The Fruits of Diversity
Adele Naude Santos, Dean MIT School of Architecture and Planning; Elliot Bostwick Davis, John Moors Cabot Chair of the Art of the Americas Department at the Museum of Fine Arts; Donal Fox, Artist, Music and Theater Arts Section; MLK Visiting Scholar, MIT; Walter Hood, Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning, University of California
Description: In a panel that offers a bounty of visual and aural pleasures, a museum curator and two artists describe how their work "dissolves boundaries," in the words of moderator Adele Naude Santos, often "leading to new frontiers."
When she joined Boston's Museum of Fine Arts in 2001, Elliot Bostwick Davis faced the unique challenge of developing a new wing devoted to art of the Americas. This meant not just designing a space, but figuring out ways of presenting beloved, old masterpieces along with thousands of new works from ancient to modern times, for a new interpretation of American art.
Stepping through a rich slide show, Davis recounts how she broke with Museum convention of grouping media together (Boston furniture, American silver), and created a space where visitors travel through time, from ground floor levels and first millennium artwork, to top floors and contemporary art from North, Central and South America. Davis aimed to demonstrate innovation from different periods, weaving together "strands of art" in a way that might capture the attention of a museum"goer, who typically "spends less than 30 seconds looking at any object."
Walter Hood credits the first generation of African"American landscape architects who had the "burden of representing their race," for giving him "the freedom to improvise." In a range of settings, Hood has set out to "reshape the old and familiar into something new." In Macon, Georgia, for instance, in a neighborhood "polarized between blacks and whites," Hood placed cotton bales in a parking lot with a clear view of a Daughters of the Confederacy obelisk. He helped restore a long"fallow Oakland, California museum, evoking the area's vegetable cannery history by placing giant spinach tins in the lobby. Hood juxtaposed past and present, "creating a new aesthetic," in a Pittsburgh hill district once the center of the African"American community but "wiped clean for a new hockey arena." He created a series of rain gardens in the shadow of the stadium, decorated with images collected by longtime residents, and flooded with African"American songs about rain, so people could "commemorate a community that was wiped out."
Donal Fox learned Bach's Invention in D Minor as a six year old, but his musical aptitude and appetite range well beyond the classical tradition, to Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, and the rich rhythms of African and Latin American music. Fox points to a formative, early experience: a "memory slip" during a childhood performance where he felt a strong urge to cover the gap with something he made up. Fox transformed this episode, he says, into a new way of making music _ improvisation that springboards off great composers. Fox gives a lesson in this method, playing Bach and showing how he riffs with motifs and rhythms. "Those harmonies are embedded in Bach," he says. "He knew they were there, and he emailed me to tell me how to find them." Fox invites a bassist and drummer on stage for a finale demonstrating how to transform "something old into something new."
About the Speaker(s): Ad le Naud_ Santos was previously professor at the University of California, Berkeley, College of Environmental Design where her academic focus was the design of housing environments. Her interdisciplinary courses in urban design encouraged architecture, landscape, and urban design students to collaborate and address unsolved problems in the urban environment.
Before Berkeley, she was the founding dean at the University of California at San Diego School of Architecture and professor of architecture and urban design at the University of Pennsylvania where she was also chair of the architecture department for six years. She also taught at Harvard University Graduate School of Design and at Rice University. She has had numerous visiting appointments through out the United States and the world, including Italy and in her native South Africa.
Santos holds an AA Diploma from the Architectural Association in London. She also received a Master of Architecture in Urban Design from Harvard University as well as a Master of Architecture and a Master of City Planning from the University of Pennsylvania.
In addition to her academic work, she is principal architect in the San Francisco"based firm, Santos Prescott and Associates. Santos has received numerous awards and honors including being named Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1996. She has won numerous competitions for projects including the Perris Civic Center (CA), three facilities at Arts Park (CA), the Affordable Prototypical Multi"Family Housing for Franklin/LaBrea in Los Angeles, and Penn Children's Center (PA).
Host(s): Office of the President, MIT150 Inventional Wisdom
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