6/20/16 - 6/4/17

Ghana ThinkTank:
Christopher Robbins
Carmen Montoya
John Ewing

Sonnet Coggins, project curator

Terence Washington MA `17, assistant project curator, action team co-leader

Alex Mendez `17, action team co-leader

The Rotunda becomes the hub of WCMA’s yearlong collaboration with the international collective Ghana ThinkTank. Ionic columns make way for a Moroccan riad in an installation that explores what happens when power dynamics are flipped, and perspectives of people across the world are brought to bear on problems in our own backyard.

Ghana ThinkTank “develops the first world” by flipping conventional power dynamics. The artists collect problems in the US and send them to citizen think tanks in “developing” countries to generate solutions. They then put these solutions into action back in the US. What follows is a range of interventions and exchanges that reveal blind spots, challenge cultural assumptions, and turn the idea of expertise on its head.

WCMA and Ghana ThinkTank have teamed up to apply this process here in the Berkshires. Last fall, they worked with an Action Team of students to ask people in the region “How does climate change affect YOU?” The artists sent these problems to think tanks in Morocco and Indonesia and asked them to propose solutions. This spring, the team applies these solutions here in the region, helping to confront assumptions about climate change, Islam, and the “developing world.”

This project received generous support from the Compton Foundation.


The Action Team

The Ghana ThinkTank Action Team is a group of Williams College students who lead the project through its many phases: from problem collection to solution implementation. Last fall, the team operated a mobile unit, collecting problems and engaging community members. This spring, they’re working closely with the Ghana ThinkTank artists to turn the Moroccan and Indonesian think tanks’ solutions into actions.

Members

Erica Gibble ’20
Sarah Hollinger ’19
Eleanor Lustig ’18
Alex Mendez ’17, action team co-leader
Hannah Rabb ’17
Crispin Jay Salapare ’20
Terence Washington MA ’17, project co-curator and action team co-leader

Fall Action Team Members
Claudia Reyes ’18
Fangyuan Zhao ’18


Problem Collection

This fall, the WCMA Action Team refurbished and operated a mobile unit that traveled around the Williams College campus and beyond to collect answers to the question: How does climate change affect YOU? They gathered over 200 responses, ranging from the witty to the despondent, the dismissive to the enthralled. From these, the Action Team and the artists deliberated, narrowing down to a selection of 9 problems to send to think tanks in Morocco and Indonesia:

-The lack of beautiful snow is deeply affecting my psyche! Also, cross-country skiing is an important part of growing up and becoming a part of this community, and we won’t have cross-country skiing in 40 years because we won’t have snow anymore.

-I can’t figure out a way to talk about climate change that would invite people who don’t believe in climate change to participate. When I only talk to people who agree with me, nothing changes and my perspective is never challenged.

-In Florida you aren’t allowed to use the term “climate change” in any official document.

-We help run a Polish dinner where we need cabbages … the drought has caused a shortage in the number of cabbages needed to make the meat. Also, warmer winters have caused a shortage in “Florida” mountain turnips – they are getting smaller and smaller.

-I’m a farmer and I am afraid my knowledge won’t be passed down to the next generation, and they will continue to exploit the land.

-Party/drinking culture is unsustainable with recycling, especially when it comes to picking up their beer cans/ bottles.

-As weather gets more unpredictable, I find it harder to find people willing to sit next to me outside. I hate sitting outside by myself.

– People drive short distances in Williamstown. This is a small community and campus. Most people live nearby, yet many members choose to drive, even though they only live a minute or two away.


Solutions

These problems were then sent to citizen think tanks in Morocco and Indonesia, who generated solutions that will be put into action in Spring 2017.


Winter Study: Public Art and Climate Change

ARTH 15 Public Art and Climate Change: Ghana ThinkTank and the Making of a Museum Installation

In January 2016, a group of Williams College students worked directly with members of the Ghana ThinkTank collective to design and implement an installation in WCMA’s rotunda that functions as both an active workspace and display to engage the public with Ghana ThinkTank’s project at Williams.

In the winter study, students considered a range of exhibition making and interpretive approaches, and use a variety of sculptural skills and DIY strategies. The course culminates with a public opening of the installation. The installation itself will continue to grow and change throughout the 2016-2017 academic year as the broader project unfolds on campus.

Instructors: Sonnet Coggins, Associate Director for Public and Academic Engagement and Raphael Zollinger, Lecturer in Art+Design SUNY Purchase


Alternative Spring Break: Detroit

Photo courtesy Ghana ThinkTank.

This spring, a group of Williams students will be engaged with another of Ghana ThinkTank’s projects, this one in Detroit. The collective visited the community there to explore how neighborhoods can remain cohesive in the face of gentrification. The solution is to transform three buildings into apartments and small businesses, and center them around a riad, or a Moroccan courtyard. During spring break, Williams students will travel to Detroit to help build the riad.

Read more about the American Riad Project here.

Problems & Solutions