UPDATE: The Harvard GSD AASU has released a statement on Kanye West’s invitation and visit, which you can find at the end of the post. Dean Mohsen Mostafavi, Dean of the GSD, has also commented on the visit.
Kanye West surprised students at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) last night by dropping in un-announced before his Sunday night concert at the TD Garden in Boston. He gave a short motivational speech to the crowd that quickly formed in the GSD’s signature “trays.” West told the students:
I just wanted to tell you guys: I really do believe that the world can be saved through design, and everything needs to actually be “architected.” [...] I believe that utopia is actually possible—but we’re led by the least noble, the least dignified, the least tasteful, the dumbest, and the most political. So in no way am I a politician—I’m usually at my best politically incorrect and very direct. I really appreciate you guys’ willingness to learn and hone your craft, and not be lazy about creation.
GSD student Sekou Cooke, writer of “Keep Talking Kanye: An Architect’s Defense of Kanye West,” confirmed to an ArchDaily editor that West had in fact seen his post defending West’s right to speak-up about architectural issues and act as a role model for young potential architects of color. Although his visit with the student body was unexpected, West had been invited by Harvard GSD’s African American Student Union (AASU). Following a meeting with the AASU’s core group of leaders—during which West led a conversation regarding under-represented minorities in the design disciplines—the star was inspired to briefly address the rest of the students. West also gifted 300 tickets to his show to the GSD. In fact, in an uncharacteristic moment of insecurity, West told the crowd of students:
Tonight, this show, if you come see it—um, I’m a bit self conscious because I’m showing it to architects. So the stage does have flaws in it. It’s an expression of emotion so give me a pass on that.
See images and video of West’s GSD visit, after the break…
The GSD AASU released the following statement regarding why they met with West on Sunday:
This past summer, members of the Harvard University Graduate School of Design’s African American Student Union (AASU) were stirred by a series of interviews with Kanye West referencing his growing interest in design.
Mr. West’s very public frustration with the limits experienced by Black designers and artists energized and excited the group, prompting a series of internal conversations. Framing these discussions was the fact that only 1% of licensed architects in the United States identifies as being African-American. We discussed how this severe under-representation of African Americans in producing the built environment which have a range of effects upon our collective lives.
Subsequent to these discussions, the AASU decided to reach out to Mr. West.
We were tremendously excited that Mr. West, well-aware of these challenges, desired to meet us as well. This Sunday, he met with the AASU privately to discuss how we might pursue meaningful change together. Mr. West is an artist at the center of this generation’s cultural production and shares in our group’s optimism that transdisciplinary design practice can – as he stated Sunday – impact the world in positive ways. One of these ways is by encouraging the development and legitimacy of African American designers in their professional and academic practices. We are fortunate that the GSD has provided us with a platform in which this dialogue can occur.
We look forward to continuing this conversation with Mr. West, and through these efforts, we aim to catalyze a more inclusive design culture.
The Harvard University Graduate School of Design – African American Student Union
Dean Mohsen Mostafavi commented on the visit:
We are thrilled that Kayne West decided to visit Harvard Graduate School of Design and has taken such interest in our students, their work and design in general. I share Mr. West’s concern that minorities are underrepresented in design disciplines. We hope that Mr. West’s visit will raise awareness of design education among students of color and will inspire others to recognize the important role of designers in re-imagining and improving the spaces in which we live.