“Our goal is to prepare teens to work in design fields so hopefully we can start to diversify the design world. We want to develop and retain the talent that Birmingham has to offer.”
Name: Deidre Clark
Occupation: Director of Kuumba Community Arts
Creative Industry: Design
Creative Industry: Design
1. Some of our readers may not be a familiar with Kuumba Community Arts; what are some of the goals of the organization?
Our slogan is to leave Ensley better off, and more beautiful, than when we inherited it. In the grand scheme of things, that’s our big goal.
Last year, we did a Photo Voice project in Ensley. We provided disposable cameras to about 50 residents to give them a chance to tell their story through photographs. Usually things that people hear about Ensley come from the media, and they provide a very incomplete story. We wanted people to have the opportunity to complete that narrative. We had pictures of broken down houses and empty commercial spaces, but there was also tons of beauty that some people may not expect to see. It got people talking about what they like about where they live, what they don’t like, and what they’re hopeful for.
2. Congratulations on winning Design Week Birmingham’s FEAST competition for your Teen Design Academy initiative! What can you tell us about the TDA?
Teen Design Academy is a program that immerses participants in design processes. We have a group that gets together 8 hours a week and learns graphic design and advertising. They’ll be paid for the design work they do for real-world clients and have a chance to see the design world first hand.
Part of my presentation at BhamFEAST was two graphics. One showed that out of a survey of 200 employees working in advertising in the city of Birmingham, 198 of them are white. We compared that to the demographics of people that live in the city of Birmingham. 74% of the people who live in Birmingham are people of color. There’s an underrepresentation of people of color in the advertising world, but it’s not just unique to Birmingham.
Our goal is to prepare teens to work in design fields, so hopefully we can start to diversify the design world. We want to develop and retain the talent that Birmingham has to offer. We have students from Alabaster, Ensley, ASFA, and more.
3. You’ve worked on your concept for at least a year now. Can you tell us what you think the participants in the initiative will gain by immersion in design study?
We recently had a mixer with all of the students who were accepted into the program. It was really great to see them interact. A couple of them were really quiet when they came in for their interviews, but when they were put in a room with other like-minded students, they really blossomed.
I think the program gives them the opportunity to find their tribe. It also helps them develop social skills and learn how to be better problem solvers. They have a place where they can be comfortable in their creative skin. They’ll learn that art has value and will be compensated for their work.
4. The research you’ve done for TDA has revealed a lack of diversity nationwide within marketing/branding/PR firms. How important has that knowledge been to you in the evolution of your concept?
I spoke with one of my design mentors, and he was telling me about designers of color having a hard time in San Francisco. He said they’re starting their own firms. So, instead of having firms with diverse work forces, you have agencies that are somewhat segregated.
There’s still a lot more research to be done to figure out how we should work moving forward and how to prepare the students for their adventures outside of Design Academy. For the students that stay in Birmingham, we are aligning partnerships with design firms and it may be fairly easy to make that transition here. What it looks like to make that transition somewhere else is totally different.