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2020 Media Design Cohort Partners

October 22, 2020

Dunamis(above), Brain Arts Org(left), & The Message(right)

Each year, Media Design graduate students at Emerson college come together and partner with groups in the city of Boston to create and design technologies that benefit the community. This year, however, it’s a little different. The pandemic has changed how the program is operating on a day to day basis, but it certainly hasn’t stopped it. In a sense, it’s simply provided another “design challenge” for the cohort to work around. This 2020 partners for this year are as follows; Brain Arts Org, Dunamis, and The Message. We reached out with a few questions to find out more about them and also discussed life under COVID-19.

Brain Arts Org

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your organization and how you go about your daily operations?

A big part of our programming was hosting live events in our black box theater space at the Dorchester Art Project. Since Covid, we have converted the theater into a live stream studio and photo/video shooting space. Although it has been successful, it is much less popular than our regular theater rental program. We also had to discontinue our regular bi-monthly Brain Arts Market, which was a big event for us happening in Cambridge at the Cambridge Community Center. Since that event used to bring out 1000+ visitors, we are postponing it until further notice.

Are there any current projects that you’re working on that you’d like to share?

Our biggest project right now is our expansion into the space downstairs from us, which has been vacant since we moved into our upstairs space. (You can read more about it here and here.) We have also been providing sound and logistical support for many of the Black Lives Matter protests and events happening these days.

What’s your favorite part about working with the communities that you’re involved in?

My favorite part about working with the creative community here in Boston is when people realize that they can take ownership of certain parts of our organization and make it their own. When someone realizes that they can empower themselves through one of our platforms, whether it be a space at Dorchester Art Project, or the Boston Compass newspaper, that makes me feel super validated. We strive to always stay adaptable to the needs of our community, so that we can always be growing and building together.

Dunamis

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your organization and how you go about your daily operations?

The first, most obvious, and most common effect was shutting down all of our in-person programs. We transitioned our Arts Management Apprenticeship to be a completely online experience, and all of our Young Artist Mixer Series events became virtual. We’ve also decided to not establish a new cohort of artists for our Emerging Artist Fellowship, and rather continue the work that was interrupted with our previous cohort.

Are there any current projects that you’re working on that you’d like to share?

We are currently revamping our Emerging Artist Fellowship and serving as the Program Coordinator for the 2020–2021 Live Arts Boston cohort. We’re working with 60 artists across the Boston area to design workshops, develop programs, and produce events that educate, support, uplift, connect and amplify them and their work.

What’s your favorite part about working with the communities that you’re involved in?

Artists and Arts-Managers are creative, resilient and in our opinion, make life worth living. While it’s difficult to watch them struggle in a system that actively ignores and devalues them, while also consuming their work in a deeply spiritual and human way, helping creatives get a clearer sense of identity and grow and develop before our eyes is a powerful part of our experience.

The Message

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your organization and how you go about your daily operations?

Our main program, Message Academy, primarily exists as a residency for middle and high schools. The impact of COVID-19 on schools definitely has a ripple effect on any/all K-12 school-facing work, and ours is no different in that regard. With a reduced class load, this season has been one of future mapping and preparation.

Are there any current projects that you’re working on that you’d like to share?

I’m working on a book and will be releasing my first hip-hop [album] in 10 years this fall.

What’s your favorite part about working with the communities that you’re involved in?

My favorite part of working with communities I’m involved in is community building in-and-of itself. I really enjoy connecting with youth, and the adults who care for them, providing solutions and being a resource. As someone who started in music, I consider it a blessing to still be able to hold my artist identity in the spaces I work just as much as any other aspect of my identity.

Though “keeping distance” is a high priority to keep everyone safe throughout the pandemic, it hasn’t stopped any of these groups from being connected to continue their community goals. Helping artists realize their agency and take control of their own art is a common theme that they all share, and despite it being virtual, they’re still able to provide a space for artists during these times. The Engagement Lab’s mission has always been about connection and community building. Despite partnerships and groupwork being socially-distanced currently, community collaboration and innovation are still operating as usual.

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