January 19, 2021
Dear Pratt Community,
As we return to our course work and studios for the spring semester, on the day before the Inauguration of the 46th President of the United States, and following weeks of unsettling events around our nation that are ongoing, I’m reminded of the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose memorial we marked yesterday, “the ultimate measure” of a person is not where one stands “in moments of comfort and convenience,” but where one stands “at times of challenge and controversy.”
This year has certainly been a time of challenge and controversy, and I commend all of you for how you’ve navigated difficulties and what you’ve accomplished through them. I know that it hasn’t been easy, and I’m deeply aware that this new semester is beginning during another set of very stressful days. Nevertheless, I trust that we are prepared for them.
We’ve learned, time and again, that even through the complexities of this year, our daily lives continue, even as they are impacted by the events and conditions around us. Engaging with our everyday challenges, anchored inextricably with the greater historical context, is how we construct a better future.
Over the past year, our students and faculty went beyond the limits of remote learning by developing proficiencies over foundational technologies that have expanded creative potential, fostered collaboration, and extended access and community. These same demands are forcing many industries and professional fields to change faster and more unpredictably than ever. The ways in which we are learning now are preparing our students and faculty to lead, to ask questions, to invite in more communities, to look at issues, and to cross disciplines to solve the most daunting problems of the coming years.
Our community continues valiantly to share its invention and inspired work, with intellectual and empathetic generosity inside and outside of the Pratt landscape. Members of the Pratt community who live in or have spent time around the Clinton Hill area of our Brooklyn campus since the spring participated in the creative resilience of the neighborhood as it came together, allowing our neighbors’ lives to inform their work and give them hope in a year of uncertainty. This Thursday, artists Brett Cook and Shaun Leonardo will lead Pratt’s virtual Martin Luther King, Jr. Legacy event on community resilience and the role artists and educators play to help communities adapt and recover from adversity.
Leading up to the US presidential election in the fall, our students, faculty, staff, and alumni also found creative ways to help get out the vote and rethink how elections could be more inclusive and accessible. From reimagining voting in an age of social distancing to writing postcards to voters in key areas, our community engaged in this pivotal moment.
In August, the Board of Trustees established a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee, as part of Pratt’s continued commitment to raising our shared consciousness and eradicating racism and injustice through our curriculum, outreach, and mission. Chaired by Trustee Kathryn Chenault, the DEI Committee will provide feedback and guidance to the Board and Pratt’s senior administration.
As a school anchored in designing environments, we are only too aware of the significance of space, proximity, and engagement. For now, we must remain physically distanced both on and off the campus. Through the fall semester our public safety, health, and facilities staff, as well as shop and tech assistants, successfully ensured our campus remained a safe place for in-person learning and making. This semester, together with the residential life and student affairs staff, we are welcoming a cohort of students back to one of our residence halls safely. These same staff members are working closely with faculty and leadership to ensure all students are supported and kept safe.
As Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Helen Matusow-Ayres encouraged in her note to the students last week, rely on one another, students, faculty and staff, as we launch this semester, and once again, we will accomplish extraordinary things together.