The inaugural Gordon Parks Dialogues – a symposium created in collaboration with NYU Tisch School of the Arts and Pratt Institute School of Art – is aimed at helping young people to, in the vein of Gordon Parks, explore social justice themes and the world around them through an artistic lens. The full-day event took place on Saturday, October 28, 2017 from 8:30am to 1:00pm at Pratt Institute’s Brooklyn campus, and included panel presentations by Gordon Parks Foundation Scholarship Recipients from five academic institutions including Fashion Institute of Technology/SUNY, Harlem School of the Arts, NYU Tisch, Pratt Institute, Purchase College/SUNY, and Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation. Fourteen students and alumni presented topics in their creative work inspired by Gordon Parks’ famous assertion that he used his camera as “a weapon of choice” to contest racial injustice. Their presentations explored a range of social justice related themes including racism, sexism, the visibility and rights of the LGBTQI community, the social life of children of incarcerated mothers, and surveillance in public space.
“Since 2009, the Gordon Parks Foundation has partnered with renowned arts institutions to support promising and talented young people in their further exploration of the arts, so we are thrilled to partner again with NYU Tisch and with our new partners at Pratt Institute to bring these young people together to explore such important themes through the lens of the arts with the Gordon Parks Dialogues,” said Peter W. Kunhardt, Jr., Executive Director of The Gordon Parks Foundation. “Through this symposium, our hope is to continue the scholarship program’s ongoing legacy of working to change the world by engaging issues regarding social injustice with fresh eyes.”
Following each school’s presentation, 2017 Gordon Parks Foundation Fellows Devin Allen and Harriet Dedman spoke about the influence of social justice themes on their photographic work. The program concluded with a discussion led by Dr. Deborah Willis, Chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at NYU Tisch, and Stephen Hilger, Chair of the Photography Department at Pratt Institute, in response to the themes presented earlier in the day. “Gordon Parks provided the model for a poignant interaction between the arts and social justice,” said Stephen Hilger. “The Foundation has enabled and encouraged young artists working in this tradition and the Dialogues provides these emerging artists an opportunity to share their work with a greater artistic community and to forge a deeper understanding of their collective vision for a better society.”