2018 marked the 50th anniversary of the Maryland School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation (MAPP). The collective workshopping process run by the Kibel Gallery team that resulted in the exhibition, "MAPP@50: Possible Futures; Concrete Pasts," was among the most meaningful. A series of “Future Forums” were held with students, faculty, and staff to develop critical questions to guide us as we looked forward to the next half century. We worked together to complete the statements, “We are moving towards...” and “Moving Forward I will…” We are reminded of these questions and our commitments to them everytime we enter the Great Space.
The Sustenance and Sustainability Project seeks to advance 3 of those ten questions.
1. What can I do to ensure a sustainable future knowing the earth is finite?
2. When will we elevate social equity & environmental justice?
3. What if I allow my playfulness, passion and curiosity to lead?
In addition, we are seeking to address a cultural issue, of well being raised by our students last semester and one we feel is intertwined with the above questions.
Our community is unique in that many of our students have desks and most of their classes in our building. They know one another and spend a lot of time together. At the close of each semester, the architecture students convene a student/faculty retrospective. This is an opportunity to reflect together on what we have done well and how we can improve. During the F2018 retrospective, several students expressed that they felt stressed and were seeking ways to balance their school lives and their personal lives. We heard the sentiment that there is no place to relax in the MAPP+D building.
The Kibel Gallery has become a place where students, staff and faculty can gather to hold critical conversations across disciplines. Yet at the same the Kibel Gallery has in many ways become an untapped resource. Students use the tables and chairs in the poorly lit hallways outside the gallery frequently, but rarely feel compelled to enter into the gallery unless an event is being held. Perhaps the gallery space could become a place to help students decompress? Could it double as a gathering point and condenser of various related dialogues happening in the school, like a spatialized Reddit thread about sustainability and the need to sustain oneself?
What we are doing?
With these concerns, questions and the crowd-sourced process we led last year in mind, we are developing a temporal and physical scaffolding to support a place for students, staff and faculty to gather to share relevant information and hold critical conversations around these key questions.
The gallery space is being outfitted as a design laboratory, flexible workspace and gathering place for exploring and demonstrating ways to spatialize and communicate content around these three questions. Every few weeks, the gallery will be transformed anew: through the work and dialogue produced by courses held in the gallery; through academic events like lectures, workshops and pin-ups; through entertainment and exercise like dance classes, yoga classes, and parties; and through social events like student organization meetings, weekly cafes/bake sales, and a welcoming lounge area - programs unified in their ability to convey the power and potential of creativity and play.
And rather than mounting an already complete formal exhibit or installation, The Sustenance and SustainabilityProject will work in an improvisational and relational mode, developing “exhibition(s)” and programming throughout the semester, reflecting and working on these critical questions. By expanding our exhibits beyond those that are closed presentations by others to an open-work-in-progress that we make together and by offering the gallery as a place for making, being, reflecting and knowledge-building in situ, we hope to shift our culture and expand our agency and conversations about these critical questions. Our goal is that this work like to process we led for the MAPP @ 50 exhibit, will seed a richer and more complex school-wide conversation and programming around these critical issues in 2020.
The Kibel Gallery at the University of Maryland
The UMD Sustainability Fund Mini-Grant Committee
MAPP Student Services and Advising
University of Maryland Recreation and Wellness