were announcing, I saw a notification on Twitter. And then I looked through the list, and was like, ‘hey, that’s me!’ It feels good to be recognized, but honestly it was a thing that really came and went,” he says. “I don’t know if it really changed anything in my career, but it was really more of an affirmation that I’m on the right track, there are eyes on me.
“Lists are lists. I think what really felt good about it was the folks that shared it and celebrated it. That kind of love felt really good. It felt way better than the list itself,” he says.
On life–changing connections at CCAD and in Columbus
CCAD could be a challenging place, Granger recalls, but his friends and select people—staff, faculty, and alumni—helped him make it through. His advice for students who might be experiencing similar struggles? “Look for the people who look like home,” he says, “and when you find those people, everything else will click together. You might not find those people in your dorm or in your class year, but you’ll find them.”
Granger experienced another transformative moment around the end of his sophomore year at CCAD, when he connected with MINT Collective, a now–defunct group of young artists working and exhibiting in Columbus. “I got to meet so many people working outside of institutions and I began to understand how big art could be, that it’s not you as an individual artist,” he says.
The Cleveland native has found a home in Columbus, which he left in 2019 and returned to in 2020. The city has its flaws, particularly in terms of its government and policing, but “the community and the people are unlike any other place, and I don’t plan on moving out of Columbus any time soon,” Granger says. “ … I feel like I’ve become the human, the man, the artist I am because of the people here.”
On building community through creative work
Granger is a prolific artist, whose recent work also includes The Get Free Telethon, a 24-hour livestream telethon sponsored by Red Bull Arts that raised funds to support Ohio grassroots organizations—the Black Queer Intersectional Collective, Columbus Freedom Coalition, and Healing Broken Circles. He created a community library that made its way to Ikattha House in Bombay, India, and he also co-produced Pearl at Ctrl+Shft in Oakland with his mother, Sandra.
“Art–making can be such an isolating thing,” says Granger. “It’s easy to be the artist in the studio, not really interfacing with anything else but the thing you’re making work about, and using whatever you’re looking at as an extractable resource. But … I want to make sure I’m not just taking from my community, but pouring back into it.”
Granger, whose work has focused on such issues as vulnerability and resistance, police violence, Black migration and neighborhoods sees the power of art to effect change. As part of that, he uses his social media presence to amplify requests for help, from friends seeking gender confirmation surgery to paying the rent, intermixing links to fine art exhibitions with those highlighting systemic injustices. “I don’t think me, as one individual, can change the world, but the art gives me access to step into places and use my position to include people in and support people who I think can change the world,” he says.
On his artist residencies and having work in museums
The art world isn’t always a welcoming place for a young Black person. Gallery spaces and museums “can be off-putting or oppressive, especially if you look like me. I don’t look like the typical white art-goer,” he says. “But those spaces are for us, too.”
There’s no doubt Granger is making his mark on those spaces. Most recently, in October 2021, he and fellow artist, friend, and CCAD alum Jacob Mason-Macklin (Fine Arts, 2017) were named to the prestigious Studio Museum in Harlem Artists in Residence program for 2021–2022. (Read Artforum’s coverage right here.) Also in October, Granger co-curated the group show Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See, a group show that included Tyler Davis (Fine Arts, 2018) that came as part of the Flux Factory Rhizome Project, which gives a platform to Black voices and stories. Granger also has a presence online as the DJ for Prime Delicatessen, a show on Verge.fm, a station founded by Reg Zehner (Studio Art with an Emphasis in the History of Art & Visual Culture, 2020).
And residencies, such as ones at Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture and ACRE, in Wisconsin have contributed to Granger's creative growth and to building meaningful connections. “It was the people at those residencies, they were the ones who were speaking my names in the rooms I wasn’t in,” Granger says.
Granger’s impressive CV also includes having one of his works, This Must Be the Place, acquired by the Columbus Museum of Art in 2020. And in fall 2020, he brought his thoughtful art–and community–making to Columbus’ Wexner Center for the Arts to curate the microcinema Free Space, to present the short film program Everybody’s got a little light, under the sun, and to partner with vegan soul food eatery Willowbeez Soulveg to pass out groceries—100 grocery kits in all—in the community and provide a video tutorial of Malik Willoughby of Willowbeez giving instructions on how to make kale pesto.
Granger returned to the Wex in spring 2021 as a panelist for the center’s annual Director’s Dialogue on public health, safety, and the arts. He hopes that his presence in these established art world spaces will help build bridges between the institutions and people in the community.
“Now I see the value in what I’m producing, what I’ve put in the world—and other places are seeing it as well,” he says. “I feel like I’m constantly stepping in-between worlds … but I feel like I have to do this, so that I can open the door for more people who look like me.”
Discover more about Cameron Granger on his website, see his video work on Vimeo, or follow him on Instagram. Read more about his “small joys” in this WOSU Public Media podcast conversation with writer, editor, Columbus resident, and MacArthur Genius Hanif Abdurraqib.
Headshot is a self portrait.
Credit for the first (image grid): All The Things I Ever Learned (2019), Photo: Luke Stetner
Credit for second one: The Line (still), courtesy of the artist