Posted on Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Pratt 2020: A Year of Challenge and Change

A year unlike any other, 2020 has transformed the world and brought people closer to their communities more than ever. As the year draws to a close, Pratt takes a look at how our community transformed—how we came together, reached out, innovated, and imagined a new way forward.

The year began in familiar Pratt fashion.

We came together to expand our perspective.

Collaborating on experiments with new tech. Investigating visibility with Black Lives Matter. Illuminating the legacy of women educators at the Institute.

Students explore VR technology in BetaSpace, a pop-up zone for technology play installed in DeKalb Gallery at the beginning of the year. Photo courtesy of BetaSpace
“The more students can learn about what other departments are exploring, the more they recognize the same problem-solving and curiosity as they experience in their own practices.”
—Harriet Salmon, Fine Arts Operations Manager in the School of Art, BetaSpace organizer

We created new spaces for discovery and research.

The new Foundations Lab, with contents accessible both physically and digitally, opened in February 2020. Photo by Armon Burton, MSIXD ’20

We saw our practice touch the world.

Creating a prize for social impact. Elevating unsung artists. Collaging magic for Black Artstory Month. Designing for protection in a storm. Using reclaimed materials to address the global waste crisis. Honing creative industry skills while supporting NYC businesses.

Nala Turner, MPS Art Therapy and Creativity Development ’20 (left), and Imani Shanklin Roberts, BFA/MS Art and Design Education ’14, collaborated to design the Town Hall’s inaugural Lena Horne Prize for Artists Creating Social Impact. Photo courtesy of the artists

We kept up our winning streak.

Pratt’s men’s basketball team went undefeated in their fifth matchup versus RISD. Photo by Gabby Fargnoli

When things changed, Pratt people met the moment, with ingenuity, agency, and courage.

“Our faculty, staff, and students are adventurers, thoughtful experimenters, and critical thinkers. Focusing this collective intelligence on the challenge at hand will allow us to make our way not only through this crisis, but into the changed world we will find on the other side.”
—Frances Bronet, President of Pratt Institute (address to the Pratt community, March 20, 2020)

We reached out to our neighbors.

Donating our surpluses. Bolstering local businesses. Producing PPE on campus and at home—and teaching others how to join the effort.

Dennis Mazone, assistant vice president of campus safety and preparedness, Rethink Food NYC Driver Elijah Inniss, and Pratt Public Safety Tour Supervisor Tyrone Spence facilitating the donation of food from Pratt.
“The community at Pratt has responded with passion and ingenuity to this crisis. There has been an outpouring of expression to help—from students, faculty, and staff.”
—Anita Cooney, Dean of the School of Design

We reached one another in new ways.

Pivoting to remote learning. Expanding the forum of critique. Sharing our research virtually. Joining the mail art movement. Adapting the exhibition experience with AR. Proposing new models for experiencing art in a time of social distancing.

Screenshot of School of Information professor Pamela Pavliscak’s Emotional Design virtual classroom. Courtesy of Pamela Pavliscak

We honored our inspiring community.

Celebrating essential workers. Creating a dynamic hub for Pratt people’s latest projects and actions. And remembering those we have lost this year.

Latisha Harris of Pratt Public Safety, photographed by Visiting Assistant Professor of Photography Andy Todd, who created a photo series last spring highlighting Pratt’s essential workers.

We sent off a phenomenal graduating class.

Reimagining Pratt Shows and Commencement for the bold and resilient class of 2020.

We ushered in the future of Pratt.

Welcoming our newest students, from more than 80 countries and almost every state in the US—including alumni of Pratt Young Scholars. Introducing a fresh course catalog and course search. Looking ahead to new degree opportunities in a cutting-edge field. Naming new leaders in the School of Art and Interior Design.

First-year Pratt student and Pratt Young Scholar graduate Aizen Chen.

We pushed for progress toward justice.

Condemning injustice, discrimination, and racism and providing resources for anti-racism work. Connecting with . . . our thought leaders on social change. Launching First Gen Pratt. Empowering communities with data for environmental advocacy. Designing for racial, economic, and environmental justice. Celebrating BAP’s 30-year history and vibrant future of advancing Black alumni.

A screengrab that includes a statement from Nsombi B. Ricketts, Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion that reads, We must seize this moment in history to fight injustice, renew our commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and make the investments and policy changes needed to become a better Pratt for all of our community members.
“Our current system—what people call ‘the market’—is entirely invented, and there is no reason why we can’t invent another system that serves our planet and its people better.”
—Meredith TenHoor, Professor of Architecture

We redesigned our fall semester with technology for connection.

80 percent of courses online, 20 percent hybrid. 1,865 fully online course sections. 476 hybrid course sections. 2,833 Pratt students studying entirely online. 484 students taking one hybrid course, and 866 students taking more than one hybrid course. With innovative use of technology, faculty made the hybrid and online classroom a community space for students around the world.

Katherine Huala, assistant professor of art and design education, created a dynamic virtual classroom, using a multi-camera setup with several monitors to offer picture-in-picture instruction to drawing students. Photo courtesy of Katherine Huala

We came back strong.

Partnering across campus and with industry experts to reopen safely for the fall semester. Keeping our community informed and responsive to change. Bringing nourishment to campus. Anticipating campus enhancements in the not-so-distant future.

Screening before entering the Brooklyn campus. Photo by Christopher Ruggeri

We embraced new modes of working and collaborating.

Accelerating teaching and learning advancements already underway. Reenvisioning Foundation year. Debuting new tools and ways of using technology to make creative practice accessible. Forging networks to think creatively about careers.

A frame from a 360-degree digital experience designed by Alejandra Sanchez Tata and Susana Chinchilla, both BArch ’20, that was part of their digital thesis presentation for Michele Gorman and Adam Elstein’s Architecture and Magic studio.
“This is a generative time for Pratt, and the work we’re doing now ensures not only our success in this moment, but our ability to keep growing and changing over time.”
—Donna Heiland, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs

We created new pathways to help our students thrive.

Making space for movement together outdoors and at home. Sharing resilience resources. Guiding moments of pause and reflection.

Students practice yoga outdoors on Newman Mall on the Brooklyn campus. Photo by Armon Burton, MSIXD ’20

We took stock of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion’s achievements.

Chronicling the past two years of collaborative action to enable all students, faculty, and staff to thrive and publishing Pratt’s first Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Report.

The Pratt Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) team, Student Government Association DEI chair, and Center for Equity and Inclusion Student Workers with 2020 MLK Week Breaking Bread event keynote speaker, in February 2020. Photo by Samuel Herrera, BFA Photography ’20

We announced new student awards and initiatives to spur progress.

Launching scholarships for diversity, within architecture, in art and design, and across the Institute. Raising support for a diverse and equitable Pratt through Legends 2020. Providing tools and materials to first-year foundation, fashion, and architecture students through the Bruce Newman Student Materials Fund. Rallying support for students facing hardship through the Student Emergency Fund.

The Pratt President’s Wallace Augustus Rayfield Scholarships, established to further diversity across Pratt’s undergraduate and graduate programs, are named in honor of one of Pratt’s first Black alumni.

We got out the vote.

Rallying voter awareness. Launching dialogues on art and social action, and promoting civic education. Commemorating 100 years of votes for women and the Pratt people who helped it happen.

VOTE by Rachel Woolfson, BFA Advertising/Art Direction ’22

We saw our home in Brooklyn thrive.

Clinton Hill and its vibrant surrounding neighborhoods have been centers of vitality even in this most difficult of times. Photo by Armon Burton, MSIXD ’20
“Every day you see more and more people learning how to live their lives and make the best out of them.”
—Lara Copaescu, BArch ’22

Do you have your own stories of life at Pratt in 2020? The editorial team would love to hear from you. Please share your stories by emailing editorial@pratt.edu.