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2021: A Year of Stories



A great privilege of our work is that we are required to be ever learning and unlearning. 2021 was a year of emergence, perspective shifts and questioning things we had always understood to be stable, whether the government or the grid. We did this unlearning at the side of wise and wonderful folks. As the new year begins, we celebrate and reflect on these stories of our work together. Here’s to 12 more months of new vantage points.


Illustrations by Marisa White

Visit last year’s stories ︎︎︎



 

“This pushed me back to the heart of learning I had lost in my own sea of rigidity: exploration and curiosity.”

JANUARY


Creativity can come in crisis.


Chelsea Voake is Pathways Curriculum Director at Boston Plan for Excellence. She reminded us, in the dark days of COVID winter, that there is space in crisis for change and creativity. In the thick of remote learning and vaccines not yet in arms, we saw Chelsea and her colleagues harness opportunities.

Chelsea’s positivity, openness and generally great energy reminds us that part of our role is to bring that same spirit into our own engagements. Optimism is one of design’s great powers.


The project: We supported Chelsea and Dearborn’s pathways teams in building their senior capstone program. For more on Dearborn’s STEM pathways, click here. 




“I wasn't encouraged to express or bring in aspects of my culture into my work because I was under the notion that all my projects and design explorations had to fit the framework of white supremacy.”

FEBRUARY


Question what it means to practice anti-racist art and design.


Rosa Jiyoon Hyun is a MassArt alumna and UX/Systems Designer who we interviewed about her experience as a BIPOC student and an international student from Korea.

The students and alumni we worked with at MassArt made clear the challenge of learning a craft while simultaneously exploring how one’s own identity or culture may not fit the dominant norms of that craft. Rosa’s interview helped us tap into the harmful limitations of how design is conceived of, learned and practiced.

Rosa and other MassArt alumni made it clear that we, as a design and art community, need to interrogate what inclusive craft and practice can encompass.


The project: We partnered with two departments at MassArt to use a student-led approach to redesign their departmental experiences to center students of color.


 

“I set it up so we can talk comfortably about race, culture and Blackness. This applies to how we talk about craft: like stories having a beginning, middle and end as a Western construct.”

MARCH


Our work requires unlearning.


Theresa Okokon is a writer and storyteller. We worked with her to understand how she teaches writing in ways that facilitate belonging for students of color, push on dominant beliefs about the craft of writing, and normalize people of color in literature.

Theresa’s insights easily crossed disciplines, and her thoughts on writing resonated strongly in our world of design, reminding us that deprogramming our craft and technique expectations takes a conscious unlearning.


The project: In exploring what anti-racist craft means, we went searching in craft universes beyond design. Creative writing was an informative space because people have (go figure) written about the journey towards de-centering Western norms.
Our mission is to use design to reduce structural inequity in America. Agncy is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.  © 2020 Agncy Design Inc.
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