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Letter from Otis

Letter from the Editor

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Otis College campus by Keegan I. Holden

Photo by Keegan I. Holden

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Since launching Grid at Otis College last fall, there has been so much more change and growth than there already had been at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic over a year ago. This throughline of adapting to the times can be found in many of this issue’s stories. 

Virtual Annual Exhibition, a celebration of our graduating BFA and MFA students’ work, has again been planned as a completely online event this year due to continuing public health guidance around the pandemic. I interviewed the chairs and assistant chairs from Otis’s undergraduate and graduate programs to find out what they and the students have spent the past academic year preparing for the end-of-year event. The response was overwhelmingly about how they all have approached the physical limitations as opportunities. Students have created culminating work that shows a full breadth of creativity and enterprise that will have prepared them well for life in a post-pandemic art and design world. You can read more about the faculty and students’ plans, and see some early glimpses of the work that will populate the Virtual Annual Exhibition website after May 11 here.

Some Otis College students already are getting a taste of that working experience through the Otis Design Lab, which was recently launched as a real-world creative agency in which students work as paid interns on a number of projects with internal and external clients, such as a nonprofit organization and a furniture manufacturer. Read all about the pilot projects the seven-member Otis Design Lab team worked on here. “As students, we know what is supposed to await us when we start working in the industry, but to get a glimpse of that while working at Design Lab has been a blessing,” says Product Design senior C.J. Sierra. 

There are five new Alumnx Spotlights to delve into, including new work by Kohshin Finley (’12 BFA Communication Arts); Catherine Hernandez (’13 BFA Architecture/Landscape/Interiors); Lanise Howard (’20 BFA Fine Arts); Bao Tranchi (’99 BFA Fashion Design); and Alexandria Wallace (’20 MFA Fine Arts). See their Spotlights here

As we near the end of the 2020-2021 academic year, it’s also been a time for reflection. Two articles in particular shed light on the legacies of two stellar faculty members. For The Otis Interview in this issue, Assistant Professor Emma Kemp spoke with retiring Foundation chair Linda Hudson about her start as an artist and maker, as well as how she found herself teaching at Otis, including helping to launch the Creative Practice course. “I learned in Creative Practice that teaching is about setting up this space for things to happen that you do not own; you are there as a provocateur and a witness to the students’ brilliance,” Hudson tells Kemp. You can read their exchange here

Writer Lynell George also reflects on what we can learn today from the legacy of artist and transformational faculty member Charles White, who taught at Otis from 1964 until his death in 1979. “He gave his students tools—those to approach their work mechanically, and a way to approach the world mindfully, much of it rooted in a way to travel a landscape that was not often easily navigable or kind,” Lynell writes in her essay, which you can read in full here. We are especially indebted to White’s son, Ian White, who, on behalf of the Charles White Archives Inc., gave us permission to include such iconic White works as Five Great American Negroes (1939) and Prophet I (1975) in George’s piece. 

This issue also marks the debut of a new Faculty Notes section to go along with Class Notes. Please take a moment to share in and celebrate the work of our vibrant community of faculty and alumnx. If you’d like to send an update for the Fall 2021 issue of Grid at Otis College, please use this form if you’re a faculty member, and this form if you’re an alumnx. (And if you’re both, pick a form!) 

Thank you for spending time with this recent issue of Grid. We hope you enjoy it and, of course, welcome any feedback you may have at communications@otis.edu.

Anna Raya, Editorial Director