Through a combination of interdisciplinary coursework, independent research, and oral histories we have begun examining historical movements for social change that brought Pratt affiliates together with local community residents, documenting the history of social activism within and outside the school.

A number of time periods are currently under study: the late 19th-century founding of the school to provide pathways to self-sufficiency for immigrants; the early 20th-century advocacy work of female professors and students in the departments of Domestic Science and Education; the activism of the Black Student Union during the 1960s–1980s; the school’s involvement in the City’s 1950s Urban Renewal plan for the campus and its surrounding blocks; and the actions of progressive planning and architecture faculty to support Black students and community leadership during this turbulent time. Our research has revealed and deepened our understanding of the school’s involvement in the struggle for social, racial, and economic equity as both an ally and, at times, an obstacle to the social justice movement. Pratt’s history is complex and can inform current demands for racial and economic justice.

The project’s interdisciplinary research and coordinating group comes from the School of Architecture, the School of Art, the School of Design, and the Pratt Library. The following faculty and students have been working together on Preserving Activism throughout the 2020–21 school year:

Amber Colón, B.F.A. ’23, Communications Design; Research Fellow

Cristina Fontánez Rodríguez, Virginia Thoren and Institute Archivist 

Anisha Kar, M.S. ’21, Historic Preservation; Research Fellow 

Rebecca Krucoff, Visiting Assistant Professor, Art & Design Education and Historic Preservation

Heather Lewis, Professor, Art & Design Education

Trevor Mark, M.S. ’21, Historic Preservation; Research Fellow

Chris Neville, Adjunct Associate Professor, Historic Preservation

Keena Suh, Associate Professor, Interior Design

Vicki Weiner, Academic Coordinator and Adjunct Associate Professor, Historic PreservationAdd block

The Preserving Activism team is grateful to the following individuals and organizations for their participation, guidance, and support of this project (list in formation!):

The Office of the Provost, Strategic Initiatives Fund, Pratt Institute

Pat Cummings, Pratt Alumna

Cecily Dyer, Special Collections and Outreach Librarian, Center for Brooklyn History 

Ain Gordon, Co-Founder, Pick Up Performance Co.

Donna Gorsline, Assistant to the Dean, School of Design, Pratt Institute

Connie Harold, Pratt Alumna

Sarah Kanu, B.F.A. ‘21, Communications Design

Natalie Milbrodt, Director, Queens Memory Project

Obden Mondesir, Oral History Manager, Weeksville Heritage Center

Larry Provette, Pratt Alum

Ronald Shiffman, Professor Emeritus, Pratt Institute, Pratt Alum

Peter Spellane, Associate Professor, NYC College of Technology, CUNY

Christopher Sula, Associate Professor, School of Information, Pratt Institute