Curating Racial Story Lines

Our team under the direction of Dr. Ashley Woodson is creating a year-long extracurricular program with high school students from University Prep, a predominantly Black magnet high school, which will culminate in a student-curated exhibition from the Teenie Harris photography archive to be displayed at University Prep and (pending space) the Carnegie Museum of Art.

Drawing on the University’s urban mission, shared commitments to culturally responsive pedagogies, and a vision to address racial disparities in civic institutions, the program curriculum focuses on how racial storylines are created and communicated in different forums – photography like Harris’, civic spaces, and museums. Students will be introduced to community elders and oral histories of the Hill, as well as Pitt faculty and a variety of museum and arts professionals who can model careers in their respective fields. Graduate and undergraduate interns from HAA, Museum Studies, and the School of Education will also assist.

UPrep is located on the Upper Hill where Teenie Harris had a studio and documented the life of the community over a 50-year time span of extraordinary images. Using Harris’ photographs, which range across politics, sports, the arts, domestic life, and everyday street scenes, students will curate their own racial storylines. The resulting exhibition will be honored with a May 2017 “graduation” ceremony in the CMOA auditorium open to parents, teachers, administrators, museum professionals, and the Pitt community. We intend this year’s project to be a pilot program with twelve students, but plan to expand it into an annual program that will include more students drawn from several schools.

We aim to empower local students through the process of planning and making an exhibition of their own and seeing it honored at the school and the museum. Here they have the opportunity to change the patterns of racial representation they see around them and to create different, more honest, and more self-affirming storylines. We will expose them, through direct contact and hands-on experience, to career options in museums and the arts that are typically excluded from them. For Pitt our major goal is to create a sustainable model of a university/museum/community partnership that will inspire and enable underrepresented youth to build diversity and social justice in the museums and cultural organizations of the future.


Ashley Woodson, Center for Urban Education, University of Pittsburgh
Gretchen Bender and Kirk Savage, History of Art & Architecture, University of Pittsburgh
nett and Dominique Luster, Teenie Harris Archive, Carnegie Museum of Art

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