Near Mass MoCA in North Adams, you’ll spy billboards for a national campaign called Resist COVID Take Six. Inspired by the work of artist Carrie Mae Weems, the campaign brings awareness to the racial inequities that have existed in the United State during the pandemic.  

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) has decided to take this campaign and adapt it spark discussion about something broader: issues surrounding race on campus at the majority white school. The adapted campaign is called Do the Work of Anti-Racism. 

Connecting Point’s Ross Lippman visits campus to explore the campaign and how students in a design class are bringing its message to life.  

Read the full transcript:

Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: If you’ve been in North Adams recently, you may have seen these billboards near Mass MoCA. They’re for the National Resist COVID Take Six campaign, which is based on the work of artist Carrie Mae Weems and aims to address racial inequities that have existed in the United States during the pandemic.

The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts has decided to take this campaign and adopt it on campus to address broader issues students say they face surrounding race.

Connecting Point’s Ross Lippman shows us to Do the Work of Anti-Racism campaign and how a design class is bringing its message to life.

Melanie Mowinski, MCLA Art Professor: The tool or material….

Ross Lippman, Connecting Point: Inside the press room at MCLA, art professor Melanie Mowinski…

Melanie Mowinski: Oh wait, wait! What do you think of that one?

Ross Lippman: …and sophomore Eloise Baker are trying to find the right letters.

Melanie Mowinski: And then, what we’re going to do is we’re going to put some other spacing in between these to spread it out a little bit.

Ross Lippmant: Letters that are the right shape and size and style for a message.

Melanie Mowinski: Let me just see what that measurement is going to be.

Ross Lippman: Mowinski teaches the Intermediate Design class that is creating signs for a new campaign. It’s one they hope will make…

Melanie Mowinski: This is our paper guide

Ross Lippman: …an impression. And as they do the work of getting the word out, the goal is for MCLA to do the work of anti-racism.

Melanie Mowinski: The name of the campaign is Do the Work of Anti-Racism. But I think what we’re hoping to do is kind of flood the quad, really have lots of signage so that you’re a little bit overwhelmed by it.

Ross Lippman, Connecting Point: The process behind creating this design…

Melanie Mowinski, MCLA Art Professor: So what I’m doing right now is I’m just measuring to figure out what the space is.

Ross Lippman: …requires time and patience and a lot of attention to detail.

Melanie Mowinski: This guide out a little bit to twelve and three quarters.

Ross Lippman: Not only when it comes to printing, but also when it comes to listening.

Erica Wall, Berkshire Cultural Resource Center : What is it, specifically, that you’re experiencing when you go to these places?

Ross Lippman, Connecting Point: The design class is partnering with the Berkshire Cultural Resource Center and its director, Erica Wall, to make sure the campaign is guided by the experiences of students of color through a series of listening sessions.

Erica Wall: We’re at a particular time where people and institutions are being asked to show what it looks like to be accountable, what it looks like to make change. And so, again, I think this was an opportunity for us to model for our students and engage our students in what allyship and being an accomplice is about. And I don’t

Huab Xiong, MCLA Student: And I don’t have answers to this because I’m still like, how do I want to be treated as a human being?

Ross Lippman, Connecting Point: The listening sessions provided students like Huab Xiong an opportunity to share their experiences on campus. In this particular session, one theme that came up often is that these students are tired.

Huab Xiong: I’m tired. I’m tired of answering this question, if I’m being honest and transparent, that a lot has been going on.

Melanie Mowinski, MCLA Art Professor: I think for me was hearing how tired our colleagues of color and students of color are of having to explain things, of having to advocate for themselves, of going into a space and not being acknowledged.

Ross Lippman, Connecting Point: And that’s where the Do the Work name came from. From those sessions, each student created their own design, ultimately with Eloise’s being selected as the final logo.

Eloise Baker, MCLA Design Student: The reason I went with that is because when we had a conversation with some of the students of color at MCLA, a really common thing that they brought up is how tired they are of having to do all of this work to advocate for themselves.

So I wanted to make something that was sort of pushing for white people to do more of that work so that they don’t always have to.

Ross Lippman: The project was inspired by these billboards near Mass MOCA. It’s a part of the Resist COVID Take Six campaign aimed at addressing the racial inequities that have existed during the pandemic.

Erica Wall: We are actually one of the first rural communities to take on this campaign.

Ross Lippman: MCLA was part of a group of institutions that paid for these billboards and others to be raised in the area. And has prompted a larger dialogue surrounding race to start on campus.

Erica Wall: We see the action where it isn’t just folks who are being oppressed speaking out. It is those that see that oppression, who may not feel it directly, and speaking on their behalf, advocating but making a change.

Ross Lippman: Soon, MCLA will be filled with signs and banners asking you to do the work. And for the design class,taking on an issue with real-world stakes makes the work behind the design feel more like a job and less like homework.

Erica Wall: It provided an opportunity to explore how we do this in the workforce. How we explore these sorts of issues and address them and resolve them on a daily basis in the things that we do. So for a designer, this is how it works.

Melanie Mowinski: I think they really felt that this was meaningful and that and that what we were doing could matter for them and for other people.