8 Things I Learned from Organizing My Department’s Antiracist Pedagogy Forums
During the 2021-2022 academic year, I co-organized the monthly meetings of the Antiracist Pedagogy Forum in the Department of Art, Art History and Visual Studies as a graduate assistant, with professors Pedro Lasch, Beverly McIver, and Hannah Jacobs. The monthly forums were funded by the Faculty Advancement Seed Grant. We organized events on critical archival studies; interrogating whiteness in provenance studies at the Nasher Museum of Art; Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in the department; antiracist art-making and teaching in printmaking studio; and sustaining antiracism in the department. At the end of the forum 2022, we initiated a reading group for graduate students of color and launched a new page on the department website called “AAHVS Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiatives.” Here are eight things I learned from planning and organizing the forums.
1. Administrative tasks can inform research and writing.
As an art historian working on contemporary art and artists, I learned about the behind-the-scenes work that is put into events. Setting goals, reaching out to people, and estimating target audience helped to making informed decisions and setting the priorities. After the year of working on the forum, I have a better understanding of how to communicate and formulate interview questions for contemporary artists as researchers, and researchers as artists.
2. Big events can connect us to individual mentors.
The topic of antiracism was challenging for many of us to think and speak about. To get ideas for upcoming forums and feedback on past events, I had one-on-one conversations over coffee with some undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty members. Talking to individuals with specific positionalities and lived experiences helped me build mentoring relationships beyond the classroom and offices through these discussions.
3. People are behind the laptop screen.
While online registration forms can be efficient to administer, I asked everyone to instead send me an RSVP email for registrations. In those messages, I was able to hear about specific situations our department members faced when they wanted to attend the forums, from childcare and health issues during the pandemic to conflicting personal and professional commitments. People who could not participate shared their thoughts in writing about how one forum’s proposed topic could be relevant to broader areas of interest. In this way, we were able to incorporate those questions into the discussion.
4. Having a target audience for each event is helpful and meaningful.
Each forum had a different target audience in mind, thereby enabling the rich breadth of conversations throughout the year. For example, the forum on exhibition and provenance studies at the Nasher Museum of Art had a number of participants interested in museum and curatorial studies. In contrast, the forum on antiracist art-making and teaching at the printmaking studio saw interest from professors of the practice and undergraduate student artists.
5. One idea led to another.
The question of sustainability raised in the February forum in the printmaking studio led to a session on “Sustaining Antiracism in the Department,” with faculty, staff, and graduate students, which then led to the new webpage about departmental DEI initiatives. Everything we plan does not go the exact way we expected, and that is beautiful.
6. Organizing, rather than attending, an event is a different experience.
Taking notes for later circulation, brainstorming questions, and thinking hard about how to deliver descriptions of the event provided me an opportunity to engage with topics and issues more deeply. As an organizer, I aimed to provide an accessible summary to people who could not attend the event. Writing a summary prepared me in the practice of translating deep critiques into accessible language. I was actively listening to the talk in a writer and presenter mindset, rather than only as an audience member.
7. Each event is part of a process that we should keep going.
Throughout the year, one question that we grappled with is sustainability. How do we shift from an event series to a structure that lives in the department and the university? Having the monthly forums about antiracism in and beyond the classroom was helpful in making muscle memory, in making antiracism practices habitual.
8. Teamwork helps the time management, and nothing is ever a one-person job.
The 2021-2022 Antiracist Pedagogy Forums built on the previous year’s conversations in the department: AAHVS & CMAC Graduate Students for Antiracism, Hate and Bias Working Group, Antiracism Task Force, and reading groups. The graduate students in Art, Art History & Visual Studies, and Computational Media, Arts & Cultures helped me clarify the expected roles of the assistantship and met with me to go over the history of antiracism efforts in the department. This year, the teamwork with and advice from professors Hannah Jacobs, Paul Jaskot, Pedro Lasch, and Beverly McIver was very helpful. The departmental staff helped a lot with organizing the events. I thank those who individually shared their thoughts on teaching, writing, researching, and thinking in and beyond classrooms.
Editors’ note: SaeHim Park shared this departmental model in an April 2022 talk titled “Antiracism from within Art History” as part of The Graduate School’s Race and Bias Conversations series.
Ph.D. candidate, Art, Art History and Visual Studies
SaeHim Park is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Art, Art History and Visual Studies. Her dissertation examines institutional rape of Asian women, with a specific focus on imperial violence in Asia-Pacific (1860s-present). She holds graduate certificates in Gender, Sexuality & Feminist Studies, East Asian Studies, Information Science + Studies, and College Teaching. She is a 2021-22 Kenan Graduate Fellow and a 2022 recipient of The Graduate School's Summer Research Fellowship for Research on Racism and Systemic Inequalities.