12/18/07

WHO AM I? WHO WANTS TO KNOW?
Moravian College asks identity questions.

Walking through the HUB is something of an existential experience these days, thanks to mysterious questions posted in various locations: Who am I? Who are you? and, coming soon, Who are we? The answers to those deceptively simple queries depend on who’s answering, but the purpose of the questions can now be revealed: they’re an effort to inspire the Moravian community to think about race and identity, in advance of some cultural events planned for early next semester.

From January 10 through February 6, the HUB’s Paty Eiffe gallery will host an exhibit by photographer and photojournalist Steven Shames titled "Facing Race: 21st Century Americans from the Four Corners of the Earth." Shames, who's created award-winning photo essays on social issues like child poverty and youth violence, offers a series of portraits that capture the increasingly multiracial, multicultural face of America. (His foundation for assisting Ugandan children was featured in People magazine earlier this month.) On February 5, Shames will be on campus to give a public lecture (7:00 p.m., Prosser Auditorium, preceded by student presentations at 4:00 p.m. in the UBC room). The theme of race and identity in America will be taken up again on February 6 with the visit of filmmaker Shakti Butler. Her film Mirrors of Privilege: Making Whiteness Visible, which documents the stories of white men and women working to challenge notions of racism, will be screened at 4:00 p.m. in Prosser auditorium. A lecture and dialogue will follow at 7:00 p.m.; the Butler visit is part of the ongoing series on Hate presented by Moravian's Office of Institutional Diversity.

Creating a buzz about the events was a task for the publication design class taught by Kristine Kotsch, adjunct instructor in art at Moravian. "I wanted the class to collaborate on a final project," she says, "and when I heard about the exhibit, I thought that promoting it would be a great opportunity for them." Because the eight-person class was a tightly-knit group of advanced designers, the students worked well together, she says. "Working under the time constraints was the hardest part, but they were able to execute their ideas quickly," she says. Their plan included the question posters as well as promotional stickers and buttons. The class also created an online survey to gather data for a "diversity map" illustrating the ethnic makeup of the Moravian College community; look for the results of that ongoing project (whoareyou.before-reality.net) to be displayed next semester. "The whole point was to pique curiosity and interest," says Kristine. "And my students tell me people have been asking them, 'What the heck is this? What does this mean?'"