Columbia College represents at 2014 Whitney Biennial

By Anthony Filomena

Stephen Lacy, adjunct faculty member in Cinema Art + Science, Dawoud Bey, professor in Photography, Marc Fischer, Art + Design adjunct and Taisha Paggett, Dance lecturer, secured four of the 103 coveted spots in the 2014 Whitney Biennial. The Biennial, now in its 77th year, runs Mar. 7 – May 25 in New York City. Stephen Lacy

stephen_lacy_no_jetsLacy, who presents his work under the name Academy Records, was contacted by the Whitney early on in the process. He was asked to consider how he might incorporate the work of Chicago/Indiana artist Matt Hanner. Hanner, a Columbia College alumnus, passed away in 2011. Lacy chose one of Hanner’s audio works, No Jets, which was a response to the government’s grounding of all air traffic immediately following the World Trade Center attacks. The short 16mm subject The Bower is Lacy’s response to it.

“As I explored Matt’s archive I kept coming back to the resonance of this piece and decided that it would be appropriate to include in this exhibition,” he says.

No Jets became the foundation of Lacy’s installation, “The Spectre,” a multi-component piece that explores notions of absence, presence and loss. The installation includes the 16mm short and audio samplings. Lacy will also create a large-scale wall drawing on site. Dawoud Bey

13797158-largeTwo pairs of photographs from Dawoud Bey: The Birmingham Projectwere selected for the 2014 Whitney Biennial. The Birmingham Project commemorates the 50th anniversary of four girls killed by the bombing at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and two boys killed in separate incidents on Sept. 15, 1963.

“You cannot literally reconstruct the past, but by making photographs of young people in Birmingham who were the same ages of the six African-Americans killed that day, and to suggest both the passage of time and the lives those young people never get to live, it’s a way of layering the past and the present,” Bey told Alabama News in Dec. 2012.

37f815c06e355b66Donna De Salvo, Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Programs at the Whitney, noted of the Biennial: “There is little overlap in the artists they have selected and yet there is common ground. This can be seen in their choice of artists working in interdisciplinary ways, artists working collectively, and artists from a variety of generations. Together, the 103 participants offer one of the broadest and most diverse takes on art in the United States that the Whitney has offered in many years.”

Marc Fischer

Malachi_Grave_HighRes2013Fischer’s involvement, presenting on behalf of Public Collectors, focuses on the life and work of Malachi Ritscher. Ritscher was a Chicago-based documentarian, activist, artist, musician, photographer, hot-pepper-sauce maker, and supporter of experimental and improvised music.

Fischer’s inclusion of Ritscher’s work ties in to the mission statement of Public Collectors. “I want to share something that the public may not know exists and to see the museum lend authority and importance to a life and a creative practice that probably would not receive museum consideration under normal circumstances,” he says.

Fischer’s complete presentation includes borrowing a number of items from the Creative Audio Archive at Experimental Sound Studio in Chicago, including concert posters that belonged to Ritscher, and 8 briefcases he owned that were filled with cassettes and DAT tapes at the time of his death. Fischer will also offer free copies of an essay that he wrote profiling Ritscher’s career success and his personal connection to him.

“This project has been one of the most challenging and emotionally demanding things I have ever worked on. I’m happy to say that it is not something I am doing alone,” said Fischer.

For a complete list of those contributing to the Public Collectors exhibition, visit Public Collectors Tumblr

Taisha Paggett

Vox Populi photo by Brent Wahl 5Paggett’s performance builds on a series of works that she has developed over the past 3 years and is based upon a trans-historical figure that she calls Fila Buster. The work views repetition and time as two, through body and space, and employs those forms as conceptual and choreographic devices.

Fila Buster’s perspective is drawn from a Black American experience and is “the embodiment of a sphere of desires and questions around knowledge, language, our ability to extract practices of liberation from everyday actions and activities and the possibility of unfixing historical narratives as a way of creating new understandings of self and community,” said Paggett.

The Whitney Museum of American Art is the world’s leading museum of twentieth-century and contemporary art of the United States. Focusing particularly on works by living artists, the Whitney is celebrated for presenting important exhibitions and for its renowned collection, which comprises over 19,000 works by more than 2,900 artists.

For more information on the exhibition, visit http://whitney.org/

Images from top: The Bower featured in Stephen Lacy’s “The Spectre” Braxton McKinney and Lavone Thomas, diptych in Dawoud Bey’s “The Birmingham Project” Maxine Adams and Amelia Maxwell, diptych in Dawoud Bey’s “The Birmingham Project” Malachi Ritscher’s Gravestone, Calvary Cemetery, Evanston, Ill., Nov. 3, 2013. Photograph by Marc Fischer. Decomposition as a Whole presented by Taisha Paggett


Senior Frank Waln Empowers Others through Activism, Music

My latest feature story on Columbia College’s senior Frank Waln

May 1, 2014

By Anthony Filomena

Audio Arts & Acoustics senior Frank Waln (photo credit: Melinda Jane Myers Photography)

Audio Arts & Acoustics senior Frank Waln vowed to himself the day he left his home on a South Dakota reservation—where he is a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and identifies as Sicangu Lakota—that he would return one day to help those in his community reach their creative success. In the meantime, Waln’s ongoing activism of bringing the struggles of the Native American community to the forefront have led him to win numerous awards and recognition not only at Columbia College Chicago, but across the city and nation.

“I had to leave my community to find opportunity and success as an artist,” said Waln. “There are kids in my community and in other Indigenous communities that are more talented and smarter than I am who deserve the opportunities and successes that I have experienced.”

Waln came to Chicago to attend Columbia College and was chosen as a One Tribe Scholar, a student ambassador to Columbia College’s community with regard to multiculturalism, inclusion and social justice. Waln has used this platform to bring awareness to Native American student issues to the larger Columbia College community and to build
bridges between Native Americans and underrepresented groups on campus.

“He is tireless in his efforts to raise awareness of Native Americans around the country while remaining a top-notch student,” said Ramona Gupta, coordinator of Asian American Cultural Affairs and advisor of the One Tribe Scholars program. “He embodies the best of Columbia College and its commitment to civic engagement.”

He recently was awarded the 2014 Mayor’s Award for Civic Engagement by the college. The Mayor’s Award for Civic Engagement recognizes a graduating senior who has reached beyond Columbia College’s campus and continues to grow as a leader while making creative uses of his/her talents for meaningful, positive contributions to the welfare, culture and vibrancy of the City of Chicago and its people.

Waln’s work goes beyond the campus by participating in Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) Title VII program, which ensures that each American Indian and Alaska Native child in CPS has equal access to educational opportunities. Waln helps with art-based expression workshops to help students find their own creative voices. He also assists high school seniors in applying for college and finding scholarships.

In addition to his role with CPS, Waln recently marched and performed at the Reject and Protect protest against the Keystone XL Pipeline held in Washington, DC on the National Mall in April. The proposed pipeline route goes through his native tribal lands in South Dakota, which he strongly emphasized that no one in his tribe wants the line as it will endanger the Oglala aquifer, which is their largest source of fresh water.

“With my success and platform comes the responsibility to leave my home a better place than it was when I was growing up,” said Waln.

Beyond his civic duties, Waln’s pursuit of music has garnered him success by creatively using his storytelling talent in combining rap with traditional Native American music. He is an award winning hip-hop artist and producer. PolicyMic.com named him one of seven “First Nation Rappers Crushing Stereotypes of Indigenous People through Music” for speaking out about the Keystone XL pipeline’s effects on Native lands.

Waln’s original song “AbOriginal” cover art

Waln’s original song “AbOriginal” cover art

Furthermore, his music video for his song “AbOriginal” was featured on mtvU in fall of 2013. He won three Native American Music Awards for his solo and group work with hip hop duo Nake Nula Waun. In 2013 he won Indian Country Today Media Network’s Best Native Music award, and Rockwired Radio Music Awards’ Best Male Artist and Best Recording by an American Indian Artist/Band.

Waln also performs and speaks at songwriting workshops in various Indigenous communities throughout the U.S. He has built a track record that includes features in many publications including Colorlines Magazine, Native Sun News, Indian Country Today Media Network, Lakota Country Times, and Winds of Change Magazine.

Follow Frank Waln on social media through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

For more on Frank Waln, visit the Chicago Tribune’s story Native American Rapper Looks to Break Stereotypes.


Reflection: Chapter #4: “Groundswell: Strategies for tapping the groundswell”

Chapter #4:  Strategies for tapping the groundswell

Key Points + Reflection




“Well, I’m really not sure.  But if Sears is doing it, I’m sure we need to be looking into it.”  One of the many reasons companies today struggle with their competitive edge is that they do not focus on what is hidden in between the lines.  This direct quote establishes how a competitor of Sear’s management is too concerned with the tools and tactics of a potential campaign initiative rather than the actual overall big picture.  The reason Sears could be implementing a specific campaign is because it matches up with their managerial objectives and goals.

Management: “I saw that Sears has started this community, and I wondered if we should do one, too.”  

Consultant:  ”Are you more interested in a community for listening to what your customers are saying or for influencing them?”

Management:  ”Well, I’m not really sure.  But if Sears is doing it, I’m sure we need to be looking into it.”

This misconception is a very common trend in beginning preparations for an overall marketing and public relations strategy.  The company is too worried about the tools and tactics rather than focusing their attention on what their biggest problem, company objective and/or need is.  The bottom line is, as the groundswell states, “Now, these people know they need to get involved, but they’re nervous about moving forward.”  Which makes a valid argument I would say for many companies struggling to position themselves in a noisy, cluttered and overexposed outlet as social media has become, what can they truly do to stand out and achieve the focus on their original objective.

This chapter poses an excellent concept that is highly effective in the planning process:

POST:  People | Objectives | Strategy | Technology

Post is the foundation of the groundswell thinking, a framework to help all of us figure out those blurred lines and connect the dots in creating an effective campaign that, once again, ultimately solves our main objective that we have in mind.

The top question to ask about each category is listed below.   I pulled all of these out of the chapter to help clarify the planning process and to help brainstorming.  For me, it helps when I have building blocks to build off of, and this chapter of the groundswell breaks the categories down effectively to help with the foundational elements.

People:  What are your customers ready for?  What’s important is to assess how your customers will engage, based on what they’re already doing.

Objectives:  What are your goals?  Are you more interested in talking with the groundswell for marketing, or in generating sales by energizing your best customers?

Strategy:  How do you want relationships with your customers to change?  Do you want customers to help carry messages to others in your market?

Technology:  What applications should you build?  After deciding on the people, objective and strategies, you can move on to pick appropriate technologies, like blogs, wikis, social networks and etc…


…..a question we raised a lot in class was the fact that, yeah well this process seems very simple enough; yet, how do we come up with the perfect objectives?  We must remember that everything else comes secondary to the objective.  At the end of the day, if we are not on point with our objective than we will have nothing to evaluate our success off of and will ultimately crumble.  The objectives must come from the company’s top management.  They are in charge and must ultimately decide if it falls into one of the top 5 categories below:

Research Goal
Marketing Goal
Sales Goal
Support Goal
Development Goal


…from there is where, us being Public Relations Strategic Professionals, comes into play.  We than can analyze the goal and determine which of the top 5 key categories that this chapter of the groundswell points out to utilize to our advantage in successfully achieving a particular objective.   Below is a matchup of a managerial objective with the top suggested way to strategize that objective into reality and success.

Research Goal              ———>  Listening (Monitor Customers’ convo’s, instead of just surveys/focus groups)
Marketing Goal            ———> Talking  (Participating in convos, in depth interactions with consumers)
Sales Goal                        ———> Energizing (Making it possible for your enthusiastic customers to help sell each other)
Support Goal                ———> Supporting  (Enabling your customers to support each other)
Development Goal
      ———> Embracing  (Helping customers work with each other to come up with ideas to improve)


At the end of the day and the overall lesson I have learned from this chapter is that every company must begin to adopt the right tactics that are right for its customers.  The beginning passage about a manager wanting to follow what Sears was doing is an okay concept, in theory, as long as it is going to solve a key managerial objective.  We must not get lost in the tools of the trade.  We cannot drowned ourselves in endless tools, tactics, social media blasts and campaigns, if it is not right for us and our company.  If Sears main objective was to develop a support system than they are utilizing the correct strategy of supporting their base and providing the correct tools and tactics to do so.  If the management of the competitor always wants to dot the same than it may be a potential opportunity for them as well.  Simply doing it because the competitor is doing it, is not the reason…it should never be the reason.