With more than 100 stunning photographs adorning the walls of the gallery in the School of Design, award-winning photographer Lou Jones sat down with Barry Gaither, Director and Curator of the Museum of the National Center for Afro-American Artists to discuss how his decade-long panAFRICAproject came to be.

Moderated by Professor Jim Fitts, they delved into the origins of the project, Jones’ path to photography and the impact he hopes the photos will have.

“I read an article in the New York Times 15 years ago that the African Union was going to censor Western access to their continent because of the slanted view that was presented,” said Jones.  At first, he was outraged. “Censorship is a four-letter word to me, but then I realized they were probably right and that was the embryo of the idea.”

From the beginning, Jones worked to find a way to portray the real Africa.  “My colleagues were all in Africa to win Pulitzer Prizes and it is images of conflict and pestilence that win awards.”  That was not the real Africa to Jones.

Gaither echoed the sentiment.  “The image of Africa in the Americas were often dreadful and depressing.  One of the things that warms the heart enormously in the panAFRICAproject is that Lou has given real imagery to an Africa we have wished to see.” Jones has shown that “each country is different and they manufacture stuff there, there are kids with their bright eyes who are as excited to learn as in any part of the world.  Lou is giving us a view into that world.”

To date, Jones has visited at least 10 countries.  He starts by making connections before visiting. Then, arriving without a plan, not knowing where he is staying or where he will travel, he makes more connections, until he gains access.  “I have to talk my way in once I get there, but it’s been amazing that almost all people answer their cell phone.  The CEO or the student. “

Jones considers photography a universal language and instantly understandable.  “We use photography as a currency.  We give some of the photographs to the organizations we shoot.  One hospital used our photographs to raise funds. “ But, it is a challenge, he adds, to bridge the cultural divide, since not everyone always agree on what a photo represents.

Jones also spent a vast amount of time working with people to gain intimate access to interior spaces; homes, living rooms, work spaces and community spaces where people gather. “Most images people are used to seeing (of Africa) are of the outside.  I wanted to take pictures of the interior.  Not just the buildings, but the interior of their minds and mine as well.”

When asked about his career path, Jones, who started out studying physics and was a rocket scientist, decided instead to pursue his love of photography.  He is a successful award winning commercial photographer based in Boston an the panAFRICAproject is his passion.

“I’m interested in what African people are dealing with and that comes from a lifetime of being black.” However, he quickly adds, “it’s where my heritage started, but I’m from the United States, so It’s not about me going home. I am not African.  I am just sympathetic with the issues of a continent unjustly maligned.  Africa has entrepreneurship, innovation, music and culture.  That’s what I’m going for.”

When a member of the audience asked him to reflect, Jones said “I’m’ a kid from the ghettos of Washington., D.C. “I have exceeded my dream.”

Co-curators of the panAFRICAproject are School of Design Professors Alison Poor-Donahue, Jim Fitts and Brian Wilson

The exhibit, co-sponsored by Panopticon Gallery, will be on display through April 16. Learn more about the exhibit here. 

In April of 2016, Fashion Design student Christine Gallart took her bows when presented the Critics’ Choice award at the annual Fashion Futures runway show for her travel collection. The movement and colors in the hand painted tiles found in Spanish architecture inspired her designs and presented a youthful and versatile look that embodies a chic nomadic style.

This year, as she walks across the stage at the 2017 Mount Ida Commencement, she will do so with confidence knowing she has parlayed her award-winning talents into her dream internship at Anthropologie.

“I submitted last year’s collection and a few items that will be on the runway this year, hoping to be considered for this prestigious paid summer internship at Anthropologie, whose designs speak to my aesthetic,” says Gallart.  “I was called to their headquarters in Philadelphia where I met so many creative people and many others who were vying for positions at the company which includes Free People and Urban Outfitters.”  Christine was half-way through the spring semester, when she got the call.  The internship was hers and she would be starting out in knit and loungewear.

“It’s not an area I know, so I’m very excited for the opportunity.  And, upwards of 75 percent of those who intern at Anthropologie get hired.  It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Christine, who is from Maryland, knew as early as middle school that she wanted a career in fashion design.  “My sister was in fashion merchandising, my grandmother brought us to sewing classes and my mother, who is a graphic designer still inspires me every day with her creativity .”

Christine came to Mount Ida College in 2009, studied for two years and played volleyball, when she decided to return to her home area to attend college in Virginia.  “But, the curriculum was not as hands-on and I left to travel and explore a bit of Europe.”  After spending time in Florence, being on her own and with horizons broadened, she decided to return to Mount Ida to continue her studies.

“I have to credit Professor Aleta Deyo for inspiring me and for mentoring me.  When she sees me struggling she helps me out and when needed she’s kicked my butt.”

Gallart is looking forward to her time in Philly, to learning everything she can.  Her long-range plans are to become part of a design team creating clothes that are for the young and adventurous who enjoy traveling and seeing the world.  “It’s how I would describe myself.”

Making a difference in peoples’ lives through thoughtful and intelligent design has won kudos and national recognition for Mount Ida Assistant Professor of Interior Architecture + Design, Stephanie McGoldrick, who was recently honored by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) with the 2016 Award of Excellence.

McGoldrick and a peer at Marymount College were lauded for bringing a “Universal Design-athon” to their campuses and for integrating the concepts of universal design into the curriculum.

The unique Design-a-thon features a series of workshops that provide an opportunity for students and design professionals to engage with individuals with varying disabilities in order to develop design solutions to help them.

“It is a tremendous honor to be recognized by industry professionals and peers,” says McGoldrick, “but more importantly, it is validation that the work we are doing in Universal Design is gaining acceptance and becoming part of the thinking of today’s and tomorrow’s Interior Design professionals.”

And teaching tomorrow’s industry leaders in Mount Ida’s Interior Architecture + Design program is where Stephanie McGoldrick knows she can make the most impact and where she has found her home.   In her classroom she shares her passion for the field, challenges her students to think and become the well-rounded professionals the field demands.

“Interior designers are part of every space you enter, whether a home, a building, a shop.  We are observers of how the space is used and we are problem solvers, working to make the space not only efficient, but enjoyable to spend time in.”

McGoldrick who holds both a bachelor and master’s degree in Interior Design put her skills to use early in her career at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., focusing on small retail and food service spaces.  “I was with the Smithsonian for more than eight years and learned so much on the job.   I would work with the museums and learn about their exhibits and create the design needed in the retail outlets to properly display the merchandise and to enhance the visitor experience.”

McGoldrick also is a LEED Accredited Professional, who focuses on sustainability in design.  “We look at each space to assess sustainability and how best to utilize the light, the flow of fresh air, the use of materials. And it always comes back to the user-perspective.  If we design with the user in mind, that may be most sustainable,” she says.  “It’s more expensive in the long run to have to redesign because it wasn’t done correctly in the first instance.”

Through her teaching at Mount Ida, McGoldrick has become an advocate of universal design and has incorporated it into her teaching.  In 2014, she attended an Enabled by Design-athon event sponsored by United Cerebral Palsy in Washington, D.C.   “I was able to take five students with me and we got to immerse ourselves in the challenges of designing for all users.”  She cites one very successful design; OXO products; kitchen items with large, rubber, easily gripped handles.  “They were originally designed by a man for his wife who was having difficulty with a kitchen peeler because of arthritis in her hands. He redesigned the handle to be more comfortable. That became an entire product line, with universal appeal.” After attending the Design-athon, McGoldrick worked in conjunction with Marymount University the following year to bring the event onto their campuses.

McGoldrick’s expertise and interest in universal design were further enhanced when in the summer of 2016 she received a fellowship to attend the Leibrock Universal Design workshop in Colorado. There she had the opportunity to spend five days with universal design expert Cynthia Leibrock and three other interior design faculty, sharing ideas about methods of teaching universal design. “We got to interact with the universal design mechanisms and products that Leibrock has installed in her home and to learn from her,” says McGoldrick. “She shared a wealth of knowledge with us and empowered us as educators, to make universal design a priority and to learn how we could seamlessly integrate it into our curriculum.”

McGoldrick presented in Colorado on her specialty area of lighting design. ‘My presentation focused on lighting, both natural and artificial, within universal design environments. Some of the techniques included in my presentation were features that Leibrock showcased in her home, but there were also some new technologies and methods I shared that were new to everyone in the group.” Similarly, McGoldrick gained some new insight and ideas from the other educators’ presentations.

Leibrock was invited to be a featured speaker at the second annual Universal Design Symposium at Mount Ida, which was held on March 24, 2017. “It is very exciting for our college, our students and the entire design community to have Leibrock on campus, knowing how much I learned from her in Colorado.”

The symposium brought together guest speakers, professionals and people with all range of abilities to meet and work as groups to create solutions to a variety of challenges.  “In these symposia we never know what next big design may emerge,” McGoldrick says, “but it leads to a wonderful learning and community building experience for our students.”

McGoldrick continues to incorporate universal design into her classes as well.  “We do empathy exercises in class.  And it’s not just sitting in a wheelchair and moving through open space.  We challenge students to open a door or to use a walker and carry bags of heavy groceries at the same time.”  The students learn by doing but also expand their thinking.  “I, for one, love automatic door openers,” says McGoldrick.  “I don’t need to have a disability to see how much easier it is to pass through a door when my arms are full with my computer, files and all the things I bring to class.  It certainly makes it easier for someone pushing a stroller.”  McGoldrick says that is the key to Universal Design.  “It should benefit everyone and consider the dignity of the users.  And our students will leave with that firmly planted in their minds.”